COVID-19 Design Challenges

Design challenges of dealing with a pandemic and keeping doors open for business.

There's no doubt we are in a new world and as always design challenges breed innovation. With COVID-19 not going anywhere any time soon businesses must figure out how to remain open, comply with CDC guidelines, and make employee's, customers, patients, and a visitors feel safe. Here are a few ways interior designers can assist with these changes and maintain a warm and inviting environment.

While were all coming to grips with the constant reminders of the viruses affects, businesses are clamoring to adjust existing spaces to meet CDC guidelines. In the process these spaces often turn out looking like a DIY project gone horribly wrong, but it doesn't have to be that way. Many companies have directed their existing product lines to provide solutions to today's business needs and provide style and elegance in the process. The added advantage of incorporating the new cleaning and distancing requirements into the design is that it makes people feel more comfortable and safe. An employee that is comfortable and safe will be more productive than one who feels like they are at risk. As we know, stress and worry can decrease production significantly.

One issue is maintaining social distancing guidelines. The easiest and most inconspicuous way to do this is with flooring pattern changes. One flooring company has designed inset circle tiles that have arrows integrated into them so directing people is no longer a paper sign stuck to a wall. Another method is by changing flooring patterns and colors between traffic areas and work areas or creating six foot diameter circle zones in the flooring design. Ceiling designs can reinforce this by changing ceiling colors, tiles, or materials. Lighting changes can also be incorporated to direct staff and guests in certain directions or maintain distance. Custom vinyl printed graphics can also create solutions to signage and separation.

Another challenge has been at workstations. Open offices were the norm up until this year and most businesses did not plan funds to suddenly create walls for offices or buy expensive cubicle walls. There are alternative methods to this challenge though. Manufacturers that create acrylic, metals, and even acoustic panel systems have created stylish free standing panel systems that can separate workstation desks from one another or from traffic areas. There are also panel systems that can attach directly to desks with clamps providing separation without taking up space.

Two items have come into play during this pandemic; cleanability and automation that removes the need for touching. First cleanability. Surfaces that never needed a disinfectant are now being repeatedly wiped or sprayed down with chemicals that kill the virus, but can volatile to the surface of the material. The most common situation is fabrics. While laminate, metals, glass, and acrylics can hold up to certain amounts of chemical cleanings fabrics that aren't the right type cannot. Fret not! There are solutions. For many years now contract grade textile companies have been producing fabrics made for the healthcare industry, which is known for needing not just durable fabrics, but cleanable fabrics. Cryptons, silicone and vinyl fabrics, Nanotex & Durablock are all technologies that not only allow for fabric cleaning, but also have moisture barrier backings so spills and liquids will not penetrate into the cushion below. These textiles are a great addition to any office, restaurant, retail, hospital, senior living, hotel, or even residential setting.

Automation is another avenue of infection control. While there are already automated faucets, paper towel dispensers, and soap dispensers, new electrical may need to be run or someone to change batteries every once in a while. But what other areas can automation assist in preventing the spread of germs? Another option, while expensive, is automated doors. Lighting can be outfitted with motion sensors to automatically turn on avoiding the never cleaned wall switch. Window blinds can be automated with rechargeable batteries and integrated into Google home or Amazon Echo technology to be voice activated. With these automated devices routines can be set up to automatically turn on or off lights, music, electronics or appliances, and even lock and unlock doors.

Restaurants and retail spaces have been the hardest hit by this pandemic, but there are solutions to issues presented by COVID-19. The goal of a restaurant is to get as many people into as many seats as possible. The pandemic changed all that and now restaurants are trying to figure out how to reopen safely. While tables and chairs were once the norm in restaurants, it might be time to go back to the booth scenario. These once common intimate seating options began to look 'dated' and took up more space than a table and chairs. Today you can buy booths rather than have them custom made and if you add a metal, wood, or acrylic panel between the booths you have a safe way to serve customers.

Another issue is the acrylic panel between customer and cashier or server. Picture frame companies are solving this issue quickly by providing attractive framed panels with cutouts allowing for safe transactions. So no more 2x4's, duct tape, and flat acrylic panels please!

This is only the beginning. Necessity is the mother of invention and companies seeking to get your well earned dollars are going to create solutions to these new trying times. Dispensers, automation, cleanable durable surfaces, and other products will continue to improve and innovate providing everyone with options to stay safe and healthy. Hiring an Interior Designer who has the resources to provide these materials and can help with space planning, traffic patterns, and other challenges is the best way to ensure everyone is not only safe, but feels comfortable rather than like a contagion in quarantined bubbles.

If you need help with your space please call or email us to make an appointment. We can do online call services Via Zoom or Skype as well.


Phone: (540) 314-8689

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