When it comes to coronavirus andhealth concerns, building owners and operators need to avoid makingpromises they can't keep.

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"The real estate industry can doa lot with the built environment, but not everything," says JoannaFrank, president and CEO of the Center for Active Design, anot-for-profit organization that promotes architecture and urbanplanning solutions to improve public health and the licensedoperator of Fitwel. "We need to define what we can be successful atdoing and present that in a way that is measurable and notoverstate what we can do. Then building owners and managers aren'tfacing reputation risk down the line."

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To avoid falling into traps thatcan damage reputations, Frank advises building owners and operatorsto stick with evidence-based strategies. 

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One thing building owners can dois try to filter indoor air at a rate to help mitigate the spreadof a virus. "Increase the amount of fresh air brought into a systemto dilute the amount of virus in the air," Frank says.

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Research also shows that humiditycan be effective at reducing the infectiousness of the viruses ingeneral, according to Frank. "That is going to be very carefullyweighed with the engineering in balancing all of this," she says."If you increase filtration rates, you're going to increase energyuse. That can have a negative consequence on airquality."

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Increasing humidity can alsocause mold, which brings its own set of issues. In addition tofocusing on ventilation, building operators also need to monitorsurfaces. That should include "increased cleaning protocols inhigh-touch areas, whether that's an elevator, the shared kitchen orthe bathroom," Frank says.

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To ensure that surfaces aredisinfected, building operators need to create protocols thataddress minor details, such as the percentage of alcohol in thecleaning solution used.

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"It will be essential thatbuilding operators and managers could communicate how they areaddressing those major areas—the airborne transmission and thethings oppressing the transmission," Frank says. "As a buildingoccupant or the tenant, you are unlikely to be in control of thoseprocesses, and it will be very hard for you to know if they'rebeing done effectively."

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For that reason, building ownersand operators need to share information about their filtrationsystem and air quality policy. Fitwel has strategies around havingan indoor air quality policy and testing the indoor air quality. Italso has a strategy around sharing the data.

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"We see that used veryinfrequently because there's risk attached to when you share thedata about your air quality," Frank says. "If there's an issue withthe air quality, you need to be in a position that you can act onit. When it comes to building trust, it's going to be importantthat you don't just develop strategies, but you communicate how youare achieving them."

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Leslie Shaver

Les Shaver has been covering commercial and residential real estate for almost 20 years. His work has appeared in Multifamily Executive, Builder, units, Arlington Magazine in addition to GlobeSt.com and Real Estate Forum.