EXTON, PA — Oswald Building Services has announced its commitment to achieve Global Biorisk Advisory Council® (GBAC) STAR™ accreditation, the gold standard for prepared facilities. Under the guidance of GBAC, a Division of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, Oswald Building Services will implement the most stringent protocols for cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention in its facility.
As the cleaning industry’s only outbreak prevention, response, and recovery accreditation, GBAC STAR™ helps organizations establish protocols and procedures, offers expert-led training, and assesses a facility’s readiness for biorisk situations. The program will verify that Oswald Building Services implements best practices to prepare for, respond to, and recover from outbreaks and pandemics.
“GBAC STAR accreditation empowers facility owners and managers to assure workers, customers and key stakeholders that they have proven systems in place to maintain clean and healthy environments,” said GBAC Executive Director Patricia Olinger. “By taking this important step to pursue GBAC STAR, Oswald Building Services will receive third-party validation that it follows strict protocols for biorisk situations, thereby demonstrating its preparedness and commitment to operating safely.”
To achieve GBAC STAR™ accreditation, Oswald Building Services will demonstrate compliance with the program’s 20 core elements, which range from standard operating procedures and risk assessment strategies to personal protective equipment and emergency preparedness and response measures. Learn more about GBAC STAR accreditation at www.gbac.org.
In early 2020, along with the implementation of worldwide social isolation measures, we published several articles in order to help our readers increase productivity and comfort in their home offices. After months of continued isolation, surveys show that more than 80% of professionals want to continue working from home even after quarantine ends. In addition, a good number of companies are similarly satisfied with current work practices, showing a high tendency to adopt this practice indefinitely, since the majority of companies observed that remote work was as or more productive than face-to-face work.
However, with respect to children and home studying during the pandemic, the result was not as positive. One of the main reasons for this difference is that it can be difficult to get students to concentrate and motivate themselves for a long time in front of screens. Lack of physical interaction with other children is also a contributing factor. Yet until the global situation improves, it is likely that the return to schools will continue to be postponed. With this situation in mind, we decided to share in this article a series of efficient strategies to transform study spaces at home into better spaces for learning.
How to rethink home study spaces for children and adolescents:
1. Create a specific physical space for the study. It is recommended to start by choosing and creating a study space in an area with plenty of natural light and suitable acoustic conditions. If there is more than one option, it is important that the child choose the one they like the most and help configure it. If you do not have a well-lit area, you can review our article with tips for lighting interior spaces for children.
2. Choose a table that has the right dimensions for the space and height of the child. There are many desk options available on the market, but it is also possible to design and manufacture an exclusive piece. A minimum width of 80 cm is recommended so that the arms can rest comfortably around a notebook or laptop, but if it is possible to have a width of 1.20 meters, the child will be able to move and reach their study objects more easily, and allow the use of larger screens. A table height of around 50 cm is recommended for preschool, around 60 cm for elementary school, and above 70 cm for the later years of school, although this dimension varies according to the height of each student. An example of a good desk design is MiniMe, a children’s table for young kids created by the architect Camila Thiesen.
3. Invest in a comfortable chair. Ergonomics is essential. For younger children, make sure that the measurements match their specific height and needs. A seat height of between 25 and 30 cm is recommended for preschool, between 35 and 40 cm for elementary school, and above 40 cm for the later years of school, although ideal height will vary depending on the user. A chair with adjustable heights can effectively adapt to the growth of the user or allow it to be used by different people in the house.
4. Organize the study environment. It is scientifically proven that the physical organization of an environment is directly conducive to the internal and emotional organization of the children themselves. In addition to incorporating storage spaces for books and other materials, it could be useful to incorporate a calendar with a class schedule, for example, located at the student’s eye level. If the child cannot read and write yet, symbols or photographs should be used. Magnetic whiteboards, pegboards, or cork boards can also be useful for jotting down and saving ideas.
5. Adapt the space to other common areas. If the study space is not in a closed and independent environment (it can be in a common area, such as in the kitchen or in the living room, for example), partitions and other adaptable screens can be used to avoid visual and acoustic interference during lessons. Mobile, translucent, or flexible solutions can greatly increase comfort when studying. Curtains, for example, are an effective and relatively low-cost option.
6. Encourage the autonomy of children, leaving study materials within their reach (for example, on low shelves) so that it can be consulted even during leisure hours. More relaxed and comfortable environments can also be accommodated for homework or reading outside of class hours, using poufs, stools, rugs, and low tables.
7. Consider the coatings and colors that already exist in the environment so that the new study area does not visually interfere and is instead a contribution to space. It is important to choose colors that are to the liking of each child, making them feel happy and motivated in their environment, incorporating also other elements relating to their personal interests. To help guide this process, there exist certain universal guidelines for handling colors:
Blue: contributes to productivity – is considered calm and stable.
