As the UK’s workplaces gear up for a partial return to normality, major changes will be required to the way people transit through buildings. The most common fears surrounding a return to the office are commuting by public transport and using lifts.
A study by D2E, lift, escalator and access management consultancy, has revealed some chief concerns among both building occupiers and their owners/managers. While many employers and building managers are confident of safeguarding individual workspaces, there are still a number of question marks over communal areas, lifts and lobbies.
D2E’s Managing Director, Mark Fairweather, said: “If the results of our surveys are anything to go by, we are seeing a paradigm shift in the workplace, working practices and commuting habits.”
Solutions will likely require a raft of changes including increasing use of stairs, in-cab medical/sanitisation countermeasures and personal protection such as masks becoming prevalent or indeed mandatory.
Hygiene concerns outrank all others relating to lifts and escalators. Almost 90 per cent (89.1 per cent) of the commercial property industry is worried about hygiene measures needed in lifts and lobbies whereas four fifths – 80.4 per cent – is concerned about the need for effective measures to counter the spread of the disease via buttons. Over half of the industry – at 56.5. per cent – believes that lift waiting times are the most significant factor affecting lifts and elevators.
Fairweather added: “We believe that office workers’ hours will be increasingly staggered to force building densities down. This moment may indeed mark the end of the long push to cram more and more people into less and less space.”
D2E predicts the typical space allocation of 8m2 per person rising to something like 12m2 per person on the main floors, with lobby and reception areas will expanding and an increased focus on stairwells and walking wherever feasible. In addition, workers are likely to demand bike storage and shower facilities, changed canteen layouts (if these are provided at all) for social distancing, and increased natural ventilation.
Insofar as lift design and use is concerned, D2E is predicting an increasing swing towards touchless technology such as smartphone, voice-control or biometrically activated lift access and dispatch. Viral resistant materials may also become the norm for interior finishes.
“For many existing owners of commercial property, however,” says Fairweather, “these changes can only be delivered slowly. What we can and should change now are the working practices which govern people flow, including building entrances, receptions, lifts and associated areas. Subject to further detailed epidemiological advice, we are likely to see intense focus on access to buildings, recommended lift waiting times, the numbers of passengers allowed in a lift at any one time, in-car sanitisation facilities and procedures among other measures.”
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