The world is beginning to adjust to a new COVID-19 “normal,” with plexiglass shields, face masks, and conscious distancing. Spaces for public gathering are undergoing the most significant changes, especially healthcare facilities. There are many more layers to the interior design and architecture of these spaces to consider.
Initial responses, such as spacing out seating in a waiting room or providing temporary sneeze guards, have been implemented to help existing facilities better handle and prevent contamination during the initial wave of the pandemic. Looking forward in healthcare design, the burning question is: How will this pandemic affect future projects and renovations? To begin, we need to explore the limitations of existing facilities to handle this pandemic.
1. A significant challenge is understanding what works and what doesn’t with the layout/planning of existing healthcare facilities. By understanding our existing healthcare facilities, we will be able to have a better grasp on the impact that will be made in future facilities and renovations. Some key take-aways we are already seeing in a response to the pandemic are: being aware of number of people in a shared space, changing how many times a space is cleaned/what is being used to clean them, or re-imagining typical waiting rooms by changing typical patient check in procedures and how long they are in the waiting room/lobby.
2. Another big take away from this experience is understanding the finishes that interior designers and architects are using in healthcare environments. Textiles for furniture, flooring types, wall coverings and other finish manufacturers are starting to look closer at a new level of cleanability and resilience for their products. Whether it is removing all carpeting in a healthcare environment or being more aware of antibacterial or bacteriostatic finishes/compositions, finish selections and placement will be a huge part of the COVID pandemic response. All this needs to be accomplished without losing the balance of cleanliness and warmth in a healthcare facility.
3. The third takeaway is providing more than the minimum required number of isolation rooms in a hospital. Providing air quality, PPE needs, specialized room finishes and other isolation room requirements will give hospitals the ability to handle an influx of patients in an emergency such as COVID a lot more easily. When not in use for an isolation patient, these rooms can be used as everyday patient rooms.
There will be many more changes and new procedures implemented in the coming years to better prepare hospitals and healthcare facilities to protect patients and their staff during a pandemic like COVID-19. Acknowledging current limitations and envisioning their solutions will catapult positive changes in the near future, and Design Collaborative is prepared to step up to the plate moving forward.