The global pandemic has progressively intensified in the last few months, by presenting itself as a primary threat to the economic status, social lifestyles and living standards. The pandemic can be taken into account based on two main principles that have reflected its consequences; the medium of transmission and the lifespan of the virus. The virus is transmitted through air droplets from an infected person to those within a meter radius and its lifespan, which varies depending on the surface (WHO 2020). Interaction in communities have been greatly affected due to COVID-19, resulting in different industries desperately finding ways to adapt to these drastic changes.
COVID-19 has impacted the construction and architectural industries in the following ways; material supply, construction project durations, labour impacts, economic uncertainty and working conditions. According to Atkins (2020), the U.S acquire about thirty percent of their materials from China, with international logistics and companies being dependent at a rate of eighty percent- however due to the outbreak, the supply of these materials have been limited. Furthermore, prices are increasing due to these limitations and the inability to procure materials will inevitably delay the overall rate of progress on many construction projects. Beyond material supply limitations, operating persons at the site have been limited too. The need to reduce overcrowding and further discourage the spread of the virus unfortunately results in the slowing down of the construction process. The economic uncertainty has reflected in the decline of stock markets which has resulted in the market activity rendering projects cancelled or postponed on a long term basis.
On the other hand, there are other implications that have had positive adjustments. In regards to working conditions, architectural firms have fortunately managed to adapt to the pandemic by taking advantage of modern day technology. This allows individuals to continue their design process safely at home and communicate with team members virtually through web interactions. Another adaptive strategy being used are team synchronised softwares that allow drafting and editing amongst team members in the same design projects. Construction industries are also favoured as essential work and therefore despite delays, projects still continue as opposed to most industries that Governments have had to cease completely.
Through architectural strategies, buildings can manifest into medicinal instruments that help prevent the rate of outbreak and improve living conditions. An example includes the Paimio Sanatorium that was designed by Alvar Aalto, which exists as a geometric structure with panoramic views, wide roof terrace and brightly coloured rooms. It was designed as a potential solution to the major health concern at the time; Tuberculosis. The wide windows allowed for sunlight to enter the building which helped in killing the bacteria and ergo, the architecture itself acted as a cure.
Architecture and the construction industry can continue to act as a supplementary measure in reducing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This can be done through means of well-ventilated rooms, sequenced movement, decreasing high pressure in high activity zones, encourage outdoor activities, easily cleaned surfaces and choice of building materials. Well ventilated rooms will decrease the concentration of infectious aerosol in the air since the virus is airborne. According to research by WHO (2020), the virus can exist in the air for three hours. Therefore, carefully strategizing movement within designs can help encourage social distancing which further decreases the rate of transmission. Decreasing high pressure in indoor spaces with high activities can be done through increasing the threshold and volume within spaces. This can be calculated by benchmarking the a radius of a minimum of two meters per individual, that can therefore calculate the needed area of a zone by the number of people expected to be in the room. The lifespan of the virus in different materials will affect the choices of materials for construction. The virus can last up to seventy-two hours on surfaces such as plastics, glass, steel and counter tops. However, the virus seems to exist the shortest time on copper at only four hours. Therefore encouraging more copper materials into designs such as corten steel (copper alloy) and easily cleanable surfaces such as glass can help maintain some control of the virus transmissions.
In conclusion, these architectural strategies may not allow buildings to act as a direct cure to the pandemic as the Sanatorium did for tuberculosis, but they do aid control and improve standards of living. The architecture can act as a tool reducing the rate of transmissions, which can in turn mitigate the severity of COVID-19’s impact on public health.
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Written by: Priyanka Choudhary