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Here's what your office might look like when you return

Gone are the days of sealing up work spaces from outdoor air. Improving ventilation is priority number one.

PORTLAND, Ore. — As people gradually start heading back to the office, they are going to notice a lot of changes.

Last month, Mackenzie Architectural and Engineering put out its first ever COVID-19 Design Guide and now it's already releasing a new version.

"The priority is really on reorganizing work spaces so that people are sitting further apart, that people aren't facing each other, and there's some sort of partition between them," said firm president Dietrich Wieland.

The biggest change is something we really won't see. Gone are the days of sealing up work spaces from outdoor air. Improving ventilation is priority number one.

"As important as all physical distancing is, it's as, or more, important that you're getting contaminated air out of the space," said Wieland.

Other changes include a much more hands-free environment. Whether it be opening doors or getting your coffee, expect a touchless experience.

"A lot of our clients are retrofitting doors with automatic openers or foot pulls so you can pull the door open with your foot or push it open with your arm and just trying to minimize the need to touch those with your hands," Wieland said.

And there won't much more passing coworkers in the hallways. One-way flow will be key. Entrances and exits will be separated, as will going up and coming down.

"So, you might go up the elevator and then down the stairs," said Wieland. "Any opportunity to promote one-way flow and minimize cross-contact as people are coming and going from a building."

Credit: Mackenzie
Example of physical distancing at the workplaces

Cubicle-like desks will be back with all those separating panels. Picture that interaction you have with a bank teller. There will be a lot more plexi-glass in between employees.

Even parking will be distanced. And lobbies will move partially outside.

"We're exploring options on some new projects to start adding more canopies and seating, markings on the pavement outside just to provide visual cues as to where people line up," Wieland said.

These are changes we are already starting to see as businesses slowly reopen. Which is why the firm is offering the design guide for free.

"If this guide provides support to a business... that might not be able to hire an architect, we're all for that," said Wieland. "Because at the end of the day it's about getting the community back to work."

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