How the right architect can help your business thrive safely
While economic conditions offer a troubling rejoinder to the nightly news on the public health crisis, there are short- and long-term steps you can take to make your business, church, school, or library safer.
We spend approximately 87 percent of our time indoors, and the well-known and direct links between human health and design have been widely accepted. Now, in light of this post-COVID world, there is a new urgency to acceptance.
Designing adaptable spaces, selecting healthy materials, advising on the life cycle of a building, or incorporating natural and filtered ventilation are just some ways architects can be valuable partners to you and the people who live and work in buildings you own, operate, manage, or maintain.
Short-term tactics to get back up and running
The first thing you’ll want to do is familiarize yourself with OSHA’s guidance on preparing workplaces for COVID-19, which builds off CDC guidance. It all comes down to prevention, behavioral and cultural changes, and engineering and administrative controls that all aim to maintain productivity and increase safety. Specific building types will have additional demands not covered by OSHA guidelines. On May 6, AIA published a Re-Occupancy and Assessment Tool (which has been adopted by the US Department of State) to help you develop a clear checklist to make your spaces safer.
The thing is: Your architect also works in an office and has a lot of the same anxieties you do about retrofitting spaces. Count on them as a source of good solutions and also a partner in your own process of retrofitting your property. They would know.
Long-term strategies to thrive
Just as with short-term tactics, long-term strategies present an opportunity for architects to be a trusted advisor and, hopefully, a trusted partner in the months and years ahead for you and your business. COVID-19 will likely have a big effect on building design and building codes, and your architect will be up to speed on those implications.
At the center of these changes is density, itself. If you reduce density, you must displace individuals. If you increase density, you must take extraordinary measures to protect individuals. That logic holds whether you are a church pastor or Fortune 500 CEO. Increased or decreased density could mean a welcomed change or a crippling set of costs.
Materiality, hardware, and the “software” of furnishings promise to be important areas for innovation. Architects can conduct research on antimicrobial properties, durability, and flexibility and recommend new products or ways to address existing assets. Given that furniture, by and large, constitutes a depreciating asset in the long term and a capital expense in the short term, the prospect of refurbishing an entire school or office or library might be an unwelcome conversation. Be prepared to discuss cost and value with your architect. They will help find clever solutions to lessen the financial burden and make your spaces more sustainable in the long term.