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Out of Eastern Europe, a Window Into the Post-Pandemic Office
New York, New York, USA
Media, Investment, Business, Technology
Andra Timu and Irina Vilcu
Date Published: 
Pandemic, COVID-19, Health, Wellness, Hospitals, Reception Desks, Office Workplace, Bucharest, Romania
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2020-09-02 15:36:49
2020-09-02 15:51:32
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Genesis Property
A building standard pitched as making indoor spaces “immune” to the coronavirus aims to get more employees back to the office.

Special quarantine rooms. Floor-to-ceiling walls in bathroom stalls. Touchless entrances that take your temperature. This is what telecommunications company Ericsson’s office building in Bucharest looks like after coronavirus. The space has become the pilot for a 100-prong coronavirus standard that a real estate investor in Eastern Europe is pitching as a new global “immune” building standard.

Liviu Tudor, president of the Brussels-based European Property Federation, hopes the standard will convince more employees to go back to work. He’s gathered a team of experts in construction, health care and engineering, such as such as Adrian Streinu-Cercel, the head of Bucharest's biggest infectious diseases hospital, to develop three tiers of “immune” building certifications that he says are intended to make indoor spaces “pandemic proof.”

Tudor says he’s in talks with 50 other U.S. and European real estate developers about using the criteria in their own buildings and he plans to present his ideas to the European Union. But even if it isn’t widely adopted, he’s already implementing the ideas in a pilot building in Bucharest, providing a window into what office life could look like for some workers after the coronavirus.

"The new workspace is going to be a different experience from the moment you walk into an office building, to all the common areas, the restrooms, the food court and all the way to the actual desks,” says Tudor, whose company, Genesis Property, owns and operates 1.6 million square feet of office space. “We are talking about mostly open floor offices, with desk separators and 2 meters (6 feet) distance between desks.”

Alexandru Rafila, an expert in microbiology and Romania’s representative in the management board of the WHO, says several of these measures, such as distance between desks and disinfecting in key spaces, are common sense. But he cautions against dramatic increases in construction costs and investments based mostly on speculation that can appear opportunistic, especially in response to a virus in which human behavior plays a key role in the spread of the disease.

“Of course the safer the environment the better,” says Rafila, “but as long as we all respect the rules and maintain the distancing, wear the mask and regularly wash and disinfect our hands we don’t need to get into the other extreme.”

Tudor has invested at least 1 million euros in the project so far to incorporate the standard into his own buildings, where he says many employees have already returned to work. Among the other requirements in Tudor’s standard are features like hands-free access to office doors and elevators, separate entrances and exits, the use of anti-microbial paint and UV light disinfection overnight.

Organizations Mentioned: (5)
Avison Young
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Commercial Real Estate Services
EPF | European Property Federation
Brussels, Belgium
Real Estate Development, Investment, Brokerage, Management, Non-profit
Stockholm, Sweden
Technology, Telecommunications
Bucharest, Romania
Real Estate Development
WHO | World Health Organization
Geneva, Switzerland
Non-profit, Health