In the short term, many aspects of building design will be impacted. Reception areas may need to be modified to protect those stationed within them. For example, meeting rooms will need to be re-assessed for capacity, cupboard doors in kitchen areas may be omitted, and enhanced fresh air rates could be used. If there is a considerable increase in cycling, most city centre offices will need to expand their facilities, including storage and shower facilities.
Given the likely shift in its function over the longer term, once concerns over COVID-19 transmission have significantly reduced, office design will evolve. It will increasingly need to be inspiring, and address issues with older-style open-plan desk space such as excessive noise and poor interaction across teams. Design will provide more space for collaboration and spontaneous social interaction to encourage ad-hoc creativity. This will be helped by lower densities.
Coronavirus is mainly transmitted by touch, and so a new importance will be given to a touchless environment. Portable technology is already available and can be used as an interface between people and buildings (for example via facial recognition or voice activation).
Smart buildings could come to the fore with a multiplicity of sensors, not only to monitor the comfort of offices and the range of services available but also to sense the temperature of individuals. Social distancing could also be measured by sensors or through mobile apps.
If buildings become more 24/7, this will require building services to be provided smarter and ‘on demand.’
Hygiene is another huge issue, with new frequent professionalised cleaning regimes and the provision of hand sanitisers. However, design may also shift in a more fundamental way. “Hygiene will now be designed-in and this may mean the end of the stripped back exposed services idiom with its hidden dust traps.”