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  • Writer's pictureElisa Lanzutti

How Architecture Can Help Prevent The Next Coronavirus

Coronavirus is causing trepidation across all industries, and architecture is no exception. However, with their whole careers based on thinking up imaginative solutions and translating those to practical, real-world applications, architects are stepping up as leaders in dealing with the outbreak.

Two Chinese hospitals — one with 1,000 beds and one with 1,600 — were constructed in just 10 days. According to project Manager Fang Xian, a project of this scale usually takes at least two years. The speed of construction was possible with prefabricated units and thousands of workers operating through the night. When it came to design, however, the hospitals had to be largely started from scratch.

Penda China- a Chinese architecture and design firm- developed a suit that it says can protect wearers from infection. For the Coronavirus shield, Sun has constructed a lightweight system, loosely similar to the lightweight wings that allow bats to fly. Users don a backpack with a carbon fiber skeleton frame. They hold a PVC film, which wraps around them like a jet cockpit, or personal bubble. In some architectural philosophy, the building is considered a third skin. (A person’s skin is the first skin. A person’s clothes are the second skin.) Sun views the PVC shield as a wearable building, which creates a physical barrier between you and viruses that might be flying at your body.

Long before coronavirus became a household word, architects have had to deal with public health concerns. Anyone designing for public or retail spaces might consider crowd control and the spread of germs and pollutants on a daily basis.

In designs, architects often implement materials that are easy to maintain, resist mold growth and promote good indoor air quality. In healthcare facilities they incorporate hard materials that are resistant to viruses or bacteria living on surfaces

Proper maintenance and commissioning is also important and the management of ventilation, filtration and humidity in a building can either make people sick or keep them well.

We always should try to create forward-thinking, future-ready spaces. The coronavirus outbreak could spark new ideas in this field. "In cases like this, when the world’s health is a consideration, design strategies can change exponentially in future work"

If the virus persists, we could foresee design elements like automatic doors, which open and shut without people touching them, become more standard or even required by code — perhaps not just for room doors, but for things like cabinets and drawers. "Who knows where innovation could lead?"

Certain diseases may spread faster and further in an unstable and warming climate. Architects could counter the spread with ventilation, sunlight and adaptive finishing materials.  "This is an all hands on deck moment to find solutions that can be scaled...If we are really going to get serious about [being] net zero by 2030 and net zero carbon by 2050, then we are looking at really leaning into innovation on the construction side."

Extract from “How Architecture Can Help Prevent The Next Coronavirus” written by Deirdra Funcheon, March 4, 2020 published by Bisnow.

Read full article and interview with:

Daphne Gurri: the principal/owner of Gurri Matute

Jacqueline Gonzalez Touzet: founding principal of Touzet Studio

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