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What to consider to prepare your building for a safe re-entry and re-opening?

The Canadian economy is slowly stirring after nine weeks of pandemic-induced hibernation. Provincial governments countrywide have started to announce their reopening strategies and are starting to relax their stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders. In line with this, business owners and commercial property managers across Canada are now preparing for a phased re-entry and re-opening over the next few months.

When considering building re-entry and the safe return of tenants, there can be no one-size-fits-all approach, because every property is different.

To assist property managers with this, the Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada (BOMA) has published a ‘Pathway Back to Work’ framework that individual property managers can both adapt and adopt. The framework – which was developed in consultation with key stakeholders, including insurers and restoration firms – covers four key areas that business owners and property managers will need to consider and incorporate into their re-entry plans: building operations, vendors & supplies, tenant & building communications, and human resources.

Bill Fender, SVP, commercial property portfolios at FirstOnSite Restoration, and a member of the BOMA Canada coronavirus working group, commented:

“The most important thing is to actually have a plan. That plan needs to prepare the building for the occupants’ re-entry and it needs to address any risks that might have impacted the building or emerged while it was left vacant or unoccupied.”

  • Ventilation: Need to make sure the air quality is at the right standard if the HVAC systems were turned down.
  • Plumbing: Need to carry out water testing.
  • Temperature Control: Check that there are not any issues with mould. We recommend that occupiers and clients do indoor air quality testing if they have any concerns around mould.
  • Maintenance Issues: Consider any maintenance needs before going ahead with reoccupation.

“While we haven’t seen greater frequency in property damage claims [during the mandatory business shutdowns], we have noticed the severity of some claims being higher than they normally would have been if the properties were occupied,” Fender told Insurance Business. “For example, we saw one claim that involved lime in a water machine that typically (if the building was occupied) would have caused $10,000 in damage. But because the building was unoccupied, that claim caused over $200,000 in damage because the lime was flowing for a couple of days before anyone noticed it in the water.”

  • PPE (Personal Protective Equipment): Property managers need to think about setting up appropriate protocols to ensure public safety and physical distancing when workers return.
  • Business owners and property managers need to increase communication and transparency with employees and building occupiers so that they feel comfortable to return to the premises and to manage any anxiety or fear that they might have.
  • Companies need to communicate with employees and be open to what they need in terms of flexibility and support as they slowly return to work.  It’s not only about monitoring their health, but it’s supporting what their needs are when it comes to that work/life balance. It’s really identifying what we can do to support them and what the new normal looks like.

Is everyone going to immediately return to work from the office five days a week? No, of course not. Right now, it’s important to identify the essential work that we need to initiate first: to set them up in a safe environment.

We encourage all property managers and building owners to access this resource: “Pathway Back to Work”, which can be found at the following link: http://bomacanada.ca/pathway-back-to-work/

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