In all likelihood, the subject of conversation while you’re reading this will be the COVID-19 virus. It seems to have disrupted life to a degree unrecognized by all those living today. Make
no mistake, the history of this century will likely be defined as either Before-COVID-19 and After-COVID-19.
There has never been a better time for architects or designers to be proactive and foresee changes that may take place in the built environment. Our primary responsibility is to the people who occupy and use the spaces that we design.
Space requirements and distancing: Today’s space standards and regulations are adhered to with hesitation by most designers.
The general mantra has been to get in as many people as possible into space as would be permissible by regulation.
This is applicable from circulation space, FLS calculations, retail unit space calculation and F&B seating calculation to the choice of escalator and elevator allowances. These criteria will change.
More space per person will be encouraged and we can expect
regulations enforcing the distances required.
Furthermore, there may be strict enforcement of how many people can be inside a space at any given point of time based on these space calculations.
You can expect to see supermarkets and shopping malls controlling their numbers with enhanced tracking tools.
Materiality: Conclusive studies have indicated that the COVID-19 stays alive longer on some materials than others.
More studies will be conducted and a certain level of rigor will be enforced to ensure that only certain materials can be used where there’s a high probability of contact. Architects and interior designers will be given a list of approved materials that can be used in high contact areas such as handrails, door handles, push plates etc.
Air quality: HVAC engineers can expect to see new regulations that require airflow to be filtered more often than what’s prescribed currently. There will be a bigger requirement to bring in fresh air to a given space than what’s currently been prescribed.
No touch: The implementation of sensors will come on strong.
We can expect to see sensor-related hardware taking precedence in a shopping mall.
From doors to hand wash taps and soap dispensers. Contact-less payments will be encouraged and can even be rewarded. If something need not be touched, then it doesn’t have to be.
There will be hand sanitizer dispensers placed at every entrance of a mall. Most retail units may also consider this within their units. Human behavior is altering and it’s already become second nature to use these hand sanitizers in public spaces in the midst of this C19 outbreak.
Public places will be equipped with thermal cameras in order to scan the public for anyone with a temperature spike.
These issues are now no longer a mere observation but rather an issue to investigate. The onus of isolating a probable health concern is now on the shoulders of the mall security.
With the new social and spatial changes that have been sweeping the world, there’s a renewed desire to stay safe and those who provide it will succeed.
Commercial businesses that provide solutions to these concerns will gain the trust of consumers.
Designers who integrate the needs and requirements of the new normal will be in demand.
Developers and landlords committed to safety will be preferred properties and command
Consumers, as always, will vote with their wallets and reward those who prioritize their safety above convenience or cost.
The one thing history has taught us is that every crisis has a beginning and end. When this crisis passes, and it will, the world will be a slightly different place and will require retailers, designers and developers to show even greater creativity, understanding and commitment.
There will be new opportunities, challenges and mandates but ultimately, SUCCESS will come to those who are to adapt.