The COVID-19 Pandemic has significantly affected the construction industry. Construction starts have plummeted for projects, bidding has become more competitive, and industry professionals continue to navigate the complexities brought upon us by COVID-19. The pandemic has caused short-term and long-term economic problems, a shift to remote working, an embrace of new technologies, and an exploration of COVID-19 design strategies
Luckily, several prominent organizations have created tools and resources to help the AEC community navigate the pandemic. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the US Green Building Council (USGBC) have developed new programs for professionals which range from business topics, design issues, workplace challenges, legal complexities, and human resource obstacles. Design professionals are encouraged to review these design free resources to help them understand the challenges and potential solutions in the marketplace.
The AIA has created a COVID-19 Resources for Architects page. The webpage is constantly updated and includes critical resource links for the Reopening America: Strategies for safer buildings, AIA Re-occupancy Assessment Tool, and AIA Component Connect Best Practices. The AIA has stated that they are committed to equipping their members with the information they need to help navigate these uncertain times. The AIA resource pages are intended to provide guidelines, policies, and tools for members and will be updated as they become available.
Reopening America: Strategies For Safer Buildings
The AIA has launched an initiative to explore how design strategies, backed by science, can be a public health solution. The Reopening America: Strategies for Safer Buildings was created to provide design professionals, building owners, and public officials with tools to help reduce risk when re-occupying buildings during the pandemic.
The AIA put together a group of architects, public health professionals, engineers, and facility specialists to create strategies to address:
- Reducing the spread of pathogens in buildings.
- Accommodating physical distancing practices.
- Promoting mental well-being.
- Fulfilling alternative operational and functional expectations.
The group of experts created strategies based on emerging science, infectious disease transmission data, and epidemiological models. The team developed multiple programs that include Strategies for Safer Offices, Strategies for Safer Schools, Strategies for Retail Stores, Strategies for Safer Senior Living Communities, Strategies for Safer Multifamily Housing, and Strategies for Safer Buildings.
AIA Re-occupancy Assessment Tool
The AIA Re-occupancy Assessment Tool is intended to provide architects, private clients, and civic leaders a framework of strategies for reoccupying buildings and businesses that are in the process of transitioning from being fully closed to fully open. The Tool is based on Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19”.
The major assessment considerations for the AIA Re-occupancy Assessment Tool are:
- Developing infectious disease preparedness and response plans.
- Preparation to implement basic infection prevention measures.
- Developing policies and procedures for prompt identification and isolation of symptomatic people, if appropriate.
- Developing, implementing, and communicating about workplace flexibilities and protections.
- Implementing workplace controls.
The Tool utilizes a “hierarchy of controls” to select ways of controlling workplace hazards. The general idea is that the best ways of controlling the hazards are to systematically remove them rather than primarily relying on workers or the public to reduce their own exposure. Overall, a series of tools backed by scientific research can help architects, owners, planners, government agencies, and others combat the COVID-19 pandemic. ▪