Adjusting Building Design to Suit the Post COVID-19 Lifestyle
Our world is in a state of pandemic. It feels as if those dystopian novels that we used to read for fun are now becoming actual reality. Coronavirus – now known as COVID-19 has driven the world into a state of seclusion. We can’t shake hands, social interaction is as limited as possible, and self-isolation is the best way to survive.
Ultimately, COVID-19 is forcing us to rethink the way we design our buildings and spaces. “Design” is a solution to problems, and our response to COVID-19 is helping us change our lifestyle to be more hygienic. So, how is it translating into actual, real-life building design solutions? We’ll take a look right below, but before that, note these important facts about Coronavirus:
- It only spreads through respiratory droplets.
- It can survive on metal and other surfaces for an estimated 12 hours.
You usually catch it from touching people or contaminated surfaces. So basically, these are the major factors that need to be considered when taking preventative design measures. Let’s take a look at them here:
1. Building automation and smart tech
Right now, to avoid touching contaminated spaces, building automation and smart technology is the best option.
Windows and doors with smart sensors are an excellent investment as you never have to touch a knob or a button to open them. Smart window treatments such as cordless shutters and blinds are also a good choice because you never have to touch them to modify the settings.
Automated lighting systems are also a good option because you don’t have to hit the switch to turn the lights on. Since COVID-19 does not travel by air, but through respiratory particles, heating and ventilation systems are usually safe. But if you do not want to touch the thermostat, then going for a smart HVAC system is recommended.
Other than that, voice controls for the bathroom are reinventing the way we use this space – from the lighting to heating the toilet seat to shower-specific instructions, there’s no need to touch anything anymore. All you need to do is say your command and your voice hub will be on top of it.
Similarly, there are smart technology interventions that can make day-to-day life easier while making sure that you never have to touch any buttons. For example, voice command microwaves and the Dux Bed which brings the voice control hub directly by your bedside, making sure that you wouldn’t have to get out from your covers to get things done. There are also automatic garage doors that ensure that you never have to touch a single button activate the opening.
In this way smart technology has already provided a manner of protection against germy door-knobs and public buttons. It’s definitely something that will come in handy as we adjust our lifestyle post-COVID-19.
2. Effective manual designing
Since going for extensive building automation seems unlikely in such a short amount of time, we can definitely incorporate some small-but-effective hacks to avoid touching contaminated surfaces. The most popular one these days includes: installing hand-sanitizer dispensers beside each door – from the main gate to beside individual doorways that are kept closed. Every time someone opens or touches the knob they can just pour some sanitizer on their hands to kill all contamination.
3. Urban level
While mass social interaction is definitely on the down, there are still countries that are unaffected, but are taking preventative measures to fight the potential outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. An excellent example of this is Rwanda. The country has installed portable wash basins around all the major bus stops to ensure that passengers wash their hands before and after boarding.
Now that we’ve discussed Corona virus related design interventions on a macro level, let’s now look at them on a micro level:
– For residential spaces
Home is your family hub, so keeping it as clean as possible is an absolute must. Here are a few suggestions that might help you out:
a. Entrance hygiene: Whenever you go out and come back inside again, you move through the buffer zone of the entrance hall. This is where your hygiene must begin. First off, you should designate your shoes into 2 categories, i.e. outdoor and indoor. You can install a trendy shoe rack in the foyer where you can exchange your outdoor shoes for the indoor ones once you come inside.
You also need to keep a portable wash basin or a sanitizer dispenser nearby to clean your hands before fully coming inside. If you really want to be thorough, then making space for a cleaning carrier is also a good option. You can also keep the cleaning supplies in the entrance console to maintain a nice aesthetic. This will allow you to clean the soles of your shoes and disinfect the entrance hall floor to kill the germs before they have a chance to permeate the rest of the home.
If you’ve recently went grocery shopping, try to avoid reusable totes. This is because reusable bags might be the carriers for the virus. The plastic ban can be overlooked for now. You can discard the plastic bags at the entrance of your home bring the grocery inside.
b. Bathroom hygiene: There’s just one thing that you must keep in mind while preparing your bathrooms for COVID-19 precautions: disinfect, disinfect, and disinfect! Whether it’s your WC or the sink or the vanity countertop, or even the floor – you just need to completely disinfect every surface to ensure good preparedness.
Other than that, you can go for automated fixtures with sensory motion detectors. Automated sink faucets are especially recommended as you don’t have to touch them at all to turn on or off. Just hold your hands underneath it and the water will automatically come out.
Pro tip: Now that self-isolation is on-going, you can make the most of this unexpected downtime in the form of some great entertainment interior design options. For example, having a home theater has never seemed more useful, right? Or downloading fun art tutorials and making a small craft nook for some quality fam jam? This seems to be the design of the future, for now.
– For Restaurants & Hotels
Public spaces are feared to be plague-central, but don’t fret – you can easily take some preventive design measures to keep things hygienic. In the case of restaurants and hotels, you can adopt the following:
a. Disinfecting furniture fabrics and surfaces:
There are a LOT of soft surfaces in restaurants and hotels, and everyone with common sense understands that you cannot disinfect those with simple wipes and sprays. Instead, these surfaces (i.e. curtains, rugs, carpets, seats, sofas, etc.) need to be laundered with hot water at the warmest possible setting. Alternately, steam cleaners can also be used. You can also find chemical fabric disinfectants, but you need to follow the exact instructions when using them.
Some design measures that restaurants can include:
1. Installing hand-sanitizers by the door and making it mandatory for every patron to use them before entry.
2. Reduce the seating capacity by half so that every table is 2 meters apart.
3. Remove all unnecessary items from the table and use disposable menus that can be discarded right after.
4. Hand sanitizers should be placed on each table so that patrons can use them before eating their meal.
5. Disinfecting all the crockery is a must.
6. Disinfecting all table surfaces after customers leave should also be mandatory.
b. Smart design for public buttons:
Most of our doors, elevators, lighting, and other such building features require touching, which is why smart tech should be incorporated in such spaces. Sensory doors, lighting, and other fixtures should bypass public buttons and help improve the sanitary conditions of such public spaces.
– For Offices
While most people are starting to work from home to avoid mass contact with the general public, here are some handy design tips to help you create a better work environment wherever you’re working from:
a. Design your personal work nook: Let’s be honest: working in your PJ’s is just simply not efficient at all. This is why you need your own cozy little office nook to get all that pending work done on time. You can set up a desk and load it with all of your essentials like stationary, work equipment, electronic devices, etc. so that you can get the best work environment possible under these conditions.
b. Working from office: If you’re still working from the office, you need constant access to hand sanitizer. The minimum number of people in any work setting has been set to no more than 50 people in an office. Everyone should be assigned an individual desk – possibly in individual rooms. There should be at least a 2-3-meter distance between people.
Most importantly, entrance hygiene should be mandatory. Wearing masks and bypassing biometric attendance should be proctored during these distressing times. Turnstiles should be turned off or be regularly disinfected. All public areas should have a limit on how many people there should be in these spaces at any given time.
And most importantly, if any worker seems even remotely ill, they should be immediately sent home.
It has been said before, but we’ll say it again: good hand hygiene is the best way to avoid the COVID-19. That’s all that matters in every Corona virus related building design precaution! We hope this guide helps you better determine your architecture and interior design related choices!