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Exploring trends with Architects in a post COVID world

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As clichéd as it may sound, a ‘new normal’ is upon us. And it is here to stay. COVID-19 has certainly forced us to hit the pause button and relook at our life and lifestyle. It has forced us to look at safety from a perspective that we may have never done before in the past. While the world hopes that social distancing may be a temporary blip, it is perhaps better to be prepared for a world where such viruses may become a reality.

So what does that really mean As humans, we are extremely social beings. Social distancing does not come naturally to us. We tend to gravitate towards fellow human beings for intellectual and social exchanges. If isolation cannot be the norm, how do we then prepare for a future where it might become a necessity.

From an architectural perspective it means relooking at space utilization. Creating homes and workplaces with more open spaces, better light and ventilation. Almost every space that we thus far took for granted, will need to be revisited from a design perspective. Hotels, hospitals, stadiums, malls and apartment complexes… are some of the spaces where people congregate. Perhaps vast open offices will be replaced by cosy nooks and open congregation areas Architects and designers are also looking to rely on technology. Touch-less technology has arrived and is here to stay! From automatic doors, app activated elevators, mobile phone controlled hotel room locks, and censor activated light switches, it is rapidly evolving and may soon be implemented across the globe.

The team at Surge spoke to leading architects from across India to obtain their views and what they believe will change. Here are some excerpts from what they shared.

Ms Ponni Concessao

Ms. Ponni Concessao
Oscar & Ponni Architects, Chennai

"Reimagining our workspaces and the way we work"

Coronavirus has taught us to split teams, work in shifts or work from home. Office layouts, too, have changed. Architects gear up to implement design ideas that may actually make for more efficient use of space. The idea of “less is more” comes into full force as office design takes a 180-degree turn. Don’t sit too close to one another, work in shifts and opt for virtual meetings. This is the advice in a recent video by the World Health Organization for offices. AsCOVID-19makes us imagine our lives differently, it brings us to a fundamental question about how we work and what spaces we occupy.

No-Touch Policy

Designers will increasingly call on antibacterial fabrics and finishes, including those that already exist, like copper, and those that will inevitably be developed. In designs we need to seek out materials that are easy to maintain, resist mould growth and promote good indoor air quality. No VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) on paint, paying close attention to moisture and flooring, and specifying better filters and HVAC equipment. Proper maintenance and commissioning is also important, as the management of ventilation, filtration and humidity in a building can either make people sick or keep them well. We need to have hard materials that are resistant to viruses or bacteria living on surfaces, design strategies can change exponentially for future works.

J P Agarwal

Architect J. P. Agarwal
Agarwal & Agarwal Associates, Kolkata

“Redefining space within elevators”

During the lockdown, we started making best use of technology to keep our office work going. We explored various technologies to facilitate work from home. To make best use of this experiment, our future homes have to be planned to address this better. We realize the need to plan a proper room or corner to accommodate a desk for serious long focused working. This will add a new dimension to our planning from now. 

A new dimension

In vertical development, elevators play a key role. Without the convenience of elevators, vertical development is not possible at all. Till date, we thought of lift size in terms of capacity of passengers. We didn’t think about providing more space for each passenger to maintain distance. In addition to COVID-19, it is likely that every day we encounter many contagious diseases. However, until now we had not considered providing more elevator cabin space for safe distancing. This pandemic has made us aware of such need.
Dr Alkesh Gupta

Dr. Alkesh Gupta
Living Arch, Delhi

"A shift to suburban living"

People will move from metros to suburbs because work from home may become the norm. We may also see professionals back from foreign countries to India. This will increase demand for residential units with larger spaces and better amenities in the suburbs. As the cost of land is lower in these areas, this might be achievable.

The future of co-working spaces is at risk. There may be a big dip in their demand or they may move towards the `private cabin area concept’ as it will provide better social distancing. 

Need of the hour

Big elevator space is the need of the hour. Safety demands that people maintain social distance within elevator cabins. Consequently, our clients are now asking for more lifts with bigger cabin sizes. So buildings with smaller lifts are going to be obsolete.  

There will be a big swing as far as material of interiors is concerned. Clients will demand material which is easy to clean and disinfectant. Antibacterial material will be in demand. Things which are not spoiled by sanitization will be the need of the hour.  

Air-conditioning will also shift towards better filtration and high ventilation.  

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