Community toolkit: register as a Welcoming Space
4. Warm and safe spaces
Warm spaces should also be safe.
Lockdown may be a thing of the past, but you still need to minimise the risk of infection from COVID-19 and flu, especially for those who are particularly vulnerable to infection. Measures taken to reduce infection during the pandemic should be applied to spaces which may be more heavily used this winter.
Key considerations are:
- a common sense approach to contact and proximity issues
You should consider promoting safer behaviours and actions in your space, to reduce the spread of infections as per government guidance.
There are 2 main things to consider when space planning:
- furniture - avoid furniture that cannot be wiped clean, but mainly where there is frequent change of user (mainly chairs)
- distancing - where there are corners in corridors and stairwells use mirrors to increase visibility and avoid crossing
Some people still feel more comfortable wearing a face mask and you should not discourage them. You may want to consider offering hand sanitiser and face masks for those who wish to wear one.
To determine space needs you'll want to observe users (if possible), evaluate existing facilities, and compare them with other similar spaces.
It's also important to consider:
- opening hours (all or part of the space, including out-of-hours)
- peak usage times
- usage broken down by hours
- opening days
- the number of users
- associated activities
- facilities such as toilets, vending areas and cafés
Calculating room capacity
Room capacity calculators from the pandemic are still available and offer a useful guide to safer customer numbers in any given area.
However, restricting customer numbers could appear to counteract the idea of a warm welcome. So it's better to ensure your spaces are well organised and easy to clean, rather than turn people away. You could consider extending opening hours to spread the work.
The relationship between room sizes and the number of people inside is not an exact science. It depends on what people are doing. For example, there is a difference between browsing bookshelves or taking part in collective activities. There is even a difference between genders. Men breathe more heavily than women, exhaling more CO2 and therefore potentially more airborne viruses. This means the more men you have using your space, the lower the numbers should ideally be.
Be mindful of fire safety regulations and make sure you do not exceed capacity in this respect.
The table below gives guidance on the number of users in a classroom setting, relative to room size. But you can easily apply this to community spaces.
|6 by 6 block
|8 by 8 block
|30 by 30
|30 by 25
|25 by 25
|25 by 20
|20 by 20
There are also rules about workspaces.
Regulation 10 of the Workplace, (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 states that the total volume of a room, when empty, divided by the number of people normally working in it, should be at least 11 cubic metres, assuming a height of 3 metres. The figure of 11 cubic metres per person is a minimum and may be insufficient - for example, if much of the room is taken up by furniture.
For a community room you can calculate the safe number of people you by allowing 1 square metre per person. So for a room with a length of 5 metres and a width of 17 meters, the total area is 85 square metres (length multiplied by width).
To calculate maximum occupancy, you use the following formula:
85m2 ÷ 1m2 per person = 85 (max occupancy)
During the day you’ll have peaks and flows, so this figure is the maximum you can have during busy periods.
Ventilation is key to creating safer customer spaces. However, opening windows to let in fresh air will also lower temperatures, quite dramatically on colder days.
The balance between warmth and safety presents a challenge, so consider the ventilation in your building and conduct a risk assessment if necessary.
People exhale airborne viruses when they breathe out CO2, so monitors are useful for measuring the levels. A well-ventilated room has CO2 levels of 600 to 800 ppm (parts per million). Free-standing air filtration units, such as high efficiency filters, can also help to improve air quality and reduce the risk of infection. They can be bought on eBay or the high street.
Be careful about using fan heaters to quickly warm your space, as they circulate air and require more ventilation.
You should organise your space as openly as possible. For example, you could remove room dividers to improve the air flow.
The ideal room temperature is not the same for everyone. It depends on how individuals respond to temperatures, what they are wearing and what they are doing.
Young children and the elderly often need a slightly warmer ambient temperature. Long periods sitting still also make a difference, for example if visitors are reading.
The basic benchmarks for indoor temperatures are:
- 24°C - very warm, could be unsafe for heart conditions
- 18-21°C - comfortable temperature
- 18°C - minimum for being comfortable
- 12-16°C - fairly cold, could be unsafe for respiratory conditions
- 12°C - cold, could be unsafe for heart conditions
- 9°C - very cold, could be a risk for hypothermia
The basic level of warmth for a healthy person wearing warm clothing is 18°C. This standard is recognised by the World Health Organisation and is the minimum standard in the government’s latest UK cold weather plan.
Warm spaces should therefore aim for 18 to 20°C as a minimum.
Community spaces may need to set the thermostat higher and allow a more relaxed dress code for staff. Providing coat racks is a good idea but customers should be able to keep their coats on if they wish.
It may also be appropriate to offer blankets to those sitting still for any length of time or near open windows.
Hygiene and distancing
The warm space will encourage more people to spend more time in community spaces, so hygiene is really important.
You may want to provide hand sanitiser and clean the seating, surfaces and keyboards regularly. Avoid furniture that cannot be wiped clean to minimise infection risks.
Consider a temporary reconfiguration of spaces to accommodate social distancing, such as between desks and workstations. But be mindful of the needs of families and other groups who may wish to be together.
A combination of social, family-friendly and separate configurations is recommended to ensure different customers are comfortable and can interact.