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Flexible, green, healthy spaces that promote creativity – these are some of the key requirements of the modern-day office, shared Darryl Mayers, joint CEO of Investec Property Fund, while speaking at GBCSA’s 14th Green Building Convention held earlier this month.
“The Covid pandemic has definitely redefined what constitutes healthy work spaces, employee safety and the wellbeing of our employees,” he said, “and any leaders who are serious about the wellbeing of their staff, understand the importance of getting this market right.”
Also part of the ‘Future office – reimagining the commercial office space’ parallel hybrid session at the conference was Martin Smith, design director and expertise leader at Zutari, who unpacked how their clients are prioritising healthy offices.
While green building and building health rating tools have been available for a quite a while now, the arrival of Covid-19 revealed a gap in the design system, he said. Called on to assess some of its clients’ buildings for health safety during the height of the pandemic, Zutari realised that there were actually no tools available to rate buildings for infection control. Together with GBCSA, Zutari then developed the free “safe return to the workplace” guideline, a technical guide for existing buildings that identifies best practice recommendations for a healthy and safe return to the office.
While clients are taking on some of the short and medium-term interventions, according to Smith, few are designing for full infection control and wellbeing due to the uncertainty around Covid-19 and the economy, the future of the office, and an inability to assess the risk. In order for it to get greater focus, he believes a proper rating tool needs to be introduced or an additional health and infection control category be added to an existing tool.