West Loop building has built-in COVID-19 prevention from touchless elevators to outdoor office space

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As people worry about re-entering the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic, new techniques are being used to keep employees safe and healthy.

ABC7 I-Team Consumer Investigator Jason Knowles took an exclusive tour of a local office space which is taking several steps to prevent the spread of the virus.

The developer of the 12-story Fulton Market office building said the pandemic struck during construction, which meant major changes done quickly. He said he looked at what hospitals are doing to stop the spread of COVID-19 and then turned to technology to create a workplace with the virus, the flu and other illnesses top of mind.

"This gives you the opportunity to have a completely hands-free operation," said Bob Wislow, chairman and CEO of Parkside Realty, of his foot operated elevators.

He said elevator buttons are the germiest place in a building.

"Everybody touches them. We believe this is the world's first hands-free elevator," Wislow said. "If you'll just step on green, it's to go up and red is to go down. So, this calls the elevator instead of having to use your hands and touch the button. When we did our research, we found out that the elevator buttons are 40 or 40 times more pathogens and germs than a toilet seat. Eventually you'll also be able to choose your floor using your phone."

Wislow said his company completely reworked their designs during construction to meet a higher safety standard.

"We did a quick pivot and said, 'What are people going to need and want to feel comfortable, safe and have a well environment after this pandemic?'" he said.

Wislow said his team identified the latest technology to keep indoor workspaces healthy, like an indoor air cleansing system, similar to those already used in hospitals.

"Viruses, including the coronavirus, pass over this plasma system, those germs are killed and drop out. Then the clean air comes out of the system back into the space," Winslow said.

A gas form of hydrogen peroxide is then released with the air in low amounts.

"Those hydrogen peroxide modules which is a very good disinfectant agent, kills those germs and pathogens that are in the air and the ones on the surface. So, this system in field tests, not just in laboratory tests, but in field tests is shown anywhere from a 93 to 99% reduction in pathogens germs viruses molds and mold spores," he explained.

The building also offers the option of outdoor office spaces with balconies on every floor.

"It's 9 by 27 feet. You can have meetings out here you can set a conference table up out here," Wislow added.

The roof design connects occupants to nature and encourages more time outdoors.

Some projects were re-done to stay on the cutting edge, like a re-paint of the bathrooms with an improved antimicrobial paint shield.

"When pathogens land on the surface of this paint, within 20 minutes it kills the pathogens," Winslow explained.

There are more safety features like baked-in antimicrobials in the ceramic bathroom surface, touchless soap and water dispensers, and thermal scanners that will be installed in the ceiling of the lobby to take people's temperatures.

Wislow said he hopes his building will inspire other developers to get people back into office buildings.

"When they come back to work. We want them to come back to an environment they feel safe in, they feel comfortable in an environment that will have less sick days, whether it's COVID or whether it's more for them to be. And we think that's our responsibility to bring to the market," he said.
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