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New tech to make spaces COVID-19 safe as offices reopen

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One of the focus areas is improving ventilation in enclosed areas like office cubicles, rooms and even elevators.

New tech to make spaces COVID-19 safe as offices reopen
The move back to offices is well underway. Many companies are shifting to hybrid models of working, which means opening up their offices once more. But as threats of Delta and future variants remain, companies will need to find ways to keep their staff and guests safe in their premises.
Helping these businesses are emerging technologies and devices that many may not have imagined being used in office settings before the pandemic. A whole new industry has sprung up out of the greater emphasis on hygiene and cleanliness.
“We thought that there would be quite a bit of lingering psychological scar tissue if you will, in the eyes, in the minds of the public,” said Grant Morgan, CEO of biosafety start-up R-Zero. “People aren’t going to want to go back to these spaces without knowing that there’s something different being done.”
Businesses like R-Zero were established during the pandemic, with the aim of bringing medical-grade sanitary and hygiene solutions to enterprises and buildings.
Offices, residential buildings and shopping complexes are all scrambling to effectively move people around and keep their premises as safe as possible, wanting to boost the confidence of would-be visitors for their safety in the premises.
“The owners, developers, property managers are really concerned about the safety of their tenants coming back into the buildings and understanding that elevators do play a critical role in moving people to their spaces,” Julie Brandt, Executive Vice President at elevator manufacturer Otis, told CNBC.
Improving ventilation
One of the focus areas has been to improve ventilation in enclosed spaces like office cubicles, rooms and even elevators. Living with the pandemic for over a year revealed that the SARS-CoV-2 virus transmits and infects others through aerosols.
Areas with poor ventilation can potentially become viral hotbeds as the virus remains suspended in the mostly still air in large concentrations. Ventilation brings in the fresh air and disperses and dilutes any potential viral particles in the air, reducing the chance of breathing in any COVID-19 viruses.
Companies like Swiss-based Oxygen at Work are working on improving ventilation through innovative means. Oxygen at Work provides companies with tropical plants which are fitted with sensors to measure air quality and humidity and provides an analysis of the same data. The data allows Oxygen at Work to figure out where to strategically place their plants in order to reduce CO2 or to increase humidity levels.
“This is where safety, in terms of virus safety, becomes very relevant. An increase in humidity leads to a reduction in terms of viruses, bacteria and other germs in the air. Aerosols are floating around, they will capture the humidity, therefore they become heavier and they will fall faster to the ground,” Chief Executive Manuel Winter said.
Similarly, Otis installed cab air purifiers and developed an app for controlling the elevator so buttons do not need to be touched as often. The company also now relies on the internet of things (IoT) to keep track of the maintenance and usage data for their elevators.
“With our IoT systems, we’re able now to really pull more rich data off the elevators and translate that back to the owners, property developers and share with them the dynamics of how their building is changing and then ultimately create different experiences for their tenants using this data,” Brandt said.
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