COVID-19: CDC Releases Guidance for Building Owners – Shared Office Space Alignments May Be A Thing of the Past

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently released guidance to building owners that would eliminate much of the shared office space alignments we have seen over recent years in many buildings. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/building-water-system.html

Among other steps, the CDC suggested that:

1. Desks – should be placed 6 feet apart if possible, and if not, employers ought to use plastic shields to separate desks.

2. Common Areas – there should be no seating in the common areas of the building and the tenant suits and amenities such as refrigerators, microwaves, multiple-serve coffee pots and water coolers, should be eliminated to enable better social distancing and less high touch areas. Multi Serve Coffee service should be replaced by single-serve items.

3. Air Flow – Open windows are recommended for fresh air, but if that is not possible, office building management should consider increasing air filtration or having the HVAC systems draw in as much outdoor air as possible, as much as 100%. MERV 13 filters or HEPA filters provide a means to capture up to 99% of air borne viruses.

4. Office Interiors – Cleaning frequently touched surfaces, including keyboards, telephones, handrails and doorknobs (the CDC lists cleaning products that are good for inactivating viruses). https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/disinfecting-building-facility.html

5. Workers – the CDC suggests that workers should also undergo temperature checks, wear masks and wash their hands often. The agency stresses the importance of letting all workers affected by the changes know what is going on, including management and other staff, but also relief employees, janitorial staff and maintenance crews.

Additional information can be found in the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) guide entitled “Getting Back to Work-Preparing Buildings for Reentry,” https://boma.informz.net/BOMA/data/images/Getting%20Back%20To%20Work%20Preparing%20Buildings%20for%20Re%20Entry.pdf

Note that many State governments (e.g., New York) have issued their own office reopening guidelines that are similar to the CDC guidance so be sure to check there as well.

As we start to focus on getting back into the office, my sense is the configurations we have seen over the last 5-10 years are about to undergo some serious modifications.  Some will be temporary and others, likely will be here to stay.

Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 Strategy Team to help organizations plan, respond to and address this fast-moving situation. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

For Further Information:

If you have any questions about this post or real estate related questions, please contact Brad A. Molotsky or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

Be well and stay safe!