Green: according to experts, green inspires tranquility, delaying eye fatigue and general exhaustion.
Yellow: can be a good option for children as it is a cheerful color, inspiring optimism and creativity.
8. Differentiate the study space from the play space. Play is recognized as effective for educating children during early growth, so encouraging fun breaks between classes is healthy. If possible, however, it is recommended that play is relegated to a different space so as not to mix activities, allowing children to clear their minds once each play or class session is over. If well thought out, it is possible to transform or adapt the study space for other activities on weekends or holidays.
For roughly the past decade, experts in the technology industry have been using the term “exponential technology.” The phenomenon refers to both the rapid improvements in cost and performance—the power of a computer chip, for example, doubles nearly every 18 months—and the exponential rate of adoption among users. To exemplify the latter, consider the integration of phones into our day to day lives. When the landline was invented, it took 75 years to gain 50 million users. In contrast, mobile phones reached the 50-million-user mark in just 12 years.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated an already accelerated rate of tech-adoption in the hotel industry. Smart capacities and services that were previously considered add-ons to the guest experience will quickly become requirements in the post-pandemic hospitality space. The health and safety risks of the virus combined with travel restrictions and the economic downturn have forced every hotelier into immediate action. Those that make the right investments and leverage digital technologies to improve and elevate their guest offerings will be in the best position to survive through the pandemic and thrive in its wake.
Digital Labor As First Line Defense
Smart technology has the capacity to enable and empower an overcoming of the barriers that hoteliers are currently facing as they try to navigate the influx of COVID-related complications. A major short term focus has been flood in booking that’s resulted from guest cancelations or deferred stays. Investing in integrated online booking platforms that help to supplement staff efforts and create a seamless, personalized experience is the best way to ensure the guest has a positive brand experience—one they stand a chance of remembering when travel restrictions lift.
The same integrated booking and check-in technology can be applied across all aspects of a guest’s stay. Hoteliers are using app platforms to track spaces used by guests and ensure a thorough sanitation before their next use. Further, app platforms can promote a two-way conversation—management can see where guests have been and guests can receive notifications when their room has been cleaned, with specific details regarding sanitation practices available at their fingertips.
Integrated app platforms can help guests order room service or a morning coffee, reserve a spot out on the pool deck or communicate virtually with a staff member for instant assistance. And just as they can streamline guest operations, smart technology can elevate the capacity of a staff. Cloud-based software can help behind-the-counter functions, allowing staff and management to streamline operations, coordinate housekeeping, and communicate effectively behind the scenes. Investments in these kinds of digital services will help hoteliers deliver a differentiated guest experience.
Rethinking Loyalty & Reward
As the travel habits of the masses are being reconsidered, customer loyalty programs are due for an upgrade. This is another area where hospitality professionals are investing in technology, and smart solutions are set to become a part of the new normal.
Reward programs are meant to incentivize returning business without alienating first-time customers, or overemphasizing the different levels of guest perks. In the past, mobile check-ins were generally reserved for loyalty reward members. Now, that technology can help achieve the aims of the reward program with more tailored offerings, and more appropriate subtly.
A personalized guest app can offer different levels of accommodation. Rewards members could see choice reservation spaces for the poolside, access different internet speeds, and receive early notifications of limited spa offerings. Their choices and preferences could be logged as data and shared with the staff to help personalize their next stay. As they accumulate ‘rewards’, they could see alternate room pricing through the app, and they could log their preferences for all upcoming stays. The data gathered can also help hoteliers understand which of their offerings are seeing the most success, helping them adapt to meet the needs of similar high-tier guests.
A New Sense of Security
Wearable technology has gained in popularity as a way to monitor guest activity, manage contact tracing, and help control the spread of the virus. The resulting data also offers valuable feedback for consumer analysis. But with this powerful access comes great responsibility, and cyber security is a lesser-known but worthy place of investment.
The more that guests are able to be tracked and recognized, the more they deserve to know their data is safe. Most hotel owners have invested in physical safety—enhanced sanitation practices, hands-free technology, and design layouts that promote social distancing. But cyber security is an equally urgent priority. Security practices that safeguard customer data need to comply with local, federal, and industry-specific regulations. Guests deserve a thorough understanding of how their data is being used. App platforms should have a section detailing which guest operations remain completely private, the rules and regulations regarding the use or sale of customer data, and the consequences that apply if any rules are breached.
Without minimizing the depth of devastation, the COVID-19 crisis is sure to leave innovation in its wake. Accelerated adoption of technology will transform the hotel sector at a rate even more extreme than once predicted. Smart tech will offer benefits to customers and staff alike, elevating the guest experience and making new levels of personalized hospitality possible. With creativity, capital, and safety above all else, hoteliers can emerge from this crisis with a new, improved, and irresistible standard of care.
