The question of when workers can return to offices in significant numbers is answered by science based on the COVID-19 case numbers as well as positive and hospital stay rates if the conditions of the pandemic change. Given the size and density of urban office towers, given the size and density of urban office towers, it is especially difficult to get into the winter season without a vaccine in a hot zone like Toronto.
Perhaps the more important question is how the workers will return. If we are to distance ourselves socially, how do we function in offices that are essentially gatherings? A recent survey by KPMG found that 82% of respondents trust their employer to take all necessary precautions. However, 60% say they will refuse to go to their offices if they feel unsafe.
As a result, senior management, HR professionals, facility managers, landlords and property managers have been grappling with the pressing question of what the “new normal” will look like in a work environment.
In addition to desk spacing, community settings, air filtration and circulation, and workers’ daily movement during an average work day are particularly important, including plumbing fixtures like faucets, toilets, soap dispensers and hand sanitizing in the toilet environment. All must be non-contact and be included in any commercial facility re-occupancy assessment. One of those companies involved in this workplace redesign, particularly in Toronto’s tall office towers, is Dobbin Sales Ltd., which has been supplying commercial products to the Canadian plumbing industry since 1978.
“Given our role in the plumbing supply chain, we were seen as a vital service as the plumbers kept working,” said Jason Boyd, vice president and general manager, Dobbin Sales. “We worked consistently with the focus on switching to sensor products as there were still manual products in so many buildings.”
Dobbin is the exclusive distributor in Canada for Sloan, the world’s leading manufacturer of commercial plumbing systems. Sloan has developed hands-free, sensor-controlled faucet activation products to improve general hygiene in toilets and elsewhere while saving water and energy.
In commercial establishments, Dobbin’s work on upgrading manual washroom products includes replacing flush valves and all faucets with Sloan’s hands-free sensor products, retrofitting manual soap dispensers with sensor models, adding touchless hand wash / hygiene stations, and replacing drinking fountains through contactless glass / drink bottle filling stations.
“With buildings standing empty, many owners looked at this and thought it was a good time to upgrade. From a sublease perspective, they need to keep up with the latest technology to retain and attract tenants, ”says Boyd. “The focus in the office is now very much on health and wellness.” Boyd points to BentallGreenOak as a property manager in Toronto who has actively retrofitted plumbing products using Sloan’s touchless technology. This is not an easy task. For example, Bentall’s Scotia Plaza floor plan includes buildings at 100 Yonge Street and 40 and 44 King Street West and a male and female toilet on each floor in the 68-story Scotia Plaza office tower at 40 King Street West, that is 136 toilets only in one building.
Scotia Plaza, picture by Marc Mitanis
“From a planning point of view, checking all of the products is a big job because someone has to walk all over the room,” says Boyd. “During this time it can be difficult to get supplies as other elements of the building may take precedence.”
A major focus was on Sloan’s solar products, which use batteries to operate ambient light from space and do not require electrical retrofitting. Boyd says this will be just one of the changes employees can expect when they return to the office.
“There’s a lot more emphasis on washing your hands properly with a touchless tap,” he says. “Handwashing compliance decreases if the toilets are not kept in the correct order, increasing the number of janitorial and plumbing services. The focus on hand washing has meant that health and wellness will be the main drivers of the work environment. “
UrbanToronto worked with Dobbin Sales for this role.
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