India’s white-collar employees are and will be walking into offices that are either no longer air-conditioned or air-conditioned with a lot of conditions, and at extra cost.
The fear of catching Covid-19 via airflow in centrally air-conditioned offices is changing a workspace feature white-collar employees had taken for granted.
A large number of companies ET spoke to are not switching on central AC, even though it’s peak of Indian summer. Wherever possible, windows are being opened and the job of beating the heat has fallen on pedestal fans.
In offices where air-conditioning is operational or will be operational, new safety features are being added at 15-20% extra cost for major modifications. Big realty companies are investing in technologies to make office air-conditioning Covid-compliant.
Myntra, Whirlpool, NTPC, Panasonic Life Solutions, Alstom, Wakefit.co, Instamojo, HomeLane and QuickRide are some of the companies that told ET they have resumed work without air-conditioning. Some employers such as FreshMenu and Cashfree are running ACs for very short periods. Nestle, Motilal Oswal Financial Services and RPG Group are among those installing new safety features.
Myntra has installed pedestal fans. Many Bengaluru-based startups are doing the same: No AC, but lots of fans and open windows. Panasonic Life Solutions will be using a combination of ventilation fans and ceiling and pedestal fans. NTPC said all doors and windows in its offices are being kept open and in centres where the summer heat is peaking, AC is running with new sanitisation measures.
Realty Majors Making Intensive Efforts
Many offices are looking at Central Public Works Department (CPWD) guidelines on using air-conditioning systems. These guidelines specify settings for temperature, humidity, intake of fresh air, cross-ventilation and other metrics for offices, meeting rooms and malls. Temperature settings are recommended in the 24-30 degree range, and relative humidity at 40-70%. Also recommended are maximum possible intake of fresh air, zero or absolutely bare minimum recirculation of air and adequate cross-ventilation.
Companies are also going the extra mile to ensure employees stay healthy. Nestle said it undertook sanitisation, cleaning and disinfection of HVAC (heating, ventilation and airconditioning) ducts. It is also carrying out frequent deep cleaning and sanitisation of air handling unit (AHU) filters and coils.
Motilal Oswal Financial Services has asked vendors of AHUs to upgrade systems. But perhaps the most intensive effort is coming from realty majors such as DLF, Capita-Land, Embassy REIT and Bharti Realty, which are aiming to upgrade the air-conditioning in their commercial spaces.
Bharti Realty has installed treated fresh air units as well as specialised filters in many of its premises. It has also redesigned airflow systems to ensure that a certain minimum volume of fresh air is available per person. DLF said AHUs and filters have been deepcleaned and that this will be done every week. It also said fresh air intake will be maintained at 100%, and there will be more filters to clean the outside air before it enters a building.
Reference: ET Tech