With the economic fallout from COVID-19 and the closure of most economic activity around the world, commercial property owners are facing an unprecedented crisis. Many of their tenants face closure and bankruptcy, and those who are able to stay afloat must do so under new health and safety protocols.
Though emergency funds and programs are helping to mitigate financial losses during quarantine, property owners are understandably concerned about the future. When the economy fully reopens after COVID-19, how will commercial property owners ensure that they keep their facilities sanitized for their tenants?
“The procedures that we put into place during quarantine will stay the same,” says Joe de Melo, Vice President of Operations at Toronto’s Super Clean Building Maintenance Inc. “All the common areas that we look after for our clients, all the touch points, elevators, desktops, we’ll continue to implement the same procedures we put in place to safeguard against the pandemic. We’re not going to ease what we’re doing until they find a cure for this disease.”
De Melo notes that his company, like many other, adjusted their site operations shortly after quarantine with a focus around common “touch points” where the virus could easily transmit between building occupants and visitors. “We’ve put in wipes that are 99.9% effective at sanitizing surfaces. We use the wipes on desks, phones, computer keyboards, monitors, railings, anything that is a high touch point.”
Until the pandemic, most cleaning companies would use cloth wipes and spray bottles, but concerns about stopping the transmission of the virus has meant switching to disposable wipes, a change that does incur an additional cost.
“The wipes lessen the effect of someone spreading the virus if there’s any virus on those touchpoints,” says de Melo. “It’s a little bit more expensive, but it keeps our staff and tenants safe from contaminants.”
The good news? The additional cost is only a few percentage points, making for a fairly light impact on the commercial landlord’s pocketbook.
“Post-COVID, labour costs will remain unchanged, as far as we can predict,” says de Melo. “The hours are unchanged even with the additional attention we’re giving to those touch points. Where we do see a potential increase is in PPE (personal protective equipment) like masks, wipes, and disinfectants, because they are in short supply and everyone in the world now wants them. Even then, as the virus starts to decline, we anticipate only a 3-5% price increase when we do source our PPE.”
Property owners can also help their tenants implement additional methods to help minimize their sanitation costs by reducing visitor traffic, including (but not limited to):
As with every other facet of this pandemic, it can be difficult to predict what conditions will be like in the next 2-3 months. However, when it comes to cleaning and sanitation, the changes that will happen may be less dramatic and expensive than what it otherwise might be. For this reason, commercial property owners can feel hopeful.