The pandemic sent Kasselman Solar’s new headquarters back to the drawing board. Here’s what changed:
The Covid-19 pandemic convinced the CEO of Kasselman Solar he had to think differently about plans for a new headquarters in Menands.
Steve Kasselman is still moving ahead with renovating a warehouse at 279 Broadway for the company’s new offices, but the design will be different from the drawings he was given prior to the start of the crisis in mid-March in New York.
A couple of weeks passed before Kasselman got in touch with Michael Roman, principal at C2 Design Group in Glenville, to talk about the conceptual design.
“We went radio silent on Michael for a little bit,” Kasselman said. “When I re-engaged with him, I said let’s go back to the drawing board with this.”
He added: “I can’t possibly proceed with what I had planned because things changed. We opened a Poughkeepsie office in February. I’ve never seen it. The moment we opened it, we closed it.”
Kasselman Solar will nearly triple its space when it moves to Menands from Walker Way in Colonie. The company will fill about 25,000 square feet of the nearly 42,000-square-foot building.
The headquarters will have offices and a warehouse. Kasselman was concerned the 4,100 square feet set aside for the 23-person administrative staff wasn’t large enough to ensure social distancing.
C2 redesigned the office layout, increasing it by about 2,100 square feet — 50% larger than the original plan.
Even with that, Kasselman said he won’t have everyone working at the same time when the new headquarters opens in order to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
“You can instruct and train your employees, but at the end of the day there’s this human element that scares me,” he said. “There seems to be this longing for returning to the office and it almost seems like it’s a solution to all the disruption that they’ve been suffering in their lives. My concern is people are going to become complacent and they’re going to rush back to the office, not understanding that things are different.”
He wants to control access with an automated system that screens body temperatures before enabling employees to unlock the front door with a security fob.
C2 is also evaluating mechanical systems that recirculate less air as well as materials for workstations, door handles and collaborative spaces that are antimicrobial, germ resistant or easily disinfected.
One of the many challenges is designing a safer environment that enables people to feel part of a team that can easily collaborate with others who are working remotely.
“We’re very focused on the immersive experience when you’re not in the office,” Kasselman said.
He’s not sure how much all of the precautions and safety controls will cost, but said the price tag is secondary. Those considerations are easier given the solar business is still doing well at Kasselman. April sales were only about $1,000 less than a year ago despite the economic upheaval.
“A safety-first mentality means you don’t really have a budget for safety,” he said. “Safety determines the budget.”
By Michael DeMasi – Reporter, Albany Business Review
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