How Are Building Product Manufacturers Affected By The AIA Re-occupancy Assessment Tool?

Posted On: 
Sep 4, 2020

Design professionals are in a unique position to develop and distribute mitigation strategies to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19. As the country began a lockdown in March 2020, public officials scrambled to provide guidance on how facilities would re-open, the processes that would allow businesses and schools to safely welcome back occupants, and a measured response to protect the public’s health. A resource was needed to help restaurants, public buildings, universities, and other spaces open up safely and reduce the risk of exposure to and transmission of COVID-19.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has launched a new tool to help design professionals, building owners, and civic leaders launch strategies for reoccupying buildings. The AIA Re-occupancy Assessment Tool has been designed to promote best practices that protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public while providing opportunities for businesses, schools, restaurants, and facilities to provide services. The tool is intended to be utilized in conjunction with the AIA’s Risk Management Planning Tool. It will take coordinated integration between building features and operational practices to create an effective solution.

How will building product manufacturers be affected by the implementation of the Re-occupancy Assessment Tool? How can manufacturers benefit by the tool? Are there specification opportunities for manufacturers in this new pandemic-stricken world? Let’s dig in deeper…

Risk Management Plan for Buildings

The AIA Re-occupancy Assessment Tool works in conjunction with the AIA’s Risk Management Plan for Buildings. The seven-step risk management plan is geared to help architects and owners when re-occupying buildings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan helps assess hazards, apply architectural/engineering strategies, and reduce risk. The plan should be regularly reviewed by teams, updated and expanded, and documented through all stages of design, construction, and post-occupancy to ensure expectations are met. Here are the basic steps of the plan-


  1. Assemble the multidisciplinary team


  1. Establish goals and objectives for reducing risk


  1. Describe the building flow and user experience


  1. Conduct the hazard analysis and characterize the potential risk


  1. Identify architectural or engineering controls for each hazard determined in Step 4


  1. Verify system hazard controls


  1. Validate system hazard controls


Out of all of these risk management steps, #5 has the most consequences and opportunities for product manufacturers. Teams must identify architectural or engineering controls for biological hazards, chemical hazards, physical hazards, etc. The architectural or engineering controls include space-planning, non-structural partitions and openings, signage, plumbing fixtures, lighting, finishes, etc. We will explore these controls in greater detail and how they may affect manufacturers…

Guidance On Preparing Workplaces For COVID-19

The AIA Re-occupancy Assessment Tool incorporates guidance from many sources including the Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, OSHA Document 3990-03-2020. The OSHA guide provides recommendations as well as descriptions of mandatory safety and health standards. The OSHA guide describes the health impacts of COVID-19 in detail.

“Infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can cause illness ranging from mild to severe and, in some cases, can be fatal. Symptoms typically include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Some people infected with the virus have reported experiencing other non-respiratory symptoms. Other people, referred to as asymptomatic cases, have experienced no symptoms at all. According to the CDC, symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure.”

The OSHA guide outlines a litany of potential effects on the workplace. They include absenteeism, customer purchase patterns changing, and interrupted supply and demand. All of these impacts can affect building product manufacturers not prepared for COVID-19. Factories and offices that have been abandoned for months that may now be opened up for employees should take heed of the OSHA guidance and use the Re-occupancy Assessment Tool.

The AIA Re-occupancy Assessment Tool

The intent of the assessment tool is to describe considerations to reduce the risk of building occupant exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease cases, in workplaces and public spaces. There are five critical components of the tool:


  • Developing infectious disease preparedness and response plans


  • Preparation to implement basic infection prevention measures


  • Developing policies and procedures for prompt identification and isolation of symptomatic people, if appropriate


  • Developing, implementing, and communicating about workplace flexibilities and protections


  • Implementing workplace controls


The tool uses the Center for Diseases Control’s “hierarchy of controls” to choose ways of controlling workplace hazards. The framework proposes that the best ways of controlling the hazards are to remove them rather than relying on employees or the public to decrease their own exposure. In many scenarios, a combination of control measures will be necessary. The AIA Re-occupancy Assessment Tool is a compilation of considerations that includes engineering, architectural, and administrative controls, as well as PPE, that apply to essential businesses operating under restrictive orders and for closed non-essential facilities that are in the process of re-opening.

The tool takes into consideration public health research on various topics which include physical distancing, contact transfer, aerosols, and waterborne contaminants. The tool sets forth baseline parameters and prerequisites that should be met before a building is to be re-opened. After the baseline parameters have been met then the building controls can be considered. The building controls have the most significant impact for building product manufacturers.

