Many of us began our quarantine journeys by slowly beginning to work from home, which became full-time work from home, to then staying indoors except for the occasional grocery store run, to wearing masks every time we stepped outdoors.
This unique time in history has taken us all by surprise and made us look at the spaces we live and work in with a whole new lens. As we begin to face the reality of our overpopulated cities and overwhelmed healthcare system, we must address the duty we as designers have to adapt the spaces we occupy to our new norm. Business may never go back to usual but it can be designed to fit our new needs. From new six-feet clearances to antimicrobial finishes, many spaces will begin to get retrofitted to accommodate our post-COVID-19 world.
With the rise of concern over germ spread, many companies have stepped in to provide a solution. A great product that has come out is AquaMix, a sealer that allows you to seal tile, grout, terrazzo and concrete. This creates a nonporous finish and an easier to clean surface. Another great applied sealer is Wasp, which can be used on wood and makes this surface mold resistant.
But some surfaces, such as walls, cannot be fully sealed. Fortunately, both Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams have paints that fit the bill. Sherwin Williams’ Harmony Interior Acrylic Latex Paint has zero VOCs, is antimicrobial and GreenGuard certified. Their other option is PaintShield microbicidal paint, which kills 99.99% of bacteria within two hours of exposure on painted surfaces. Benjamin Moore offers their Eco Spec WB (Waterborne) Silver paint containing micronized elemental silver, inhibiting the growth of mold and mildew on the painted surface.
When we think about the most high-touch surfaces in a space, we often think of door handles, faucets and light switches. Whenever possible, we now must consider specifying touchless or self-cleaning solutions for these surfaces. As we transition back to our daily routines, we will want to visibly see treatments of high touch points. SafeHandles is a company that has created heat-shrink sleeves, adhesive tapes, and surface sanitizer to provide an extra coat of antibacterial protection on any surface or handle. Nanoseptic is another great solution as they offer stick-on skins and mats that create self-cleaning surfaces.
If you’re looking to retrofit a restroom or kitchen with a touchless faucet, many companies such as Sloan, Toto, and Kohler have solutions for both kitchens and bathrooms; some even come with built-in timers for CDC-recommended handwashing practice. Other touchless items you may want to consider are trash cans, sanitizer dispensers and soap dispensers. SimpleHuman offers a wide range of options at affordable prices.
We can even take it as far as looking at signage in public spaces. While for many of us, we never touch signage, the visually impaired touch braille signs frequently. It’s recommended these portions of new signs be made of copper, brass or bronze so that they’re antimicrobial. Signage can also now be used to show users what standing six feet apart looks like, how frequently a restroom is cleaned or where we can find the nearest hand sanitizer station. We will all want to know where clean spaces are available as we transition back to normalcy.
With all of that being said, COVID-19 has forever changed the way we approach design. Will this impact last months or even years? No one can tell right now. But one thing for sure is that as designers, we are leaders in creating spaces that feel safe after quarantine. Are you ready for the challenge?