We are seeing a major shift in the way companies are conducting their business: strategies are changing, communication is changing, priorities are changing.

The COVID-19 pandemic crisis is introducing safer and smarter ways of building homes and offices, to tackle design problems, inefficiency, outdated techniques and environmental challenges.

Today, Rhapsody Magazine has the pleasure to interview Darren Allen, Genesis Property development manager, responsible for implementing the IMMUNE™ project.

R.M. Darren, thank you for being here with us today, could you please tell me what were the first steps Genesis Property took at the start of the pandemic?

Darren Allen – In the first weeks of the coronavirus outbreak, we realized that the pandemic will unfold globally in the following years, and will impact people, societies and economies, changing the way we live, work and interact.

At Genesis Property our first steps were to ensure that our employees are safe and can continue operating efficiently in a secure environment, implementing the necessary social distancing and health safety measures.

As the Covid-19 pandemic progressed, and people all over the world shifted towards a work from home system, leaving office buildings mostly empty, we grasped the critical need for healthy people, businesses and overall economies, and we decided to do something about it.

That’s why, in April 2020, at the initiative of Liviu Tudor, founder of Genesis Property and president of the European Property Federation, we organized a team of experts in health, technology, architecture, constructions, engineering, and facility management and developed a set of standardized measures to boost the immunity of the built environment against threats like the pandemic.

We allocated a 1-million-euro budget to support research and development which was conducted by a cohort of experts.

The IMMUNE Building Standard™ (IMMUNE™) was launched as the first global open-source standard that redefines the future of office buildings by certifying their resilience to current and future health risks.

R.M. The COVID-19 pandemic is inducing or increasing some business disruptions. In addition to immediate trends, we expect longer-term ones to accelerate, as new ways of living and working become standard. What would be, in your opinion, the top 3 ones?

Darren Allen – The pandemic clearly accelerated digitalization, bringing the newest technologies closer to people in a matter of months, rapidly transforming operational processes and ways of working that would otherwise have taken years to implement.

At the same time, it increased our focus on health, leading to widespread health measures in buildings where people spend most of their time.

We are no longer in the business of building walls, but in the business of building trust.

This means creating solid grounds for people to feel more confident they can safely return to their office.

Which is exactly what we, at Genesis Property, aimed for when we developed The IMMUNE Building Standard™.

The Covid-19 pandemic can be considered as ground zero for the hybrid work system we will all rely on in our future professional lives.

In a system where we must find a balance between working in the office and working remotely, offices will always remain at the core, spaces where we can interact with our colleagues and express our creativity.

R.M. In regard to the Immune Building Standard, can you please tell us more about what aspects it covers, why is it different from other similar standards, and how was this initiative born?

Darren Allen – The main difference from other standards with touchpoints on health is the vast and complex set of measures that cover all important aspects of the building in terms of health.

It serves as a blueprint that any office building owner or tenant can implement.

The standard is based on an IMMUNE™ Assessment Scoring Index which includes 120+ measures recommended for implementation in buildings.

The measures address technical solutions for architectural engineering, technology and design, as well as operational protocols applied permanently or ready to activate in specific risk scenarios.

This standard recommends unique features such as the IMMUNE™ Steward – designated specialists deployed within each building to implement and monitor activities, the IMMUNE™ Quarantine Area – a specially designed, fully equipped, and ready to use area in case of an immediate need to isolate any exposed people, the Emergency IMMUNE™ Warehouse – contriving a rapid and effective relief logistics system for pandemic-response, containing specific protective materials including PPE.

IMMUNE™ Digital Twin – digital screens placed in receptions to display immunity-boosting indicators such as the daily improvement of indoor air quality in comparison to outside air, water parameters vs. the water source received from the city network, and different measures imposed by the IMMUNE™ Steward.

R.M. The fact that people have been absent from the office during the pandemic has been a good opportunity for office building owners to make improvements. What steps has Genesis Property taken in this direction?

Darren Allen – The safety of employees, customers and business partners is paramount.

This is why we focus on limiting their health risks through everything we do.

There hasn’t been a time better than the past year for business owners to assess how they ensure people’s safety.

We strongly believe that IMMUNE™ should be at the forefront of any strategic plan aimed at improving the resilience of built environments to health threats.

R.M. Some say that responding to COVID-19 could present opportunities to make long-overdue moves. What’s your opinion?

Darren Allen – The pandemic accelerated existing trends and also brought opportunities. For example, now is the perfect time for companies to implement state-of-the-art technologies to better adapt to a digital future. Moreover, it is the perfect time for office buildings to become more resilient than ever to health threats, especially if they include measures recommended by the IMMUNE Building Standard™, and thus be better prepared for the next pandemic.

R.M. To sustain a post-crisis revival, everyone must strategize their business priorities, please let me know what did Genesis Property do in this respect?

Darren Allen – For Genesis Property, 2020 was a favorable year, which accelerated the strategic repositioning of the company for the next 20 years. In 2021, our team will continue the initiatives to attenuate the effects of the pandemic on the industry we are part of. Also, one of our priorities is to put the company in an excellent position for the post-Covid-19 period, to be well prepared for the full recovery of the economy.

R.M. The pandemic has amplified existing challenges due to labor shortages, physical distancing requirements, construction site halts in certain regions, government policies and regulations. How does Genesis Property overcome these obstacles?

Darren Allen – Our organization was founded more than 15 years ago, and we overcame a series of great obstacles during our journey, the 2009-2010 financial crisis being just one example. Since the beginning, we built our reputation as a solid company with a great team, that can efficiently overcome challenges. Our main advantages are our team of specialists and our transparent, efficient, well-structured way of working. We always encourage honest hard-working values and we make sure our employees feel appreciated and rewarded. A solid team capable of delivering great achievements even in difficult contexts will always be the secret of success for any organization.

R.M. The projects developed by Genesis Property mean more than just buildings, they represent an entire universe, and practically develop communities. Those who work there can access a series of facilities designed with the spirit of community development. What can you tell us about these, or maybe about future plans in this respect? What’s next for Genesis Property?

Darren Allen – The spirit of community is exactly what we try to capture in the office of the future, because the office will become much more than it is today. According to a recent survey initiated by Genesis Property, people expect the office to provide an integrated work, entertainment and socializing experience. The office should become, first of all, a safer place for health, but also a place where people can be creative, with technologies and artificial intelligence tools that eliminate repetitive activities. All our future plans are related to this evolutionary and revolutionary step for the offices of the future.