As the world continues to struggle with COVID-19, many of us are trying to figure out how to adapt our organizations, products and services to address the needs of the marketplaces we serve.  This virus is transmitted from person to person. It can be from direct contact, proximity to an infected person and in some cases from surfaces and/or ventilation systems that distribute conditioned air throughout a building. At ecomedes we have been diving into how our team and our technology can help people make better decisions when it comes to improving their buildings and homes to keep people safe, reopen and optimize their real estate and adapt to the new normal that everyone keeps talking about. I have started calling what we are all experiencing “wonderfully weird”, because nothing seems normal anymore.


People

As a very social species on this planet, Humans typically are always interacting with others.  We learn, work and play together.  We spend over 90% of our time indoors in buildings with others.  We are not typically 6 feet apart in many of this daily activities and we rely on dozens of people directly and likely hundreds if not thousands of other people on a weekly basis for the goods and services we consume.  Most of the built environment is built around the concepts of density and locating things in centralized layouts and plans and when the pandemic hit, very densely populated areas had to very quickly figure out how to limit interactions between people.  We now have all likely experienced the clear dividers at the stores and businesses we used to frequent.  Most of the country has normalized and/or mandated masks inside of businesses and contactless seems to be the word we hear on every commercial and/or advertisement. As fall approaches I wonder how 6ft separations, masks and contactless will work at schools and businesses as they get ready to reopen and operate after the 6 month hibernation.  I have two daughters, one is a sophomore in college and the other is a high school senior.  It will be interesting how our highly social human species adapts to a contactless protocol.  I think most companies are feeling the impacts of not having their employees together for this extended period of time. The essentially businesses and organizations are also feeling the impact of the prolonged work that they have carried on their shoulders.


Buildings

Buildings are going to have to adapt in both form and function rapidly if they want occupants to feel comfortable and safe.  We are going to see a lot of creativity and ingenuity in how buildings adapt over the next 6-24 months.  Just like every transportation terminal around the world adapted post 9/11, I believe that COVID-19 will usher in a set of design, engineering and construction changes across all types of buildings around the world.  Residential buildings have seen their occupants more than at any period in my lifetime.  Our homes transformed into a full time office, school house, restaurants, gym, hair salon, entertainment spot and in some cases health care quarantine station. There has been a boom in home improvement projects finally getting accomplished.  Our commercial buildings have had a reduced occupancy as a result of stay at home orders, but as people start coming back in to work, buildings will need to be reconfigured and remodeled to be safer for occupants.  A wide range of considerations will need to be examined based on building type, usage and operational characteristics.  Human health and sustainability related factors have never been more important in the real estate, design and construction industries.  Buildings will need to be adapted to take into consideration important elements such as:

  • Design and Layout: Occupant density and flow
  • Touchless / Contactless operations
  • HVAC: Fresh Air Ventilation, UV-C disinfection, Filtration
  • Environmental Sensors
  • Cleaning and Maintenance protocols and Chemicals


Technology

This pandemic has affected everyone on this planet in one way or another.  There are millions of amazing people working hard to create innovative solutions to the problems we are all facing together across the globe.  From the health care workers and essential industry employees that have stayed on the job to keep components of our economy moving to the factory workers keeping products on the shelf.  The built environment and the millions of employees that work in this sector of the economy have been rapidly reconfiguring and renovating the buildings that were essential and now they will begin the work of upgrading the existing building stock around the world.


Two of the leading Sustainability standards for buildings have recently released guidance on safe reopening of buildings.

Both the USGBC and IWBI are working diligently to help the industry determine what adaptations to our operations and buildings can make a difference for occupants.


Prior to COVID-19, the built environment was in the midst of technological evolution.  The real estate, design and construction industry was leveraging software and analytic tools to improve operations, project delivery workflows and occupant satisfaction within buildings. This shift to digital work across all segments of the economy will only accelerate our industry’s adoption of technology to helps us all work smarter, faster and more efficiently to optimize every hour we put into our work.


Starting this week, ecomedes will be highlighting organizations, technology, products and solutions that we feel can help building owners, facility managers reopen their buildings and project teams to improve the design and construction output.