By Meghan Hall
As those throughout the United States return to the office for the first time in months, employee safety and building functionality have become key conversations. Emerging technologies in recent years have made measuring a building’s performance a possibility. Now, the U.S. Green Building Council is leveraging those advancements with the launch of Arc Re-Entry, a technology that creates safety benchmarks based on building data to keep workers safe. The Registry spoke with Arc’s COO Dave Witek about Arc Re-Entry’s launch, and its potential to impact the commercial real estate industry moving forward.
Arc, an affiliate of the U.S. Green Building Council just announced the launch of Arc Re-Entry, a technology platform to help building teams create and maintain safety benchmarks as workers return to the office. From your perspective, why is technology such as Arc Re-Entry important to offices and commercial real estate professionals in a post-COVID-19 world?
Tools like Arc Re-Entry are vital to helping us move forward, precisely because we aren’t yet in a post-COVID-19 world; we are still in the midst of a pandemic that shifts our reality each day. But as we take cautious steps toward reopening, high-risk indoor areas – offices, restaurants, facilities, etc. – will need tools and analytics to assess and monitor their data, understand how they are currently performing and identify what steps need to be taken to work towards safe, confident re-entry.
We have learned a lot about how to keep ourselves safe during this re-entry, enough to know that it will require a thoughtful, coordinated and sustained effort. It will also require paying attention to new and emerging best practices from leading health and safety experts, and the ability to adapt as new information becomes available. Arc Re-Entry is designed to align with these best practices and the analytics and tools that it provides helps facility managers put together re-entry plans, allows them to identify actions that can be taken to improve and increases transparency around a building’s performance to support safe, confident re-entry.
We have worked quickly to provide the simple, practical features that we believe can provide the most value right now. The tools and analytics in Arc Re-Entry will be refined over time as we learn more about what works to control the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19.
Can you please explain how Arc Re-Entry functions? What tools and analytics are a part of the technology that will allow building teams to create and maintain healthy environments as workplaces open up?
The Arc performance platform measures and scores the operational performance of spaces, buildings and places across five categories: energy, water, waste, transportation and human experience. Arc users recognized that the pre-existing Arc platform provided a good starting point to work towards safe re-entry and that it had some, but not all, of the elements needed to inform infection control and re-entry. We carefully considered their feedback and leveraged these tools to create new capabilities.
Arc Re-Entry can be used to document and benchmark infection-control policies and procedures, collect and analyze related occupant experiences and measure and track indoor air quality. In total, we added 140 new variables, new survey types and 18 new indoor air quality measurements to create Arc Re-Entry as an add-on extension of the current platform.
How did the team work to create Arc Re-Entry? Did you build off of existing building technologies, or is the technology behind Arc Re-Entry entirely new?
To get started, Arc users complete a facility management survey on infectious disease control plans and an occupant experience survey. These track responses such as if a facility or venue has infectious disease control policies; whether these are aligned with governmental authorities or academic institutions; and whether or not these plans include occupant screening, paid sick leave, physical controls to encourage social distancing or HVAC system operation to address disease transmission. They then also submit indoor air quality data around parameters such as relative humidity, carbon dioxide and particulate matter. After submitting data, users receive a Re-Entry Comprehensiveness score, a performance dashboard and reports that help identify gaps, leverage best practices like the LEED Safety First Pilot Credits and the forthcoming WELL Health-Safety Rating and make improvements.
We hope that Arc Re-Entry will provide users with a low-cost, practical set of tools to support a safe, confident return to the places where we work, learn and play. We know this is just one piece of a comprehensive infection control system. At this point, we believe that the most immediate benefit from Arc Re-Entry is the ability to iteratively improve on connections between management policies and real-world outcomes. We are providing tools to make facility management intentions clear along with tools to connect these intentions with occupant experiences and measured indoor air quality. This is implemented in a way that can be repeated on a monthly, weekly, even daily basis. This is what it will take to improve and build confidence.
How does Arc Re-Entry support LEED’s Safety First Credits and the WELL Health-Safety Rating?
Arc Re-Entry expands and adapts tools and metrics within the Arc platform to support the management of infectious disease transmission, and can be used as a stand-alone tool, or it can complement existing building rating systems like LEED’s Safety First credits, such as Re-Enter Your Workspace and Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Space, or the International WELL Building Institute’s forthcoming WELL Health-Safety Rating.
Facility and venue managers may elect to use elements of the LEED or WELL rating systems to inform their policies and procedures. They can reference rating systems or individual credits as authorities. This reflects that these credits are based on a specific interpretation of underlying research and guidance and makes them practical tools to guide facility management.
Arc Re-Entry is open to everyone, for free. But there are many ways to build upon this tool for your facility’s needs.
The Green Sports Alliance was the first company to make use of Arc Re-Entry. How has Arc Re-Entry aided in The Green Sports Alliance’s “Ready to Play” initiative?
The global sports industry faced an unprecedented challenge in the wake of COVID-19, with its major structures based around close-contact games and large in-person events. As facilities and teams of varying sizes begin exploring their re-opening strategies, Arc provides a platform in which to consolidate that information.
With complex and sometimes conflicting guidance from authority bodies, Ready to Play targets a simplified re-entry assessment that enables venues to compare strategies to industry-specific benchmarks. A panel of experts from sports greening, safety and analytics has been curated to aggregate data sets from across professional and collegiate sports leagues, provide technical guidance to users and bridge observed re-entry industry gaps.
For the Green Sports Alliance’s members, the Ready to Play initiative and toolkit consolidates expert guidance from global health and safety authorities to empower venue operators to align with verified standards and involve staff, crew, athlete, and fan participation. Understanding current industry resource constraints—particularly current staffing and financial limitations—Ready to Play has been designed for facility manager accessibility and user-friendliness to seek mass participation towards a healthy and sustainable re-entry from COVID-19.
Seeing the technology in action, is there anything that would change? Why or why not?
Arc Re-Entry is being carefully analyzed and improved by our team; we plan for the tool to change as our users need it. Inevitably, the world’s body of research on COVID-19 will continue to expand, just as our day-to-day experience fluctuates in reaction to new policy. Arc Re-Entry is, first and foremost, a way to benchmark your data against the latest guidelines. As those shift, so will we.
Is there anything you would like to add that The Registry did not ask or mention?
We offer Arc Re-Entry for free through our Arc for All program, in order to help facilities of all sizes begin safe preparations. Anyone can get started on arcskoru.com today at no charge. But for users who want to do more, Arc Essentials subscribers receive an enhanced re-entry performance dashboard and the ability to create customized re-entry reports, in order to provide insight into their scores and determine how to make improvements. This is a complex, high-stakes scenario for anyone that conducts their day in a space with others, and we want to ensure that people have the tools they need to assess and mitigate that risk.