POST COVID-19 REDESIGNING WORKPLACES

Svam Arquitectos 25 junio, 2020

Who would ever imagine, that in 2020 we would live through such an epic and dramatic event?  A pandemic outbreak which started in Wuhan and has spread all around the world, quickly turning our lives into a battle. A new virus which has called into question the way humanity is interconnected all around the planet.

After several months of lockdown, fortunately the SVAM & SVAMPINEDA Team has continued to work remotely, we were ready to meet this challenge.

At this point, some of our clients who needed to work on site have requested our help with projects to implement the COVID protocol required to make their workplace COVID secure.

Although, we are still learning about COVID-19, it is known the virus spreads more easily by close contact between people. This means that whenever you are away from home the most important thing you can do is maintain a 2 metres distance from other people, and of course wearing a facemask also minimises the chance of passing the virus onto others.

We have also been encouraged to

Be informed

Be prepared

Be smart

Be kind

Be alert

Be careful

While physical distance is part of our new rules, collaboration and human connection remains more important than ever. Based on Post-COVID principles we have been able to quickly draw up spatial layouts for workplaces by creating agile strategies that can be easily implemented.

Looking at the main guidelines of recommendations issued by different authorities, currently the most frequent voiced hints and tips are the following:

  • Change office layouts to enable social distancing to be practiced
  • Implement behavioural signage
  • Improve ventilation systems
  • Provide facemasks
  • Avoid touching surfaces
  • Practice good hand hygiene
  • Stay up to date
  • Display posters promoting good practices

 

As experienced designers we have been focussing on how to implement two of the key measures:

  • Maintaining social distance
  • Improving ventilation systems

Redesigning offices and common areas we have found the following:

Ability to Maintain Social Distancing:

Initially we were working to a ratio of 1 person per every 10 square metres. However, taking into account the amount of furniture, staggering seating arrangements, creating buffer zones and repurposing corridors we have been able to meet COVID secure requirements and implement a ratio of approximately 1 person to every 6 – 8 square metres.

Improving Ventilation Systems:

Increasing the ventilation rate is also a way to improve the workplace quality. It is also a strategy to reduce the risk of transmission between workers. Usually the typical open office has a ventilation rate of 6 to 8 Air Changes per Hour (ACH).

For example, an open plan office with an area of 100 m2   has an airflow supply of 2.160 m3/h. (Air supply flow = 100 m2 x 2,7 m x 8 ACH = 2.160 m3/h)

Learning taken from the airline industry for air cabin quality is one of the key points to ensure a safe trip.

The cabin’s air quality is renewed every three minutes, With an airflow supply of 20 ACH,

Applying the same air ventilation rate to office work spaces as an aircraft would mean a rise from 8 to 20 ACH.

The air supply flow will be 100 m2 x 2,7 m x 20 ACH = 5.400 m3/h.                             

Improving twice as much air flow  and natural ventilation is a much improved  beneficial approach.

What the foreseeable future will look like at our workplaces and how we will have to adapt our social behaviour is unknown for now. But what is clear is that we will have to adapt to new and very dynamic scenarios.

Those who are able to adapt to these changes earlier and establish an agile way of working more quickly will be the winners and the most effective. Today, more than ever, Darwin’s theories are more valid.

Santiago Vela