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New Health Guidelines Burdensome And Costly, Kilroy Exec Says

Emerging health guidelines and tenant requests are often stressing landlords' wallets and sustainability goals, a commercial real estate executive said last week.

Many of the requirements have been unduly burdensome, Kilroy Realty Corp. Senior Vice President of Sustainability Sara Neff said during a Bisnow Sustainability in Bay Area Design and Development webinar. Neff was joined by Boston Properties Vice President of Engineering Danny Murtagh and PAE principal Christian Agulles.

Clockwise from top left: Boston Properties Vice President Danny Murtagh, Bisnow Event Producer Matthew Seukunian, Kilroy Realty Corp. Senior Vice President of Sustainability Sara Neff and PAE principal Christian Agulles.

"We're talking about, in a development project, needing to double the mechanical footprint, which is pretty rough given the constraints that will put on the future flexibility of the building," Neff said to an audience question on responding to requests for costly measures with "low effectiveness," like for 100% outside air.

Tenant requests for 100% outside air coincide with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calling for as much as 100% outdoor air, which Neff said is unnecessary in many high-quality buildings. 

The CDC released guidelines at the end of last month that cover a range of workplace changes meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus, from putting desks 6 feet apart to cleaning frequently touched services. Further down the line, the absence of dedicated desks and profusion of meeting areas might characterize office life. 

In the near term, several CDC guidelines aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus also undermine building owners' sustainability goals, according to Neff.

“The CDC has come out with guidance saying that buildings should just ventilate all the time in addition to things like back to single-use plastic, don’t use public transit, all these things that go against what our sustainability goals have been," she said.

Kilroy has taken to relying on third-party verification from an industrial hygienist in order to work with tenants on their returns to the workplace, Neff said. That helps with responding to expensive but often unnecessary requests for outside air, she said.  

The coronavirus pandemic is bringing about other changes to offices beyond ventilation. Less costly CDC guidelines include having no seating in communal areas.