How COVID-19 Will Change the Way Offices Are Designed

The coronavirus crisis has made many designers and architects step back and reevaluate the way they design spaces. How will the design of shared spaces evolve for a world that will never be quite the same?

‘’For the past decades, those looking at the intersections of planning, design, and public health have focused less on infectious diseases and more on chronic disease, hazards and disasters, and the vulnerable. The current pandemic brings the question of designing for infectious diseases back to the forefront and raises important questions for future research and practice.’’
- Ann Forsyth, Harvard Graduate School of Design

Although this may be the first time in our generation that design has been fundamentally transformed by a virus, it is certainly not the first time in human history. New York’s infrastructure moved away from the infection-prone tenement housing of the 19th century and London’s infrastructure was reformed following the 1954 cholera epidemic.

As the world takes an important pause, it is a great time for architects to innovate and come up with new ideas for designing shared and public spaces, especially large offices, schools, government buildings and health-care facilities.

The open office trend was already declining before the COVID-19 crisis and new trends, such as the ‘deep-work chambers’ put forth by architect David Dewane of Chicago, have been on the rise. Nearly everyone is predicting that public spaces will see increased automation in order to minimize the spread of infectious disease. This means we will see widespread implementation of touchless technologies such as automatic doors, voice controls, cell phone controlled devices and other technologies that minimize direct contact.

Smart Glass Office Dividers

Smart glass technology contributes to these efforts by providing privacy on demand and touchless control options. Glass allows commercial spaces to maintain an open, connected interior while also providing a barrier against droplets that spread pathogens from people coughing, sneezing or talking. Switchable glass uses PDLC technology (Polymer-Dispersed Liquid Crystals) to instantly transform glass from clear to frosted. Smart film is smoothed across existing glass to turn it into switchable glass while smart glass contains the PDLC layer laminated within it. Both products can be controlled via a wall switch, remote control, cell phone or voice command, eliminating the need for direct touch.

Create Boundaries Not Barriers

For office spaces that are intentionally open-concept to increase conversation and idea sharing, smart glass partitions and walls serve as a way to maintain that openness while minimizing the negative effects of germ spread, noise pollution and a lack of privacy. Whenever workers need privacy, they can simply turn the glass to opaque. This quality allows office environments to encourage social connection in conjunction with enhanced safety and security.

Avoid Curtains and Blinds That Harbor Pathogens

One of the drawbacks of designing with glass is the need for privacy, a problem that is addressed by smart glass technology. Curtains and blinds are frequently touched and infrequently cleaned. Smart glass and film can be controlled without the need for touch and can even be used for automatic sliding doors and other operable glass surfaces. Switchable glass and film are cleaned with alcohol just like regular glass and can be cleaned daily or even multiple times per day, unlike curtains or blinds. This makes smart glass an efficient, hygienic alternative to traditional window coverings.

Switchable glass allows natural light to flow through office spaces, boosting employee morale and productivity, without hindering privacy or increasing contamination risk. The soundproofing qualities of smart glass keep conversations in and noise out, minimizing distractions and providing confidentiality.

Although social distancing is only a temporary necessity, it will encourage architects and designers to create spaces that allow people to spread out. Health organizations have been encouraging businesses to take measures for pandemic preparedness long before this crisis and endemic influenza will remain a threat to worker’s health and productivity regardless of whether COVID-19 is contained. While smart glass technology will not eliminate the spread of coronavirus, it can certainly contribute to long-term containment measures and minimize the possibility of becoming infected.

Contact us today for a free quote. We are currently offering a limited time discount of up to 40 percent off on our smart film product for businesses, medical facilities and homeowners trying to adapt and cope amid the COVID-19 crisis.

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