Zain Jaffer is the founder and CEO of investment firm Zain Ventures.
Contreras Earl Architecture has revealed its design for the world-first coral ark. Located at the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef in Port Douglas, North Queensland, Australia, the conservation facility “aims to secure the long-term future and biodiversity of corals worldwide which are under severe threat due to climate change”.
Dedicated to the future of corals worldwide, the Living Coral Biobank, designed by Contreras Earl Architecture, with leading engineering and sustainability consultants Arup and Werner Sobek for the Great Barrier Reef Legacy, is the first facility of its kind. Focusing on taking care of 800 species of the world’s hard corals, the new building is a “living ark”, with next-generation renewable energy design, creating optimal conditions for coral storage while minimizing energy consumption and solar gain.
Securing the living biodiversity of the world’s coral species immediately, the 6,830 sqm multi-function center will also host exhibition areas, an auditorium, and classrooms as well as advanced research and laboratory facilities over four levels. Moreover, “the Living Coral Biobank will enable visitors to get up close to live specimens in aquarium displays, learn about coral ecosystems through exhibitions and events, and observe coral husbandry experts going about their daily work in a protected wet lab environment”.
Commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Legacy, the project responds to context, climate, the user, and its function to protect 800 species of coral. The volume, inspired by the mushroom coral, takes a series of organic undulating concrete fins, on the façade, “clustered closely at ground level to offer protection from adverse tropical conditions including threats of a flood”. On higher levels, the fins twist and unfurl, allowing natural light and ventilation while providing solar shading. On another hand, the visitor’s’ journey is defined by an architecturally manipulated play of light.
This project brings with it a profound responsibility to consider the impact of architecture and the construction industry on the natural world. As one of the world’s major contributors to CO2 emissions and associated climate change, it is essential that the construction industry be encouraged by architects towards carbon neutrality. The Living Coral Biobank is an opportunity to set a global benchmark for sustainable outcomes and zero-carbon goals as well as creating a world-leading conservation and education facility. The ambition for this project is to create a beacon for environmental awareness – a center of hope, learning, and wonder. — Rafael Contreras
Responding to the need to conserve the corals in a highly controlled environment as well as the requirement for biosecurity to prevent cross-contamination, sustainability is at the core of every design decision, aiming to be self-sufficient and carbon neutral. In fact, the structure was divided into six compatible climate zones over four levels, with adjacencies minimizing energy resources used for climatic control.
The most effective workspaces are human-centric, and amplify the message that people are a company’s most important resource. There are several primary attributes to any truly compelling, people-first workplace: an urban vibe, with a buzz of activity that feels like a place where something important is happening; a collegial atmosphere where employees are part of something bigger, and their contribution is recognized and important; and they allow a “walk in the park.” As facility managers look for ways to create tenant amenities, they should look to outdoor spaces that can be captured and repurposed.
Everyone needs a break from time-to-time. We need to regroup, regenerate, and rest. An effective workplace supports this. Maybe it’s as simple as a view, or integrating interior planting, or even literally a walk in the park across the street. It’s an often overlooked feature, and it can have a profound influence on the success of an office.
Integrating nature and the office building
Nature impacts human well-being at a fundamental level and can measurably reduce levels of fear and stress. Nature can soothe and even reduce pain. It’s no accident that hospitals and other institutional settings increasingly try to integrate nature and outdoors into design.
Nature’s restorative effects can improve one’s ability to pay attention and focus. A break can improve our ability to refresh and come back ready to take on new tasks. A workplace that can integrate nature is one that can truly make people healthier when they go home than when they arrived in the morning.
The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated this thinking as building owners and facility managers contemplate the next level of effective workplaces with renewed attention to not only actual outdoor spaces, but indoor atriums, and even interior community spaces. There is great interest in how to create this connection to nature or make existing spaces or underutilized features into effective workspaces, particularly with the knowledge that the transmissibility of the virus is significantly reduced in outdoor settings. In fact, many schools and colleges are contemplating outdoor instructional settings where facilities and weather permit.
The workplace is not far behind and the close connection between interior architecture and landscape architecture is being amplified as effective rooms are developed both indoors and out for small group settings, for team spaces, for brainstorming sessions, and alternative solo work seats.
A place for rest and a place for work
Historically, outdoor settings have been places to be seen, but not necessarily to have been occupied for a work day. Increasingly we’re seeing these spaces with a renewed focus, not simply as beautiful ambiance, but as a functional space as well. They can provide the needed respite for stressed employees, but they can also be effective work settings. Even in generally inhospitable climates, with a bit of shelter and even heat on a cool day or cooling on a warm one, outdoor settings can work as highly effective spaces akin to effective interior spaces. Often these outdoor spaces are literally extensions of interior community spaces with materials and features that make the inside and outside blend seamlessly.
