What is COVID-19 Signaling to Workplace Safety and Design?

As COVID-19 continues to infiltrate our communities across the globe, let us take this lockdown as an opportunity to rethink the built environment and its impact on our health.

As designers focused on health and wellness, we want to share the immediate measures that architects, designers, building managers, and employers can take to create safe environments that control the transmission of disease as we eventually move past this global pandemic:

  1. Educational handwashing signage — A small component to both Fitwel and WELL Certification, is an easy and creative way to keep the importance of avoiding the spread of germs top of mind.
  2. “Healthy sink” design — The knowledge of virology has to inform design decisions moving forward. A deep basin, offset drain, reducing the number of flat surfaces where germs can sit, and installing ventilation systems that allow for removing potentially contaminated air are all critical elements in preventing the spread of infection.
  3. Indoor Air Filtration — This preventative measure can help property managers, architects, and engineers plan for the future.1  We utilize indoor HEPA filters throughout our office space. They have a triple filtration process: particle matter filtration, or PM (PM 2.5, which is also what the N95 masks being used in the hospitals right now remove), charcoal (helps remove the VOCs), and then HEPA to remove the fine particles (PM 10).
  4. Office Cleaning Procedures — Keeping the workplace clean can inhibit the spread of communicable diseases, especially as we all start to return to the workplace. Most cleaning staff are instructed not to touch employees’ desks, so it’s important that both employees and cleaning staff are informed to routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces and pay special attention to the list of high-touch surfaces from the CDC.
  5. Outbreak Response Plan – Create a clear, flexible plan to share your plan with employees and explain what human resources policies, workplace/leave flexibilities, and pay and benefits will be available to them.2

The health and well-being of employees will be the primary concern as we all start to venture back into shared spaces. Taking immediate action now to improve the overall health of your workplace will be vital to controlling future impacts and securing operational resilience.

Contact our wellness experts to learn more: in@epstengroup.com


1 https://www.fitwel.org/product/5-ways-to-optimize-buildings-for-covid-19-prevention

2 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html

About the Author

Lauren Wallace

Lauren, Principal and Director of Certifications and Consulting, has trained and managed leaders in sustainability and consulting on thousands of inspiring projects. She has been an active member of the sustainable design community for more than ten years and a leading sustainability consultant who is passionate about incorporating sustainable practices throughout the design-build industry. Aligning with the firm’s convictions, she works alongside her clients to integrate widespread sustainability practices, saving them time and money, and ultimately attracting and retaining much-needed talent.

Lauren regularly speaks to large audiences about implementing change in the building industry, focusing on technical information and application. She is a USGBC and WELL Faculty member, the leader of the Epsten Group Wellness Committee, and has spoken on building sustainability and Wellness issues throughout the country. In 2019, she was honored in becoming a LEED Fellow. She is a proud Living Future Accredited professional, WELL AP, Fitwel Ambassador, Parksmart Advisor, and TRUE Advisor. Lauren is also a WELL Performance Testing Agent and BREEAM USA Assessor.

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