As tenants begin to look forward to the time when they can reunite and collaborate with their colleagues and have access to office resources again, now is the time for facilities managers to work beyond implementing basic Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations.
Facilities teams have been working tirelessly for the past 11 months to create plans for the great return to work. They have identified areas of concern, such as elevator capacity limitations, gatherings in large conference rooms, increased signage needs, updated HVAC filtration and enhanced cleaning programs. Of course, they have done all of this all while keeping utilities running and safe.
Now, with the widespread distribution of a vaccine and light at the end of the tunnel getting brighter, it is the final push to get facilities ready for tenants to return to work. Here are four areas to focus on to make sure you have done what you can for your tenants.
1. Conduct a survey of fixed assets.
You have spent the better part of a year monitoring for compliance with CDC guidelines and recommendations to keep your team and tenants safe. Throughout this time, larger structural and mechanical assets may not have had as much use, or even preventative maintenance attention, as they usually do.
Use this time to conduct a detailed survey of your fixed assets, and evaluate their health for safety and efficiency. Check assets such as:
- Electrical systems
- Plumbing (including water filtration, and plumbing connected to heating and cooling systems)
- HVAC systems
- Lighting systems
Once done, compile the results, prioritize required repairs and remediations and develop a plan to get these systems ready for the increased demand.
2. Evaluate the need for HVAC upgrades.
Between having mostly vacant buildings and wide variability in weather conditions, it is important to understand the pressure levels, exchange rates and disinfection capabilities and requirements of your HVAC systems before they are put through their paces again.
If your building is equipped with environmental quality sensors, use this time to review your data carefully to determine if your spaces are properly ventilated for maximum employee health. CDC and ASHRAE guidelines and best practices are available based on region. However, you may need expert help in determining the precise levels and, in turn, the required refinements to the level of outside air as well as indoor humidity levels, especially to prevent the risk of mold.
3. Verify the status of pest control mitigations.
With reduced foot traffic and more empty spaces, pests and wild animals could have used the last few months to move into your building more than they usually do. As you are conducting your other fixed asset checks and needed HVAC upgrades, look for signs of pest activity and take the necessary precautions to clear out and repair related issues.
4. Prepare water systems.
With water not flowing through pipes nearly as much as it was a year ago, it is vital to ensure that your water heating and cooling systems have been flushed, cleaned and are working properly.
Although not all of your systems may be affected, stagnant or standing water left in a building’s plumbing system can greatly increase the risk for bacterial growth once water begins to flow again. Due to corrosion of a building’s plumbing and fixtures or because of slower water movement, metals such as lead and copper can enter drinking water.
Use this time to test your internal water systems for these increased risks and prepare them for a return to heavy usage. You can also make time to learn about the safety of water that is coming into your building from public sources, clean faucets and fountains, and evaluate the status of filters
Get your buildings back to work.
It has been a long and challenging year for everyone, but the return to higher occupancy rates after such a long absence can be made much easier if facility managers focus and prioritize their efforts accordingly. We have called out four key areas in this article, but your facilities may have their own unique needs that should be addressed, too.
If you want to tap into the experience, resources and best practices of the experts at Able Services, our team welcomes the chance to partner with you and guide your team throughout this busy time. To get started, request a quote and we will get to work for you.