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BOMA unveils ‘how to’ guide to reopening commercial buildings

(WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 28, 2020) The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International has published a new guidance document addressing considerations for commercial building re-entry efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Getting Back to Work: Preparing Buildings for Re-Entry Amid COVID-19” provides a framework for preparing commercial properties for the safe return of tenants, additional building personnel, visitors, vendors and contractors. The guide identifies operational and safety procedures and protocols that should be implemented, updated or enhanced to prepare for operations in a post-COVID-19 world.

As jurisdictions across the United State and around the world began preparing for a phased approach to commercial building re-entry, BOMA International assembled a task force to help property professionals address potential building operations and workforce considerations. The resulting guidance document offers suggested best practices and procedures, and it identifies questions and issues to consider when developing property or portfolio plans. Among the topics it addresses are:

  • Planning and Preparation:

The best time to prepare for building re-entry is well before stay-at-home orders and other restrictions are lifted. Assemble a planning team that includes representatives from all facets of the building team; consult with federal, state, local and regulatory guidelines and, as needed, legal counsel; and communicate with tenants, vendor and contractors regularly as plans evolve.

  • Social Distancing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):

First and foremost, building personnel and service providers should follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or similar guidelines to maintain social distancing and follow federal, state and local mandates or recommendations for wearing PPE. Tenants also should be advised of any building requirements and recommendations, including staggered work hours or days, smaller or virtual meetings only and limited building guests and visitors.

  • Common Areas and Amenity Spaces:

As able, consider closing amenity spaces, such as fitness areas and conference rooms, for at least 30 days following re-entry, and follow state and local guidelines and mandates. Provide hand sanitizer, wipe stations and trash containers in lobbies, elevator lobbies, mailrooms, parking facilities, fitness areas and other common areas, and near entrances, restrooms, fitness facilities, retail and restaurants.

  • Use and Occupancy of Elevators:

Depending on elevator cab sizes, number of building floors, and daily number of riders, consider strategies to reinforce social distancing in elevator lobbies and elevator cabs, and plan for more frequent and more thorough cleaning and disinfecting of elevators, as well as stairwells and handrails in response to increased stair traffic.

  • Security and Building Access:

Limit access points to the building, with one entrance and one exit where able. If possible, position security personnel at entry points, clearly define their duties and roles and implement social distancing protocols at security and lobby desks to protect personnel. Develop delivery protocols in cooperation with tenants to accommodate different delivery security preferences.

  • Janitorial:

Prior to building re-entry, consult with janitorial contractors about the level of cleaning that may be needed in the building and review site inventory to ensure adequate cleaning supplies. Increase frequency of cleaning in high-density and high-touch areas, and identify areas that may require more frequent or deeper cleaning. If a building employee, tenant or visitor becomes ill or tests positive for COVID-19, schedule deep cleaning and disinfection in all affected building areas. Follow a defined COVID-19 cleaning program provided by a qualified service provider.

  • Mechanical Systems:

Prior to building re-entry, continue running heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment in building and tenant spaces and performing regular HVAC maintenance, including filter changes. If possible, consider increasing exhaust and infusion of outside air for re-entry, and consult ASHRAE guidelines for operating HVAC systems to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Operate water systems, toilets and faucets on a regular basis to avoid the accumulation of bacteria. Consider flushing and cleaning systems before re-entry. Refer to the International Code Council’s flushing and disinfecting guidelines or consult with a third party if necessary. Continue to monitor and service all water systems, including hot water heaters, ice machines and filtration systems. Also continue regular elevator maintenance.

  • Communication with Tenants:

Constantly communicate with tenants about building updates and changes, and ask tenants to communicate their plans prior to re-entry. Convey any new policies or procedures the building will be implementing, as well as proper protocol for reporting a positive COVID-19 case. Clearly communicate tenants’ responsibilities and obligations within their suites for decisions about social distancing, use of PPE, work hours, illness monitoring or temperature taking and other health and safety procedures in the workplace.

Additional guidance is provided in the document covering the health and safety of building personnel and contractors; the use of shared equipment and supplies; signage; risk management and insurance; legal considerations; and other areas of building operations and management.

“This latest guidance document covering commercial building re-entry considerations is just one part of a broader effort taken by BOMA International to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic head-on,” said BOMA International Chair Scott O. Jones, PE, vice president with Jacobs. “Whether providing critical resources to members across the world, working with elected officials at the local, state and national levels or facilitating best practice exchanges, BOMA International is committed to helping property professionals navigate these uncertain times.”

A repository of other resources and materials created or curated by the BOMA network can be found on BOMA International’s Coronavirus Resource Center which includes numerous guidance documents, webinar recordings, relevant articles and links to tools for tracking coronavirus-related state legislation. BOMA International and BOMA local associations are committed to working to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the health and economic security of commercial real estate professionals and their communities and will continue to advocate on behalf of the industry now and as re-occupancy in commercial buildings occurs.

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