Seattle-based McKinstry has launched a service it said is designed to help owners and operators ensure their buildings are ready to safely reopen after shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With its new “Return with Confidence” service, McKinstry said it will provide a free phone consultation. For a fee, it will then provide an assessment and detailed action plan for reopening based on each building’s needs.
The national engineering, construction and energy services firm has seen robust interest in the service, said Ash Awad, its chief market officer.
“Everybody’s going to need a plan to figure out how to bring people back to buildings,” he said.
During the pandemic, many buildings have sat empty or operated at limited capacity. Reopening requires procedures to ensure the health and safety of occupants, McKinstry said. Even buildings that have remained operational need to be assessed, re-tuned and reprogrammed to minimize the spread of illnesses like COVID-19, it said.
For instance, Awad said in unoccupied buildings, water can stagnate in the conveyance systems, which could cause disease.
McKinstry will evaluate indoor air quality, ventilation, temperature, humidity, mechanical systems and water quality following the guidance of regulatory and industry groups. That will provide the basis for a plan for building staff to follow to maximize occupant health and safety, it said. Or McKinstry can perform the work.
The plan may also include measures to reassure occupants on steps taken to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria, from building signage to dashboards that remind them to follow proper social distancing and handwashing protocol and to wear proper protective equipment.
For instance, hospitals, clinics and doctors offices are seeing significant loss of revenue as people delay elective procedures and visits as they are afraid they will come out sick, Awad said. Medical facilities “want to be able to advertise that they have done everything they can,’’ he said.
In Spokane, McKinstry evaluated the zero energy, zero carbon building, called Catalyst, that it is developing in partnership with Avista Utilities. The 159,000-square foot building is slated to open in September, and Eastern Washington University is leasing 100,000 square feet for the computer science, electrical engineering and visual communication design programs, which will bring about 1,000 students to the building.
McKinstry said the evaluation included a plan to ensure the ventilation systems are operating with 100% fresh air, with no recirculation, while keeping the building energy efficient; to create the right amount of seating in classrooms; to repurpose some conference rooms for small group discussions; to add wayfinding for proper people movement; and to use existing building technology to monitor the people count.
“It’s very disconcerting to imagine bringing all these students back” without a plan, said Awad.