Air filters and outdoor spaces: office costs increase with the return of workers

Employers are paying more attention to air quality than ever before, said Nellie Brown, a health and safety specialist who provides train...


Employers are paying more attention to air quality than ever before, said Nellie Brown, a health and safety specialist who provides training and technical assistance to workplaces across New York State through from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University.

“If you don’t spend the money to improve your ventilation, you could be spending it on sick people,” Ms. Brown said. She added that these improvements could have helped reduce the spread of seasonal flu in years past if they had been in place.

Upgrading HVAC systems can be expensive and add monthly costs. New equipment for a typical 100,000-square-foot Chicago office building, for example, can cost up to $ 100,000 to install, Ms. Mueller said, and can add 5 to 10 percent to monthly bills. For offices located in milder climates, simply opening the windows can increase the air quality, although many office windows do not open.

Building managers are creating more rooftop and patio space for workers. Maintaining these spaces will incur additional costs, such as heating or cooling, but Angelo Bianco, managing partner of the CP Group, said his company is adding outdoor lounge space “to every building we own.” Some new designs focus on flexible indoor-outdoor spaces, like an airy coffee shop with indoor seating and garage door-like walls that can be opened onto a patio.

Addition of outdoor spaces was already a trend before the pandemic, but “now it’s a priority,” said Greg Smith, general manager of Urban Visions, a Seattle developer. It has three projects scheduled to open in the next few years, and each offers significant outdoor locations.

“The era of crowding people into offices like sardines is over,” he said.

Some office building changes are more about peace of mind than actual effect, such as moving janitorial staff from night to daylight hours so that employees can see the building being cleaned. “If the building doesn’t feel safe, they won’t go in,” Ms. Mueller said.

Updating employees on construction infrastructure is another practice inspired by the pandemic. “Until 18 months ago, hardly anyone cared about ‘healthy buildings’,” said Bianco. “It has changed irrevocably. “

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Newsrust - US Top News: Air filters and outdoor spaces: office costs increase with the return of workers
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