As facility managers look for ways to amplify the features of their portfolio, they should look to outdoor spaces that can be captured and repurposed as another tenant amenity in the arms race to attract and retain tenants. An exciting feature of this trend is in existing buildings where underutilized roof decks, parking garage roofs, or balconies become features that one or more tenants can use. Something as simple as a physical connection between the bustle of an active building lobby and recaptured but adjacent outdoor space can provide an entirely new and very welcome experience for tenants. And it supports the idea of a compelling, human-centric work experience. Facility managers must ask themselves: What will make individuals come to the office from the relative safety of their homes? The experience, the amenity, and the chance to work effectively with colleagues must be compelling.
Making the outdoors work for work
Effective outdoor workspaces have the same requirements as their interior cousins: Furnishings should be flexible and movable. Materials should be inviting and welcoming. Technology can transform a space from a simple arrangement of chairs to a real and effective team space or collaboration zone. Robust and seamless network connectivity is a must. Lighting (or shade) should allow screens to be visible and for participants to be seen. The new normal will always have virtual participants whether the meeting and the participants are inside or out.
Spaces need not, however, be a collection of interior rooms simply moved outdoors. A top that can provide some level of shading, visual privacy from above, and some ability to withstand moisture makes the space habitable in all but extreme conditions. Some settings provide cooling to extend their use further into warm weather and heat to do the opposite in cool climates. While the very hottest days, a heavy downpour, the onset of frigid weather, or a snowstorm may render a space inoperable, facility occupants will appreciate how much of the year an outdoor setting can be effective and serve as a productive workplace.
The air hasn’t yet become crisp and the colors of leaves are weeks from changing, yet coronavirus is already ravaging universities preparing for their fall semester.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill cancelled its in-person undergraduate classes after a COVID-19 outbreak spread across campus during just the first week of the fall semester, reports ABC News. Universities have pledged to heavily clean and disinfect their campuses, but that won’t help too much in situation like this, as the clusters of infections at UNC are believed to have started in dorms, a fraternity house and student living spaces. Packed bars and off-campus parties are also believed to be a cause.
It isn’t fair to just call out UNC. Nearly two dozens members of a sorority at Oklahoma State University recently tested positive for COVID-19, reports NBC News. University of Notre Dame reported 29 new cases of COVID-19 between Aug. 6 and Aug. 14. More than eight percent of the students tested at the university since Aug. 3 have tested positive for COVID-19, reports the South Bend Tribune.
Regardless of what university they clean, it appears the janitors and custodians at universities across the nation face an enormously difficult task this fall.
Positive cases of COVID-19 were up nearly 80 percent earlier this summer and continue to rise, according to report reviewed by the Associated Press. The massive rise in cases were primarily caused by outbreaks in the southern and western United States.
Tamara Konetzka, a professor at the University of Chicago who specializes in long-term care, says the numbers shown in the study seem to suggest the problem isn’t close to being solved.
One interesting statistic shows that more than 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths were related to long-term care facilities, despite the fact that the people living at these facilities only make up 1 percent of the nation’s population.
COVID-19 cases in nursing homes dropped from May to June and remained stable for most of the month. However, cases began to go back up in late June and have steadily rose ever since, according to the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living’s analysis of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data.
Some theorize that outbreaks spread to nursing homes because the people who work there are bringing the infections in with them when they don’t know they’re infected. Regardless of how the virus is getting to nursing homes, it’s certain that cleaning these facilities properly is just about as important as ever.
As many buildings are preparing to reopen during this pandemic, the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force has updated its reopening “Building Readiness” guidance for HVAC systems to help mitigate the transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
“The Building Readiness Guide includes additional information and clarifications so that owners can avoid operating their HVAC systems 24/7,” says Wade Conlan, ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force Building Readiness Team lead in a press release. “By rolling out this updated guidance, we are providing a more robust structure for building owners to complete the objectives of their Building Readiness Plan and anticipate the needs of building occupants.”
Specific updated recommendations to the building readiness guidance include the following:
Pre- and Post- Occupancy with Outdoor Air
The intent of this strategy is to ensure that infectious aerosol in the building at the end of occupancy is removed prior to the next occupied period. The building is flushed for a duration sufficient to reduce concentration of airborne infectious particles by 95 percent. For a well-mixed space, this would require three air changes (three times the building volume) of outdoor air (or three equivalent air changes including the effect of filtration and air cleaners) as detailed in the calculation methodology. There is also guidance on methods to increase the quantity of outdoor air introduced by systems.
Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV) Systems Operation
Guidance is provided to assist in determining if an energy recovery system using an energy wheel is well designed and maintained and whether it should remain in operation. Based on the assessment of ERV conditions, it may be possible to fix problems and return it to service.