Well, here we are. In a reality that most people would have never imagined. I believe that our “new normal” will permanently shift our lives and society I’ve lived through similar shifts like 9/11 and the effects of heightened travel security and the 2008 financial crisis and the unveiling of corporate greed. But, something about this crisis feels different. Perhaps, it is the worldwide reach or how Coronavirus, or COVID-19, claims lives regardless of color or class.
Our “new normal” has arrived but is yet to fully be realized. Shaking hands will probably become a thing of the past. Hugs will no longer be a popular greeting or way to show affection. Even with the development of a vaccine, life is likely not to return to what it was before. Although it was just six years ago the world witnessed the Ebola outbreak that ravished West Africa, but to many Americans that was something that happened far away in another world. Now, COVID19 has struck right at home, hitting almost every American city within weeks. And it was not unexpected, Bill Gates predicted a scenario similar to this just three years ago (See Bill Gates TED Talk @ https://youtu.be/6Af6b_wyiwI). According to the data, it appears that viruses are in our future.
As a designer my first thought about this impending shift in our “new normal” is how will this affect the design of buildings and spaces. The design of spaces in buildings will require new thinking. The planning and layout of office space will have to address the potential spread of viruses, re-emerging each winter. We are all going to become even more acutely aware of the person in the office coughing and sniffling. As we move forward, the popular Open Office concept will have to be re-thought as it does not provide for the containment of germs whether air borne or surface based. Our designs do not protect the individual but are more focused on the illusion of transparency and equality of space.
With our lives changing day to day, we don’t know where to look for factual evidence based information to help set the new standards we must all live by once offices, restaurants and public arenas reopen. One authority to look to is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration also known as (OSHA). OSHA has developed a COVID-19 planning guideline based on traditional infection prevention and industrial hygiene practices. Their plan focuses on the need for employers to implement engineering, administrative, and work practice controls. This guidance is intended for planning purposes only. So the question still remains: how will we get back to work? What will the post COVID workplace look like? Landlords, employers and employees can use the planning guidance to help identify risk levels in workplace settings and determine any appropriate control measures to implement. But additional guidance will be required as COVID-19 outbreak conditions change, including new information about the virus, its transmission, and impacts, becomes available.
At DNK, our wealth of experience designing public spaces, workplaces and healthcare facilities have given us great insight into different, and more importantly efficient, design practices that can be implemented. Over the course of several posts we’d like to walk you through how the open office evolved, what issues continuing with the open office concept can cause, and how you can utilize design to effect change within your organization to allow for success in our Post-COVID world.
Please check back in each week for a new installment as well as learn to adjust to the “new normal”.
As you consider the NEW NORMAL feel free to contact DNK at firstname.lastname@example.org or @tweetDNK to learn more about our design principles and how we can help you and your organization prepare and redesign for the future.