Healthy Design in a Post-Pandemic World
The COVID-19 pandemic forced a lot of changes. Among the most discussed in the design-world is how employers can make sure their employees are returning to safe workplace environments. Lots of “new” strategies are being touted, but the truth is, the healthcare industry has been at the forefront of implementing disease prevention design for years.
Healthcare designers have successfully devised solutions to help with four important materials challenges: cleanability, durability, antimicrobial/natural qualities, and longevity. As a result, we can base our approach to healthy office design on lessons learned from these efforts.
A major component of selecting finishes is to verify the many claims manufacturers make about their products. The ultimate goal is to avoid surfaces that bacteria can easily grow on and to encourage activities that reduce the likelihood of transmission. Instead of trying to eradicate all bio-base drisks (a monumental task), the approach should be to set up a level of sanitation that can be consistently maintained.
At Ebbrell Architecture + Design, our experienced architects and designers have worked with clients representing a wide range of industries, including healthcare and labs, as well as fitness and childcare. We’ve come to rely on certain products typical of the healthcare industry as our go-to selections for workplace design clients. We list a few below, along with the qualities that make them ideal as healthy design options:
1) Marmoleum flooring
When working with Regal Fabrics on the finish selections for their project, one of their needs was to have flooring that inherently and naturally prevents bacterial growth without the addition of potentially harmful chemicals. It also had to be easy to maintain. We selected a linoleum product from Forbo. They have a range of options to choose from and we were able to meet the needs of the client by specifying Marmoleum, which is made from natural raw materials including linseed oil and wood flour. Even without a top sealcoat, the sheet has a good reputation for being extremely easy to clean.
2) Health Zone acoustic ceiling tiles
When Ebbrell was called in to rework a lobby for Cirtronics Corporation, the restrooms needed a complete overhaul. We specified Armstrong’s Health Zone Optima ceiling tiles, a warranty-backed mold-, mildew-, and bacteria-resistant smooth surface that is easily cleaned and able to be disinfected. Because the product is soil-resistant and water-repellent, it’s designed to last longer than a typical ceiling tile, which is extremely helpful when used in a “damp” location such as a restroom.
3) Silica and Silvertex Fabrics
For the banquet seating in the break area at a corporate office fit-out, our client was looking for easily cleanable and durable fabric that would fit the modern aesthetic of the project. We incorporated Silica and Silvertex fabrics, each of which has qualities including stain and mildew/mold resistance, and is anti-microbial, formaldehyde free, and bleach cleanable.
There are a number of certifications and partnerships for which qualifying products can be registered, such as the Healthier Hospital initiative(https://practicegreenhealth.org/healthierhospitals). They use evidence-based design and research data on environmental sustainability and community health to outline a prioritized way to move from effective strategies implemented by individual facilities to a comprehensive system and sector-wide adoption of sustainable practices and cost reduction.
In these next few years, the role of facilities managers and the decisions regarding design and maintenance will be important factors for disease prevention in the workplace. Our job as designers is to help guide them on effective ways to maintain healthy environments.