Welcome back to work: The new normal of plexi glass, thermal cameras and one-way hallways

The office you left may not be the office you come back to

MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation released new guidelines for businesses to safely reopen when the stay-at-home order is lifted. Every business will implement different practices like increased hand washing, the continued use of face masks, limited numbers of people in the office and temperature checks.

But the Madison-based architectural firm Iconica, is working with businesses to create what could be the new normal for office spaces.

“Everyone is going to have a need that their office will have to change in some way, shape or form,” said Jim Pientka, president and CEO of Iconica.

Pientka’s company is helping other businesses install plexi glass in between desks, shifting and redesigning desks to stagger seating arrangements and creating directional signs for one-way hallways.

This work can all be done remotely with no physical interaction, which is made possible through a 3-D scanner.

“We take this into an office environment and move this around in different locations represented by the green dots on the screen,” Pientka said. “We put it into our design software and work remotely in working through the design. If it’s exterior work that we are doing, we will utilize our drone. Each of which can convert the information into our virtual reality glasses and you can physically be within the space and walk it through.”

Pientka’s staff can see into the client’s workplace and redesign everything without even stepping into the building.

“If we are working with a client on a remodel, we can highlight areas they would like to potentially see demolished, highlight those, take that to do a redesign of their space to give them options, do a layout and do a rendering of that space all in one,” said Iconica engineer Shane Buttchen.

Buttchen said the work can be done from start to finish in as little as one week.


Pientka is also looking into the option of installing thermal cameras at kiosks. Each one can scan a person’s temperature when they enter the building and will let that person know if they are well enough to be at work.  Pientka said he has also been using a product called Biodome, which is “a bio-protectant that we can physically spray on all hard surfaces and it will protect that surface for 90 days.”

Pientka said by taking client’s ideas and creating a virtual world, he has easily been able to create a new reality for office spaces in the new physical world.

“I think that’s something that we can help lead that charge with what we do in the design and construction of the physical space,” Pientka said.

Pientka said the initial cost for a building scan and initial design would cost around $1,000. The rest of the cost would vary depending on how much work the client needed done in their office space.

Pientka also recommends that businesses should contact their HVAC engineers and add filters to improve air quality circulation in the building. He added that when businesses reopen, they should limit the number of employees they allow back in the building, and that social distancing measures are still kept up in break rooms and conference rooms for the foreseeable future.