Although the pandemic has not receded yet; businesses are planning how to bring staff back safely into workplace, looking for ways to do it efficiently and cost effectively. The occupancy levels of buildings vary greatly across major economies and cities. Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial real estate services firm, reported that the “office real estate market will get back to pre-Covid level, in 2025”. The study also reports that “work from home will double, and hybrid working will increase. The share of people working permanently from home in the U.S. and Europe will increase from roughly 5-6% pre-Covid-19 to between 10% and 11% post-Covid, while the share of hybrid working, also referred to as agile working, will increase from between 32% to 36% to just under half of all workers”.
Building services engineers will increasingly face the new challenge of how to bring existing buildings with reduced occupancy levels to an acceptable standard for the safe return of employees. Some of the strategies under consideration include redesigning lay-outs, zonal HVAC controls, dilution ventilation, VRF with DOAS (100% fresh air), cleaning of air ducts, filtration, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI), smart sensors and smart controls etc., Utilisation of some of these strategies will depend on cost, time and knowledge from building owners, service and maintenance contractors, and building services engineers.