Whether you lease or own your space, have a broad portfolio or a single asset, your attention to how facilities are run right now is vital. Your organization is making critical facilities management decisions every day, with more to follow in the near future.
Equally imperative are the decisions your organization makes in the coming weeks to answer questions like, “Who can be in my facility?,” “How do I respond to a suspected contamination?,” “How will I keep my buildings operational and protected while most of my workforce is home?,” “What is our facility showing our community about our company and our values?.”
CBRE manages a large number of facilities and started tackling these questions in partnership with our clients in China. As an example of scale and speed, for the 15 US states alone that have issued stay-at-home orders as of March 25, CBRE had nearly 26,000 client buildings comprising 840M SF impacted. This experience has imparted valuable lessons behind my no-regrets, action-oriented recommendations.
- Manage entries
The best way to keep your facility safe is to keep people with the virus at home. There are several ways to approach this, including temperature screening and other sophisticated equipment that could become permanent installations. There are also low-cost options, like increasing lobby signage reminding people to stay home if ill, restricting visitors, and setting up self-check temperature stations.
- Plan for an exposure-related shutdown
It is likely that you will experience a suspected or confirmed case in at least one of your facilities. Rather than waiting for that moment and having to scramble, prepare a written plan and educate your site managers, staff, and providers proactively. What to do with the individual? How to isolate them? How to get them home safely? What steps to take? If you think all of this through and get it in writing beforehand (working with your legal, HR, building owner, and key stakeholders) you will mitigate risk and reduce anxiety when the event happens.
- Clean often
Increased cleaning has a direct, infection-control benefit and should be implemented as a preventative move. A full daily disinfection may not be necessary, but the virus lives on surfaces for up to 3 days; and proper, increased cleaning will help lower your exposure. Clean more often and be visible with these services, especially in common areas. As the world opens back up for business, we should expect a lot more cleaning.
- Crank up the outside air
There is consistent guidance from CDC, ASHRAE, ASHE and others that increasing the mix of outside air in your facility is helpful. You will likely experience increased energy costs and will need to watch equipment carefully as you run it differently, but this measure is recommended. If you lease space, discuss this option with your landlord and property manager. Be sure you have qualified personnel making these adjustments and check on HVAC units more frequently.
- Treat your suppliers well
Facilities suppliers are becoming critical to business continuity – especially cleaners. A number of our clients have instructed us to work with suppliers to be sure they retain staff and maintain capacity even while client sites are closed or in partial use. These clients understand that their supplier partners operate on thin margins and that their employees operate on even thinner margins with no safety net. We believe these clients are going to be very well served for these actions.
- Pay attention to energy costs (and opportunities)
A good place to look for savings right now is energy procurement. Demand reductions as a result of working from home, closing retail and commercial locations, and reduced production are all combining to push energy prices in the US to the lowest levels seen in 20 years. But we know from history that energy prices can snap back quickly, so we recommend you review your procurement contracts now to see if you can reap savings.
- Take advantage of the down time to prepare for re-opening
Every facility has deferred projects and tasks that were waiting for a weekend when the building sits empty. Planned correctly, now is your chance for these projects. We are working with clients to complete delayed projects, replacements, and repairs. Put in place more energy efficient equipment. Finish that asset condition survey. Our teams in China realized that deferred maintenance on older equipment just could not respond to more intensive HVAC demands, so we are working hard to repair, replace, and upgrade.
The Future New Normal
As you plan for re-opening, your employees, customers, and suppliers are going to have new expectations for how to run, clean, and manage your facility. At the same time suppliers, landlords, and maintenance teams are going to be managing the surge of work.
Consider focusing on three areas:
- Operations: Inspect and test key building systems to ensure the building is safe and comfortable as you come back to full occupancy.
- Service Planning: Allow providers of cleaning, food, concierge, HVAC, security, etc. ample lead time to ensure they can get their teams back on site and fully operational
- Change management: Ensure the occupants are aware of what’s been done, what’s different, and what protections need to stay in place to keep everyone healthy. Set up a hotline to take their questions.