There are a multitude of building controls for AEC teams to consider. However, there are a few that may have a direct impact on building product manufacturers, cleaning product suppliers, furniture manufacturers, etc. We’ll review the most critical building controls that may impact the manufacturers. The building controls cover many project applications from offices and cafeterias to mechanical rooms and public spaces. Smart manufacturers may find opportunities within these building controls and favorable circumstances for specification.




  • Provide dispersed, temporary work surfaces for outdoor working/dining to reduce quarantine fatigue


  • Provide outdoor seating to supplement indoor seating


Space Planning


  • Provide or retrofit locking casters to limit furniture mobility where mobility could pose an issue for physical distancing


  • Ensure additional touchless trash cans are placed near entrances, doors, and PPE stations


  • Determine ingress/egress to and from restrooms to establish paths that mitigate waiting in proximity of others, and face-to-face convergence between those entering and exiting. Consider dispersing users with signage to direct them to restrooms that are typically underutilized


Non-structural partitions and openings


  • Replace door assembly with hands-free doors and hardware


  • Provide automatic door openers/proximity sensors


  • Consider temporarily disabling door latches where fire/life safety is not an issue


  • Install drive-thru and/or pick-up service windows




  • Display COVID-19 mitigation signage on the building’s exterior to convey actions taken to protect public health. Use large dimension, high contrast characters on a non-glare surface for legibility


  • Post hygiene, cleaning, and sanitizing signage


  • Implement floor/pavement markings (i.e., paint/ tape) to visualize recommended spacing among occupants


  • Install markings/signage encouraging one-way travel where practical, however minimize the extent of rerouting to keep travel length and reorientation at a minimum


  • Place conspicuous signage at entrances and throughout the space alerting occupants to the required occupant limits, minimum physical distances, use of PPE, and other risk management policies


  • Use communication boards and digital messaging to convey access or pre-shift information. Incorporating a voice activated feature assists those who are visually impaired


  • Place signs indicating that toilet lids (if present) should be closed before flushing


Plumbing and plumbing fixtures


  • Replace flush valves and faucets with hands-free devices


  • Add touchless handwashing/hygiene stations throughout, and especially in common spaces


  • Replace traditional drinking fountains with touchless type such as a bottle filling station


  • Install toilet lids


Mechanical and passive ventilation


  • Install HEPA or MERV 16 filters at recirculated air ducts


  • Install filters with at least MERV-13 rating for filtering airborne viruses (MERV 14 is preferred)


  • Consider the use of portable room air cleaners with HEPA filters


  • Consider installing UV germicidal irradiation (UVGI) in mechanical ventilation paths or in upper- room applications to indirectly treat air through convective air movement


Electrical, lighting, and communications


  • Utilize IoT technology (RFIDs/key fobs) to reduce touch points


  • Touch-free door locks


  • Touch-free turnstiles


  • Replace light switches with motion sensor controls or phone-based application controls


Appliances, equipment, and accessories


  • If instituting temperature check as part of symptom screen process, install non-touch temperature detection equipment as required


  • Add easy to clean vending machines


  • Provide dishwasher to sanitize reusable utensils/cookware


  • Provide equipment that supports physical distancing and decreases the spread of pathogens


  • Provide an extra monitor at workstations dedicated to video conferencing


  • Utilize personal headsets instead of shared desk phones


  • Retrofit or replace existing kiosks with touchless kiosks


Finishes and furnishings


  • Install physical barriers such as clear plastic partitions or sneeze guards


  • Dining area separations: install temporary partitions or tall booths


  • Utilize temporary, movable partitions to subdivide large working spaces


  • Replace or modify restroom stalls/partitions to make partitions floor to ceiling where fire safety and proper ventilation is not an issue


  • Retrofit existing trash cans or install new no-touch trash cans


  • Provide touchless hand soap, and clean towels or air-dry hands


  • Provide cleanable, transparent films over surfaces such as elevator buttons


  • Prioritize easy to clean materials when selecting replacement furnishings


  • Enhance acoustic treatment so occupants can hear/be heard through masks


Site work


  • Consider providing outdoor heating and/or shading to support exterior programming



As we move into the fall and winter months, many businesses, schools, offices, public spaces, etc. will be re-opening. There is a significant risk to business owners and occupants who re-occupy buildings. Owners and occupants need to reduce their exposure and transmission of COVID-19. The AIA Re-occupancy Assessment Tool offers a significant and powerful resource to combat the pandemic. The wise building product manufacturer may find opportunities as the tool is implemented across the country. 

For more information or to discuss the topic of this blog, please contact Brad Blank