Comments attributed to Paul Smith, Head of Specification Sales at Häfele...
“Open plan offices have been popular since the start of the 20th century, when designers sought to prove that this new layout would increase efficiency and productivity amongst teams. Many workforces of today know nothing other than this type of office design, but this is set to change as businesses reconfigure their spaces in line with social distancing, using screens and a reduction in desk sharing to give employees a sense of safety.
“In an attempt to minimise as many touch points within offices as possible, firms are looking at ironmongery and technology, which can be retrofitted to doors, to ensure teams can reduce their interactions with handles and therefore the risk of spreading bacteria. Häfele has been advising on the best ways this can be achieved, suggesting teams use a combination of approaches to make a space more COVID-secure.
“To improve movement around a building, businesses may consider wedging doors open. What is important to remember is that these are likely to be life-critical fire doors, and holding them open without using the correct products to ensure they close again in the case of a fire, is a huge risk. But there are ways of keeping fire doors held open in a safe and compliant manner. For example, electromagnetic hold-open door closers that can be wired up to a fire alarm system. When a fire alarm is triggered, the power to the hold-open unit is cut and the door automatically closes, providing a barrier to the spread of fire.
“Another way to minimise touch points within a building is to implement a remote access control system, such as Dialock, the advanced door and furniture locking system from Häfele. Using Bluetooth® in combination with an app which acts as a digital key, staff will be able to gain access to meeting rooms, locked offices and other facilities. Used in partnership with a wall reader, Dialock can link to an automatic sliding or swinging door operator, which allows a user to open the door without touching a single surface. It improves convenience for the team, who are empowered with a sleek and sophisticated piece of technology, and will allow cleaning teams additional time to focus on areas likely to require more intense maintenance. Dialock can also be used in conjunction with flow control technology to automatically limit the number of people entering a room at any one time, ensuring social distancing measures can be adhered to.
“Finally, there are ranges of newly configured door handles which have been designed to facilitate use with an elbow, rather than with a hand. There are also ironmongery items that are manufactured using anti-microbial, natural materials, such as copper and bronze. These materials are EPA registered and could be used to minimise transmission of COVID-19, with copper ironmongery having previously been used to reduce the spread of MRSA and E. Coli.
“It’s impossible to fast forward time and know how long changes to our office environments will be required, but there is no doubt this period will go down in history. Manufacturers are acting quickly to ensure that commercial designers and contractors are equipped with the fixtures and fittings they need to make spaces secure, whether that’s for the short or long term. The key thing is to ensure we don’t prioritise being COVID-secure over other elements of health and safety, such as fire risks; this is a compromise which can’t be made.”
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