Ingenuity Magazine Fall 2020

12 Pond | At Pond, we view the COVID -19 crisis as a catalyst for change. We ask ourselves “what can we learn from this pandemic that will allow us to make our future workplace more resilient?” “What strategies can be adopted to assist our government clientele with the challenge of safely returning thousands of employees to the office?” Everything from building design, operations, and maintenance may need to adapt to a “new normal.”” Pond has been proactive in providing adaptive workplace solutions to upgrade facilities. We understand that fostering a sense of health and wellness is a key aspect of motivating employees to re-enter the workplace. To this end, the Pond team has assessed many countywide facilities in Georgia. We scoped the needs of the various stakeholders for each facility and made individualized design recommendations. These recommendations for the SARS-CoV-2 infection preventative measures are based upon the current CDC guidelines for businesses and ASHRAE standards. The OSHA regulations use a framework called the “hierarchy of controls” to select ways of controlling workplace hazards. During a COVID-19 or related outbreak, when it may not be possible to eliminate the hazard, OSHA recommends implementing preventative measures and engineering controls. Pond evaluated each type of control measure and prevention strategy based on the ease of implementation, best practices, effectiveness, and cost . Leveraging Technology The pandemic has forever changed the importance of technology in the workplace. While architectural design will facilitate the physical implementation of changes, technology is the “glue” that will ensure these changes are incorporated. A few of these changes include providing touchless technologies (automated doors where possible and sensors in restrooms), key fob activated elevators, and the redesign of public hearing spaces to accommodate virtual participation by officials and citizens. While design will facilitate the physical implementation of changes, technology is the “glue” that will ensure that these necessary changes are incorporated. Going forward, voice-enabled technology will be a key facet to safety – this prevents individuals from touching too many surfaces in common areas. This technology can be applied to keyboards, touch screens, light switches, door handles, conference phones, elevator panels, etc. Sensors and voice activation devices will also become an integral part of the office landscape. Implementing Engineering Controls As Coronavirus is an airborne disease that can be transmitted in the form of tiny droplets, bringing in fresh air to dilute the indoor air is crucial for worker safety. Installing high-efficiency air filters by retro-fitting air handling units and increasing ventilation rates in the work environment will help government agencies mitigate this concern when employees return to work. In some settings, specialized negative pressure ventilation may also be required (e.g., airborne infection isolation rooms in healthcare settings). Operational Safety Measures The future of the workplace will evolve into a hybrid environment between digital and in-person experiences. When in person, establishing physical distancing measures within the workplace is critical. This can be achieved by de-densifying desk seating and conference room capacity to ensure that people are separated by the CDC-required six feet in all directions. The future of the workplace will evolve into a hybrid environment introducing both a digital and in- person experience. To achieve this, workstations can be moved to increase separation distance. Where feasible, eliminate Return to Work Preparing Government Offices for W hat should public agencies and municipalities be doing to prepare for a return to the workplace that can help employees and the public feel safe? Sonia Sabherwal, R.A. Senior Project Manager offers an insight to some cost-effective operational and engineering solutions to make government buildings safer for both the public and employees in the immediate and long-term future .