Office building design idea – key to worker health in the Covid era

An employee works on a laptop at the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, which opened in 2018. It is one of the companies that is focusing on office air quality as part of building design standards.

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Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, employees, managers and senior executives have taken a close look at what makes a workspace healthy. The pandemic has led to an influx of hand sanitizer wipes, hand sanitizer dispensers and social distancing signs into office spaces.

Harvard professor Joseph Allen says there is one security measure that offices cannot ignore. A healthy workspace is primarily dependent on the air that employees breathe, and studies conducted many years before the pandemic show that improved ventilation and air quality lead to increased cognitive function and productivity.

One study by Allen as part of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard. T.Kh. Chan, showed that there is no cut-off value for how high ventilation of the air positively affects the cognitive functions of workers.

“We had over 350 employees worldwide and we followed them all year round. We had air quality sensors on our desk, ”said Allen, assistant professor and program director.

As part of the study, employees will periodically receive app pings to pass these cognitive tests from their desks to see in real time how air quality affects the productivity of office workers around the world.

What Allen and other researchers have found in the COGfx study should change the way companies around the world think about productivity investment.

Salesforce, Boston Properties, and Armstrong World Industries are some of the U.S. companies that have worked with Allen either as part of the COGfx study or Allen’s team of healthy construction consultants in 9 Foundations To improve air quality in their buildings, “what we know is science is important to health, wellness and productivity,” says Allen.

“The big problem of our time is ventilation,” said Amazon chief physician Vin Gupta, speaking at a recent CNBC @Work summit and citing findings from researchers at Harvard.

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“We all strive to feel safer and more confident in the places we visit frequently, and those in charge of renovating and building buildings know this,” said Vic Grizzle, President and CEO. Armstrong World Industries, a company that designs and manufactures ceiling, wall and suspension systems for commercial and residential applications. “And the story doesn’t end there. Once improvements are made to a building, it is very important to measure how the space is performing, such as by looking at carbon dioxide levels, humidity and temperature, because we learned that these factors can affect performance, ”Grizzle said.

Armstrong World Industries has created a space on its corporate campus called the Living Lab where teams can research, test and test various solutions to improve air control and promote cleaner air.

“It is logical and intuitive that in spaces like the Living Lab, which have exceptional air quality along with optimal acoustics, lighting, cleanliness, great views, biophilic design elements and comfortable furnishings, people will simply feel better,” said Grizzle. … … “When we feel good, we think, process and tend to act in our best possible way, and in a worldview we feel more optimistic and enthusiastic. This leads to productivity, of course. “

Speaking at the recent CNBC Human Resources Executive Board Summit Allen told HR executives, “Healthy buildings should be the first line of defense … The problem is that we haven’t ventilated our buildings, homes, offices, schools for decades … We designed them. the wrong way for 40 years, shutting them off, shutting off the air supply. “

“We have to expect clean air in our offices, just as we expect clean water to come out of the tap. So this is the first thing. Realize that the paradigm shift is in full swing. It’s not going anywhere, ”Allen said.

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