Return to March 2021 update
The discussion about this category increased over 60% in comparison to December (7.3% in March vs. 4.5% in December). In 2020 reports we highlighted successful application of WELL certification for buildings to address a post COVID-19 environment and news from RESET® and Fitwel. Three months ago, the community was still discussing the need for new building operation standards as the current guidelines are confusing and/or contradicting and unsustainable. In March we can see the pandemic’s end and, retrospectively, conclude that the community managed to survive without legally obligatory standards. Reset standards have been officially expanded in March.  In March CDC’s updated its guidance unvaccinated people indoor & outdoor. The AEC industry is using that guidance to reduce the circumstances in which the disease can spread in buildings (these safety precautions include mask mandates, redesign of ventilation systems, and social distancing policies). Like a pandemic, climate change acts as a threat multiplier, undermining economic security, political stability, and social welfare. Both pandemics and climate change carry deep uncertainty as to when and how they will unfold and how much damage they will exact. As communities begin to build resilience to the accelerating threat of climate change, the successes and failures of the world’s response to COVID-19 can help illuminate the way. Developing regulatory mechanisms to address climate change is crucial for our survival and we can learn from the pandemic.  Company commitments to reduce emissions, end deforestation, reduce waste and other environmentally friendly actions have been popping up across supply chain policies. For example, Hershey committed to convert 100% of its plastic packaging to recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2030 and it threatens to suspend non-compliant suppliers in effort to cut deforestation. The global AEC community is focusing on standards and plans for decarbonization of buildings. For example, California Building Decarbonization Coalition laid out recently the plan to cut building emissions by 20% and to adapt zero emissions codes for buildings by 2027.  ESG reporting obligations brought attention to sustainable green buildings. Fundamentals to improve ESG reporting include the following steps: 1) build data foundation, 2) streamline reporting; 3) engage teams; and 4) (develop tools to) accelerate performance. Experts call for unified or harmonized standards as currently many frameworks exist (such as CDC, SABS, SFDR). 
90% of employers could look to require vaccines for office return. Contractors consider COVID-19 vaccine incentives for hesitant workers. Not many construction firms are considering making vaccination a requirement, with the exception of those contractors that work in the healthcare industry. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s position has generally been that employers can mandate that their employees get the vaccine, but the commission also acknowledges that such a rule would require them to navigate federal laws. Most contractors, though, are opting for a soft-yet-firm approach to the issue with policy phrasing that includes language such as “we expect you to” get a vaccination. Contractors should consider consulting with an attorney before implementing an incentive program to ensure that it does not violate regulations. CDC has updated its checklist for construction employers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and has asked contractors to consider the mental health and wellbeing of their workers.  Supply chain issues brought attention to a lack of regulatory mechanisms to protecting the public from those who attempt to exacerbate and profit from the current situation.  Nashville lawmakers propose bill to make construction safer.  On-site workers are at increased risk for COVID-19 because the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is not providing the level of oversight needed to keep them safe - compared to 2019, OSHA received 15% more complaints overall but conducted 50% fewer inspections, primarily to reduce the level of person-to-person contact during the pandemic. Establishment an infectious disease-specific emergency temporary standard is discussed to help control the spread of COVID-19 on worksites.  OSHA launches COVID-19 National Emphasis Program, prioritizes onsite inspections.  NYC pilots video inspection program. The International Code Council published a series of guidelines and recommendations for agencies to follow and rapidly adopt the practice of virtual inspections of construction sites while maintaining COVID-19 guidelines.  Virginia becomes 9th state to create a worker protection unit - imposed regulations that make general contractors liable for subcontractor employee wages and require employers to issue standardized pay statements to their workers. 
The need for global cybersecurity standards is discussed. Specifically, for AEC, cybersecurity for OT/IT should be regulated. “If there were more best practices and self- policing, less regulations would be needed”.  Based on Schrems II ruling, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB), the cooperation forum for European data-protection regulators, recently issued a draft guidance for companies, and the European Commission published a draft update of the standard contractual clauses to be used in personal-data-transfer situations to recipients outside the European Union. Organizations have a year after the final adoption of the European Commission’s decision to come into compliance, or they risk fines of up to 4% of worldwide revenue, in line with provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The issue has strategic implications affecting business operations, IT infrastructure, marketing, HR, research and development, and other functions.  Quick adoption of AI is bringing debate surrounding ethics, governance and regulations.