A New Standard for Your Return to the Office
By Ritika Dhamija
COVID-19 changed the lives of people in unexpected ways, but perhaps most significantly were the ways it pressed us to adapt how we work. As employees transitioned to a remote world, interactions with clients, networking events, and conferences all became virtual.
While some managed to remain productive during this newfound virtual era, many are now missing in-person collaboration and social interaction after over a year of being remote.
The thought of returning to offices gives rise to questions related to health and well-being such as, “Will I be able to breathe pure air?” or “Will I be able to maintain the required distance from other employees?” and “Will the surfaces that I touch be clean or sanitized?”
While no one can predict how work-life will look in the coming months, workplaces have already begun their transformation. Owners are taking initiatives to make their spaces COVID-safe, making sure the well-being of building occupants is the utmost priority.
The CDC has set their guidelines for returning to work, and various building rating systems have additionally developed their own procedures for the safe reopening of offices. These rating systems focus on promoting wellness through design and organizational policies that support a healthier workforce.
Let’s take a look at four options available already:
The WELL Health-Safety Rating is a third-party verified rating system focused on operational policies, maintenance protocols, emergency plans, and stakeholder education and engagement. It includes policies that address a post COVID-19 environment today, along with strategies to prioritize broader health and safety-related issues into the future.
Requirement: The WELL Health-Safety Rating requires that projects achieve 15 of its evidence-based strategies, which include a diverse set of criteria within the following areas: Cleaning and Sanitization Procedures, Emergency Preparedness Programs, Health Service Resources, Air and Water Quality Management, Stakeholder Engagement and Communication, and Innovation. None of the strategies are mandatory, which provides flexibility – the program can be customized based on facility type and adapted to an organization’s needs.
Fitwel Viral Response
The Fitwel Viral Response module was developed in direct response to industry demand surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. It builds upon and operationalizes the evidence outlined in Fitwel’s Research to Action resource series, a collection of news and global scientific research on COVID-19. This research enabled Fitwel to establish data-driven strategies that mitigate viral transmission, build trust, and create healthy environments for all occupants.
The Fitwel Viral Response module strategies are weighed according to their strength of evidence and level of health impact, using a 100% scale. A module score of 70%-89% will be recognized as “Fitwel Viral Response Certified.” A score of 90% or above will be recognized as “Fitwel Viral Response Certified with Distinction.”
Requirement: Module strategies include minimum requirements that are necessary to achieve an effective viral response. They are based on scientific evidence that reflects the need for multi-faceted approaches and rigorious implementation of those approaches in order to effectively mitigate contagious disease spread. In addition to minimum requirements, the module introduces “dependent” strategies, which can expand the health impacts of an achieved required or “parent” strategy.
Arc Re-Entry is a set of tools that can be used to:
- document and benchmark infection-control policies and procedures;
- collect and analyze related occupant experiences; and
- measure and track indoor air quality.
Arc Re-Entry allows facility managers to mediate between expectations for policies and procedures, and the real-world experience of occupants. This creates transparency and supports a safe, confident workplace re-entry. It is a stepping stone for the LEED Safety First pilot credits and the WELL Health-Safety Rating.
Requirement: Adding the project to Arc’s online portal and inputting it’s data monthly in order to track performance against your set benchmarks and goals.
UL Verified Healthy Building Program
The UL Verified Healthy Building Program demonstrates to occupants that their building owners are prioritizing the health and well-being of workers through on-site testing of indoor environmental quality (IEQ) indicators.
This comprehensive IEQ building verification program is designed to provide building occupants with peace of mind regarding the health and safety of building spaces. UL’s methodology focuses on the four key areas – indoor air quality, water quality, building hygiene, and lighting and acoustic quality.
Requirement: Verified Healthy Buildings will be supported by onsite quantitative evaluations, visual inspections, and bi-annual onsite inspections for ongoing data monitoring. Participants have the option of achieving a tiered level of the UL Verified Mark in each of the key areas of building health and indoor environmental quality (IEQ), including:
- Verified Healthy Building for Indoor Environment: Air, Water, Hygiene, Light and Acoustics
- Verified Healthy Building for Indoor Air and Water
- Verified Healthy Building for Indoor Air
Now, let’s take a look at some of the differences between the basic parameters of the two leading rating systems – WELL Health-Safety and Fitwel Viral Response Module:
*Subject to change
With some innovative opportunities available to building owners, we hope to see a strong and healthy comeback to the workplace. In-person workplaces provide a platform for organic conversation, collaboration, and creativity, which we all surely are looking forward to at present. Our team here at Verdical Group has expertise with these rating systems and can guide you on the path to incorporating health and wellness in your buildings. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.