Building owners are creating new cleanliness and security protocols amid fears that pandemics could become part of the new normal.
“People are tearing up the old real estate playbook,” said Michael Silver, chairman of Vestian, a real estate management company that focuses on tenant clients.
“Who would want to go back to coworking post virus? People will pay a premium for a safe, clean healthy building,” he continued.
It’s why demand is soaring for indoor air purification systems such as those produced by AtmosAir, based in Fairfield, Conn.
In the last couple of weeks, the AtmosAir purifying system has been installed at two 1-million-square-foot Manhattan office towers — and the company’s phones have been ringing off the hook, AtmosAir Vice President and Chief Technical Officer Tony Abate said.
Abate said they are getting a surge in inquiries for their bipolar ionization system, already used at the NBA’s offices, the NYU Langone hospital, the Alvin Ailey dance theater studios and offices, Hyatt’s Andaz Wall Street hotel — and even at some SoulCycle locations.
Silver, who previously founded real estate services company Equis, said other changes are coming. Large companies are redistributing employees so that a sudden problem in one city — whether a terrorist attack, fire, flood, power outage or pandemic — doesn’t shut down an entire workforce.
“You will see big, big redistributions of labor,” Silver said. “And don’t be surprised if you see an exodus out of New York.”
Other large corporate clients now want to control their own environments, including who goes in and out of their building and not just their space. That could require such businesses to lease or own entire buildings.
Also expected to be out of favor post-coronavirus are “densified” offices, with employees jammed next to each other on long work benches. Such conditions were already proving counterproductive, but they are definitely not suited for social distancing.
In China, businesses have been bringing in just half their workers and spacing them apart to help people ease back into office life.
“My Shanghai office is fully back to work but they take their temperature and have clean and safe protocols in the building,” Silver said. “We’ve introduced clean protocols and audit the situation on the inside.”
Companies everywhere could also add square footage and spread out their employees in addition to spreading them to other nabes.
In his annual letter to shareholders, Vornado Chief Executive Steve Roth wrote, “Our tenants and our employees spend the majority of their week working in our buildings, and we are committed to providing an optimal environment for them, with a focus on healthy air and water and the least-toxic, health-driven cleaning policies and materials.”
Although some employees will be thrilled to continue to work from home, many of those who once dreamed of sitting on their couch with their laptop are now so over it. There was a reason company founders left their couches for coworking sites like WeWork.
As Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said: “We are not built to be isolated for long periods of time.”
Roth also wrote about the work-from-home trend, saying the mystique has faded thanks to the coronavirus:
“Most who work at home are finding it very inefficient and after a week, clamor to get back to the normal routine and social interaction of the conventional workplace. And, it may be that social distancing is the offset to densification.”
As we Zoom through Passover and Easter, here’s to a masked-and-gloved July Fourth that is also filled with ballgames, beers, barbecues and, of course, fireworks over great lawns and rivers, from sea to shining sea.
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