Building design plays a significant role in how people live, work and function daily. Grocery stores often have an open concept in mind for people to navigate aisles easily. Office skyscrapers take up less room horizontally and instead reach to the skies to accommodate a large population of workers. Schools are divided into classrooms so students can better focus on their instruction and learning.
However, when a pandemic arrives, designs have to be rethought and reconstructed. When COVID-19 hit, the mandates to wear a mask and social distance made it challenging for modern architecture to hold the maximum capacity of people. The new restrictions have forced building designers and innovators to rethink architecture.
Society has to better prepare for something like this in the future. Here’s how public health concerns might change future architecture trends.
1. New and Improved Public Spaces
Architects will have to redesign public spaces with a new and improved design that is safe for people to navigate. These vital areas provide a natural environment to get away from the busyness of cities. Parks and plazas will be more open, and cities will build more of them to accommodate large populations.
When COVID-19 first hit, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised people to stay indoors and quarantine. The inability to be outdoors put many people at risk of depression, so future urban areas designed for social distancing and gathering will offer a place of refuge.
2. Changes in Standard City Offices
Large office buildings can be found in every urban area, but the traditional design has been abandoned due to the pandemic. Now, more people are working from home, so the need for office buildings is slowly declining.
Putting thousands of people into one building will not help any future public health concerns. Instead, these buildings may be repurposed.
3. Safer Business Layouts
Many businesses had to operate at 25%-50% capacity during the most dangerous months of COVID-19. It was extremely challenging for most of them to stay open. Now that people are less accustomed to crowded interiors, architects may maintain layout designs that accommodate personal space for both employees and customers.
Some of the more specific public health additions businesses implemented in the last year are likely to stick around, too. Features like sneeze guards and plastic sectioning may remain in some eateries in an effort to contain seasonal colds and flus for staff.
Changing technologies affect layout designs as well. A few enterprising restaurants have even put a robot to work delivering food to customers to avoid human contact. If that becomes standard, layouts will have to be designed to allow for easy maneuvering for the robots.
4. Integration of Disinfection Stations
With public health and safety in mind, architecture will have to leave space for disinfection stations. Stores, hospitals, restaurants and other public locations have added sanitizing stations to their storefronts and throughout the building.
Architecture may have to integrate designated disinfection stations that include a temperature check, hand sanitizer, gloves and masks for those who need to take precautions with their health. They should be designed in a way that makes them efficient for busier times of the day.
5. Flexible Design
Although flexible furniture and building designs aren’t anything new, they will be used more often in architectural design from here on out. Throughout the global pandemic, it has become evident that people need to adapt to changing environments and situations.
People have had to flip a room in their homes to work as a home office, hospitals have had to set up emergency shelters and unused buildings housed COVID-19 patients. More modular design approaches allow for adjustable walls and furniture that’s easy to maneuver for almost any situation.
6. Addition of Touchless Technology
Architecture will also adapt to the implementation of touchless technology. Automation will take over to mitigate the number of people that touch doors and other surfaces. For example, more automatic doors, hands-free light switches, touchless temperature control and even voice-activated elevators will become more commonplace.
Another architectural trend due to the pandemic is getting rid of bathroom entrance doors. Don’t worry — stall doors will stay. Plus, these spaces will have surfaces that are less prone to hold bacteria and other germs to prevent or mitigate the spread of disease.
Changing Building Design for Public Health
A lot has changed in the past year and a half. However, society must continue to move forward in the safest way possible, which means architectural trends will change. Be open, flexible and willing to change as buildings adapt to public health concerns.
Evelyn Long is the editor-in-chief of Renovated. Her work focuses on interior and architectural design and has been published by Build Magazine, the National Association of REALTORS and other online publications.