Four Retrofitting Trends to Increase Health and Safety in Buildings

20 July 2020
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Originally published on LinkedIn by David Ford, Principal & Managing Director of Walter P Moore’s Kansas City Diagnostics Group.


Managing Director and Building Envelopes expert, David Ford, highlights some exciting trends our Diagnostics experts are noticing when looking at retrofitting buildings for COVID-19.

Here at Walter P Moore, we are always searching for innovations to better solve our clients’ challenges. My colleagues are constantly sharing resources on forward-thinking trends to make shared spaces—like offices and construction sites—safer for our new, socially distant reality. Right now, four stand out to me as major game-changers:

  1. Anti-viral shared surfaces: A company in the UK is developing an anti-microbial coating that reduces the time viruses can live on glass. Applications in the workplace setting could help reduce the rate of infection from glass surfaces like conference tables, interior and exterior windows and doors, and shareable touch screen devices. Full article here.

  2. Airflow as a shield: Several experts are imagining methods for introducing airflow as a barrier device between interior spaces. The newest research suggests COVID-19 can live airborne, so isolating air within a single area is likely to minimize spread. We’re seeing this play out as upgrades to HVAC systems, air curtains and gates at doorways, and advances in air filtration. Check this out for more details. 

  3. On-site tech: We’re already seeing innovative ways of using existing tech to increase safety for construction teams and building technicians, like 3-D rendering, video calls, and drone imaging. But how can we adapt tech in engineering for social distancing? New ideas include demolition robots and hard hat alarms that sound when the six-foot “personal bubble” is breached. More on that here.

  4. Seismically sound retrofitting: As we rearrange our spaces and remodel office interiors, there will be a push to build more temporary walls and reroute critical MEP systems to ensure physical distance across the workforce. Even if these changes are temporary, many parts of the country still face the real threat of earthquakes. Apart from potential injuries, even a small earthquake could damage these non-structural components—racking up a high bill quickly—so we need to prioritize correctly anchoring new shelves, equipment, pipes, and ceilings. FEMA has a vast (nearly 800-page) guidance document to help us consider how to remodel our spaces safely for a seismic event.

Social distancing will continue to change how we live, work, and interact in the world today, but it’s exciting to see how our industry can innovate to the meet these challenges. People should feel safe at work, and we are on the right path by rethinking our working spaces in the near future for better public health in the long term.

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