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Architecture for COVID-19

Dec 14,2020 - Last updated at Dec 14,2020

Consciously or unconsciously, within the framework of the Corona pandemic, there are many lessons to be learnt when designing future homes for multi-storey residences and public buildings. This concern is at its pinnacle where people interact at the entrances, public services, car parks, elevators, common rooms, etc. Our basic concern in this article is the airborne risk of pathogenic micro-organisms: bacteria and viruses.

The changes in design of buildings ought not to be personal preferences but should be mandated in our codes of practice. Financial help and technical advice is always welcome, such as an exemplary project mandating rain water reservoir in the Amman, hopefully restricting it to rain water catchment and not for storing municipal water.

Main entrances in public buildings and blocks of flats ought to be as many as possible to reduce traffic and minimise infection. In public buildings, may be one entrance for the employees and the other for the public. In cases of having no choice but one entrance, ventilation, size and height ought to be reconsidered in building codes, including disinfecting areas of interaction. These measures should be facilitated by law, including providing hand washers, masks and shoe disinfection units, among others.

Natural lighting inside the dwellings, expressed as window to floor ratio, is limited to 0.15 (+15 per cet) in LEED for zone 3 for residential buildings for energy efficiency. There is no point in increasing the ratio to allow for more sunlight to purify the interior air by a UV natural process, because UVC alone (neither UVA nor UVB) is most effective on germs and viruses and can purify the air naturally. However, UVC does not reach Earth as it is mostly absorbed by the upper Ozone layers in the atmosphere. Therefore, UVC systems can be installed for use in ducts and coils.

Elevators too ought to be bigger in size to allow for social distancing, more in numbers to reduce crowding, and should be fitted with distant calling mechanisms to replace finger touching. Elevator cars should also be well ventilated using special filters that are capable of catching microbiological contaminants and aerosols by re-circulating air. 

Public Laundry or any public spaces in any complex should be minimised and designed to become more spacious to allow for distancing and must be well ventilated. Sport clubs must also be designed to ensure distancing and high level of hygiene.

Staircases for the compound ought to be wider, better ventilated, and more in numbers and area per resident density. Rail handles must be made of polished materials to avoid harbouring viruses. Rails must be easy to clean and free from corrugations and complex texture design.

At car parks, more spaces should be allocated for each car for better social distancing, and more parking spaces ought to be provided for the building as a whole to avoid packing cars on the roads impeding the flow of traffic and crippling social distancing. Exits and entrances of parking areas should be from different directions. Height of parking lots should be increased to a minimum of three metres and ventilation enhanced naturally or mechanically.

Theatres and meeting rooms should be well ventilated mechanically, with special filters that are replaced regularly and continuously monitored for quality. Filters used should be state of the art air purification membranes with powerful technology to collect and destroy microbiological and chemical contaminants. Where ultra-health is a priority, it is advisable to use UVC on ducts and coils of HVAC system and a layer of microbial removal material on filters in HVAC systems, which improves air quality.

In conclusion, ultra-clean environments should be the philosophy of the future design of buildings used for healthcare, special units of intensive care and children spaces. Schools should be considered too. Furthermore, it is necessary to upgrade existing densely shared spaces by reasonable health measures effectively enforced by codes of practice. 

 

The writer is an anergy and green buildings consultant 

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