Employers and employees alike used to place a premium on shared work spaces. These spaces were heralded as collaborative, cost-saving and trendy. Now, in the wake of COVID-19, people must avoid being in close proximity to others and there is a new premium on additional space and distancing.
The pandemic and the way it has changed people’s view on shared spaces may affect the design and construction of workplaces moving forward. In the short term, employers may seek to make their workplace safer for employees. In the long term, architects and engineers may need to consider the possibility of future pandemics and highly contagious illnesses in their design and construction. The following are ways the design and construction industry may change in response to COVID-19.
There is likely to be an increased focus on HVAC systems and utilizing technology to purify circulated air. One promising technology is called bipolar ionization, which works to remove mold, bacteria, allergens and viruses from air. Bipolar ionization technology can be installed in HVAC systems. Indeed, some large employers and airports are already incorporating this technology in response to COVID-19.
We are likely to see increased emphasis on automation in redesign and future design of workplaces. Doors may be automatic. Elevators may be voice activated, so riders can state which floor they would like to go to instead of touching a button. We may also see more, but smaller, elevators in high rises. Finally, actual or electronic keys that employees can wave in front of a card reader may replace manual keypads.
We may also see a push towards prefabricated construction where possible. Utilizing prefabricated building components could minimize the number of people needed to be present during construction and, therefore, increase the social distancing between construction workers. It may also minimize the amount of actual construction time.
Certain surfaces, like quartz and copper, are lauded for their antimicrobial properties. Some manufacturers also make antimicrobial laminate surfaces. Although more expensive, we may see increased utilization of antimicrobial surfaces as there is now a heightened focus on individual health and wellness.
As health-focused design concepts become more prevalent, design and construction professionals’ duty of care to their clients may become a moving target. For that reason, design and construction professionals may want to consult with legal counsel on the adequacy of design and construction to address health concerns.