Covid-19 and Social Distancing Procedures for Site Visits and Meetings
In response to the COVID 19 pandemic, we have adopted the following procedure for the initial site consultation phase. Initial site consultations are conducted outside our offices, in environments which we do not control, have not previously visited and cannot assess for safety concerns. They include interactions with the public and often require long periods of interpersonal contact.
This is the part of our business which presents most risk of transmission of Covid19 and we have used this worst case scenario to establish procedures for implementing Irish Government official guidance in our work. This document is also relevant to other types of meetings and site visits in the course of architectural practice, notably: construction site visits, design meetings, site surveys and building inspections.
Key Risks in Our Process
Having studied our initial consultation service process in detail, we have determined that the key risks of transmitting Covid19 are:
1. Contact by VCL Consultants staff with client property, which may be a busy home or workplace.
2. Contact by VCL Consultants staff with clients during a walk- through discussion of the client property, during which social distancing may not be possible or may be possible intermittently.
3. Prolonged interpersonal contact during the initial consultation meeting (or other design meetings).
4. The overall interaction typically lasts longer than two hours, as such it is necessary to limit interpersonal contact to the meeting and walk-through parts of the service. Therefore VCL Consultants staff should conduct surveys without the presence of the client or other parties.
Initial Walk-through of any Client Property
• Client property to be as well ventilated as possible in advance of and during the visit.
• Keyholders should retain the keys, and complete the process of opening and locking up. If this is not possible, materials and processes should be provided for the cleaning and safe handling of keys.
• Persons who are not party to the discussion should ideally not be present
• Face coverings to be worn by all parties, as social distancing may not be possible at all times. VCL Consultants cannot undertake to provide face coverings for attendees at all meetings as the availability of suitable products varies.
• VCL Consultants staff will avoid touching frequent contact surfaces such as door-handles and light switches, furniture or personal items.
• Survey work (which forms part of the initial consultation service), taking measurements as required to create measured sketches, shall be done electronically.
Use of Technology to Reduce Time Spent Onsite
• Digital technology will be used where possible to record the dimensions of the building thoroughly, more quickly.
• VCL Consultants also offer remote video conferencing meetings.
Initial Consultation Meeting
• To be conducted online or outdoors where possible, weather permitting or in a very well ventilated space.
• Any materials, papers or items to be given to VCL Consultants staff should be sent digitally, or where this is not possible, held for a number of days without handling before the meeting, or cleaned appropriately.
• Persons who are not party to the design discussion should ideally not be present
• This meeting is effectively a design meeting and involves sketching, sharing of images on laptop PCs and other devices, as well as face to face interaction
• The duration of the meeting often exceeds two hours, as such it constitutes quite close physical contact.
• Duration of physical contact meetings should be retained to a minimum.
Use of Technology to Promote Social Distancing in the Initial Consultation Meeting
• The initial consultation includes a “sketching session”, where we create a measured drawing, and then overlay it with different designs using freehand drawing on paper.
• This usually happens with client and architect sitting in close proximity at a table, around an A3 size sketch board. A laptop or tablet is also used to browse images and documents from previous projects, or find information relevant to client queries from the internet.
• To promote social distancing, we can offer video conferencing where possible.
Follow-Up Video Conference as Required
Where meeting is not possible outdoors, and social distancing measures described above cannot be implemented for whatever reason, a shorter discussion in person will be used, with the remainder of the meeting being conducted over video conferencing at a later time.
Undertaking to Respect Social Distancing Measures
By forming an agreement for the initial consultation service, both client and VCL Consultants staff undertake to implement these procedures to the best of our ability. However, should the client be aware of better or safer approaches within their property these arrangements may be varied by the parties by common consent.
In the interest of safety, VCL Consultants staff should terminate any meeting, site visit or other interaction which does not comply with sound practice to limit the spread of Covid19.