From the past we can observe that disease outbreaks have led to changes and innovations in urban design; Such as in the case of cholera pandemic in the 1800s’ led to improvements and innovations to prevent overcrowding.

The new pandemic has brought fast changes like the dramatic shift from offices to home, global self-isolation What lessons should be learned and how designing cities and buildings should be reimagined according to the current pandemic? What are the new guidelines to employ to better respond and handle similar conditions with less impact on human health and the economy?
There is a lot written and discussed the issue, the need for changes and adaptation, so here are brought a few aspects of it:

Configurability

With COVID-19 we have seen how different types of buildings and public spaces are being used for handling patients as the existing number of hospitals is far more than scarce. Thus, in the nearest future while designing buildings one of the aspects might be its adaptability for other needs and uses like in case of an epidemic. 
In addition, hospitals should be better designed for outbreaks. What came to light during this pandemic is the inability of current hospital systems worldwide to accommodate the number of sick people. In addition,  hospitals should have the availability of transforming rooms to limit the spread of viruses.

Consideration of virus-free transits

As we have seen the major Lockdown of airports and high risks of spreading viruses, for the future, there is the need of rethinking security check procedures, in order to eliminate crowded lines, reduced wait time, and face-to-face contact from gates to board.

Air-quality Treatment

From public transportation to hospital waiting areas, pharmacies, hypermarkets and public spaces, air quality control should be happening so to prevent virus spreading. 
COVID-19 has shown us once again what risks people are facing while standing in a line for medicines, products or waiting to get healthcare service.
The certain elements that exist in health-care may be adopted to public spaces as well; Like limiting flat surfaces where germs can sit or installing ventilation systems that remove away contaminated air from any given area. In addition, using antibacterial fabrics and finishes should be part of the development.
People spend more than 90% of their time indoors, therefore buildings and transportation systems should support well-being and risk-free stay.
Bringing fresh air into buildings minimizes the risk and time being exposed to viruses.

Future technologies and AI

Integrating future technologies into buildings can be a tool to decrease risks. The sensors that detect viruses can be used as the mechanism of temperature screening. This can be used starting from big enterprises to public areas to mitigate risks. The real-time measurements of air quality informing visitors and representatives of the companies can help raise awareness of the importance of fresh air quality and at the same time well reduce the contamination risks. 

Simpler methods can include limiting physical contact with the help of automation- like automated doors, voice-activated elevators and cell-phone controlled entries for hotel rooms, RFID technologies for making purchases, etc.   

Recreational  and open spaces

The importance of recreational places is not new, but now the possibility of entering recreational places with distancing is impossible. The concerns about future viruses should encourage architects to design buildings with more open places that enable people to spread and adding more outdoor places even in skyscrapers. Spending more time outdoors and having more greenery helps improve health and mental well-being and reduces air-pollution at the same time. Its noteworthy that not having enough parks leads to no “escape” during the pandemic. 

Ability to wash hands

Starting from retails stores to public areas and crowded streets –there should be the ability to wash hands properly. In some countries temporary hand-washing stations are added to bus stops, so that passenger wash their hands before entering the transport.  Such practice should be deployed everywhere starting from stadiums to areas of tourist attractions.
What is for sure, conclusions should be drawn and improvements made in different aspects starting from public health to infrastructure and design. There’s a lot that can be done, the above-mentioned points are quite a few; And it is clear that the way we interact in large public spaces airports, hotels, hospitals, gyms, offices, hypermarkets, etc. should be improved, rethought and redesigned.

 

 

Originally Published: 06.05.2020