Top Architect Shares

Top Architect Shares What Post-pandemic Offices Could Look Like

GLOBAL – A leading architect based in Montreal, Canada believes that designs of office space over the next few years would be different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but not to a large extent, reported the Woodworking Network on Tuesday (29 December).

“In speaking with many of our clients, it’s apparent that many of them are confident that they will return to the vibrancy of their pre-COVID day-to-day operations,” said Joan Renaud, a partner and key member of the multi-awarded ACDF Architecture.

“We are social creatures, driven by a collective energy when working with other people that pushes us to another level. That being said, our clients are also very aware of the current environment. So, whether it be in response to this current pandemic, or preparing for the next pandemic, this new reality must form part of the conversation about every new layout that we approach.”

Notably, ACDF Architecture has bagged 30 accolades, including the prestigious Governor General’s Medals in Architecture that was conferred by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) in 2010.

Renaud said there are ways to add flexibility into office design without making the health crisis as the sole focus of a development. He shared a situation wherein their company just finished the phase I design of an office for a firm known as FlightHub.

While the design was completed before safe distancing rules were imposed, some design elements, in retrospect, already tackle post-COVID issues.

For instance, the overall design of the office enables occupants to reach any destination from 2 directions, enabling firms to set up ‘one-way streets’ to reduce interactions along the corridors. Moreover, each zone comes with 2 doors that can be exclusively used as an exit or entry way.

“Each zone also has its own kitchen and conference room. Finally, we infused some modulation into sections of the common areas by adding curtains, which enables partitioning of wide-open spaces when necessary,” he noted.

Asked on the COVID-19 office trends that are likely to persist, Renaud revealed that their clients are requesting for office design elements that promote 3 primary behaviours – hand washing, socially distancing, and sneezing into our arms.

“In terms of design elements that address and assist those behaviours, we are likely to see things like more automatic doors, and perhaps elevators with foot panels instead of using our hands.”

Installing sanitizing stations next to the reception area could also become a new norm, he said, adding that ACDF Architecture is also considering UV lighting, air filtration systems, and many other health & safety systems. But in the end, it’s vital to recognise that an “office is not a hospital.”

Queried on how ACDF Architecture creates more flexible offices, Renaud cited that example of the design work they have done for point-of-sale software provider, Lightspeed.

“We have already completed three phases, but we are entering the fourth phase to design a full floor of approximately 25,000 sq ft.” Due to the health crisis, the customer wanted to make it possible for them to transform their office into efficient, socially distanced workspaces in the blink of an eye.

“Some of the flexible design features that we are looking at revolve around creating environments where pieces can be reconfigured, added, or removed without the need for storage space. In that regard, ceiling grids are an interesting possibility, with movable, unencumbered power sources, cables, and lighting systems. Retractable partitioning is also a possibility,” he added.

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