The power of architecture to battle future pandemics

27/05/2020

The power of architecture to battle future pandemics

In the wake of COVID19, we re-discover that architecture has a healing power. In this post, we are going to analyse how the pandemic will influence the future of this industry.  Traditionally, architecture has been a faithful reflection of society and an expression of the times in which buildings were developed. Coronavirus brings with it a new reality that represents a turning point in the way we live. One of the most evident examples is the large percentage of the population that these days works from home instead of going to the office.  

The immediate consequence implies that architects and interior designers are forced to reinvent themselves in order to conceive new structures that are adapted effectively to these situations: from detached houses, block of apartments to office buildings. 

Lately, Artificial Intelligence and IoT set the trend in the design of the most avant-garde buildings. From now on, technology has gone from being an extra accessory to a basic need in the design of buildings. The design of workspaces has to guarantee limits in contact between individuals, in order to reduce the risk of spreading and transmitting diseases. In this regard, there will be a boom in the use of construction materials that are easily cleaned or in which viruses only remain for a short time, such as the use of paints with titanium dioxide and metals such as copper.

Mark Fenwick, founding partner of Fenwick Iribarren, in his introspection 'Architecture for a Post Viral Era', explains that guaranteeing social distancing that facilitates the sensation of a comfort zone is going to be one of the main premises to take into account. This challenge for the design of office buildings will begin with the common areas. For example, current security controls at access points will have to include certain hygiene protocols that may include everything from disinfecting clothes and shoes to measure temperature.

Once inside the building, the next point to be assessed will be lifts, playing a key role in high-rise buildings such as skyscrapers. Challenge will be to ensure social distance between their users, which will require the implementation of a limit of people who can use elevators at the same time. Once again, technology is a determining factor as voice control will replace the need to press the button of the desired level. Installing hand sanitiser and water contactless dispensers in toilets and canteens will be a must as direct contact between employees through the same buttons and handles have to be avoided. Hence, contactless technology acquires a vital importance as a firewall to prevent the spread of possible viruses.

Offices of the future

This new reality brings slightly changes on the features that have been already implemented for the last few years, such as open spaces, hot seats and sharing devices. Iñigo Ortiz Díez de Tortosa, architect and founding partner of Ortiz León Arquitectos, points out that the morphology of the offices will be adapted to make possible the implementation of a series of measures that employees are advised to follow in order to successfully guarantee social distancing. Many companies are already developing protocols that have to be applied, as shown by the real estate services company Cushman & Wakefield.

Last, but not least, new office buildings designs will have to consider two new inputs: multifunctionality and open areas. On the one hand, versatile spaces allowing several functionalities in which the environment can be adapted to the new needs: from the storage of material to the medicalization of the office. On the other hand, Ortiz himself highlights the importance of Green Architectures to facilitate compliance with social distance. In his article 'Antiviral Architecture', Ortiz uses the terrace of Príncipe de Vergara 112 offices, a building in our portfolio of assets, as an illustrative example of a Green Architecture building.

Definitely, the architects are attempting to make virtue out of a necessity, in order to battle the spread of future pandemics.

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