The impact of Coronavirus on existing and future building services design

The current COVID-19 pandemic is impacting how we use buildings now and is likely to affect how we design and use buildings in the future. A number of the anticipated changes may give rise to legal and commercial considerations for building owners, occupiers, investors and their managing agents.

Hilson Moran has compiled a detailed review of the measures to consider in the design, operation and maintenance of building services engineering systems in light of the pandemic.

It’s important to recognise that social distancing will only prevail for relatively short periods in the overall lifetime of an office. Therefore, changes being proposed to previously accepted design features should add a long term benefit to promote the health and wellbeing of the occupants and not just respond to the current situation we find ourselves in, whilst ignoring all other aspects.

Many of the considerations here are in fact already being embraced in the drive towards healthier buildings generally but some solutions are likely to attract higher energy usage. It is important to carefully consider this aspect and encourage solutions which are energy neutral at worst. If an energy penalty cannot be avoided, it should only be borne during a pandemic, so perhaps a dual mode of operation needs to be considered for some engineering systems.

A good building is one where the engineering services systems can react quickly to changing circumstances and provide flexibility to the Building Managers and Occupiers to adopt published guidance during times of a pandemic, whilst not sacrificing the drive towards reduced (or zero) energy consumption and the long term benefits of adopting the ethos of a circular economy.

Smart technology should be used to promote and encourage the health & wellbeing of the occupants, whilst enhancing the security of the building.

Whilst recognising that each new pandemic can bring about different challenges, building engineering systems in the future could potentially incorporate an inbuilt “pandemic mode” of operation in their control strategies, which will allow building managers to modify the operation of the building systems quickly and easily when needed. This would need to be regularly reviewed in light of research and further guidance issued over time.

In the drive for greater efficiency and reduced operational costs, budgets for managing buildings have been pared back over recent years. The importance of increased regimes for cleanliness and increased audits to police the effectiveness of the procedures in place needs to be recognised.

We’ll be posting a series of information covering the key points from the research over the next two weeks. However, for more detail on the subject please contact Nigel Clark, [email protected]

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