The current pandemic will change construction requirements for future schools. Current schools will require extensive work to become pandemic-safe.
Just about everyone on Earth has been affected by COVID-19 in some way. Going by several names, from novel coronavirus, to SARS-CoV-2, this pandemic has brought much of the world to a screeching halt. Originating in Wuhan city, in Hubei Province in China, the disease has been the defining feature of the year 2020. It is a highly-infections virus that causes acute respiratory syndrome. It is spread from contact with water droplets from an infected person. These droplets can come from fluids on the body, or be airborne. Most people suffering from this disease experience no more than a dry cough, fever, and sore throat. Serious cases cause the lungs to fill with mucus and can be deadly. As of the time of writing, their have been more than 26 million confirmed cases and 867 thousand deaths.
As of April 2020, half the world’s population was on lockdown to prevent the spread of this new disease. The best way to avoid infection is to keep away from others, an effort known as social, or physical distancing. As no vaccine or cure is going to be viable for months or a year, lockdown seems to be the new normal for much of the world. One or two countries have successfully stopped coronavirus in it’s tracks with quick and effective lockdown techniques and natural borders.
Lockdown can not last forever though. People need to get back to work, businesses need to run, and people will need to get out again. Some businesses, like many restaurants, bars, and movie theaters may be done for good.
No doubt different types of buildings and businesses are already popping up. Having people congregate in large groups is not an option for the time being. Many buildings are opting for more isolated rooms, technology to better enable video conferencing, and better access to hygienic supplies.
One are that is certain to be different is education. Education traditionally involves large groups of students learning from a teacher. These groups can be anywhere from 1-on-1 classes, to classrooms with dozens of people, or even lecture halls with hundreds. This is currently not an option. As a society we need to adapt.
How exactly will educational facilities change? What will new educational buildings look like?
How Will Existing Schools Adapt?
Automation will be key. As the virus is spread by transmitting water droplets by touch especially, you can expect many more touch-free switches, devices, and more. Expect an influx of the following things to be motion-activated, voice-activated, or touchless.
- Light switches
- Temperature controls
- Bathroom faucets
- Dispensers for face masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer
- Electronics like TVs and projectors
In order to decrease crowding and increase cleanliness, robotic floor cleaners may be used. These robots can clean the school when it is empty at night and then recharge during the day. Schools will need to have special recharging stations installed in isolated places to accommodate the robo-cleaners.
Anti-microbial building materials
A key part of schools are their communal spaces. Computer labs, cafeterias, classrooms, gyms, auditoriums…almost everything in a school is designed to be used by more than one person. You can expect to start seeing things like desks, keyboards, and cubicles made with antimicrobial, easy-to-clean substances.
Additionally, schools may be renovated so that the interiors of the buildings themselves are made of similarly safe material. Curtains, rugs, windows, building walls, cubicle walls, and finishes will be made from easy-to-clean, antimicrobial materials.
Improved ventilation and air filtration
As COVID-19 is often spread via infected water droplets in the air, keeping air clean and circulating is of utmost importance. Expect many schools to ramp up their HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems to help protect their students. Many places are already using types of “air scrubbers.” These devices use powerful fans to suck air in and push it through filters within the device, which remove water droplets. While inside the device, the air is also exposed to intense UV light which kills biological organisms living in the air. Not only will schools need to find ways to clean the air circulated within, they will need to improve the circulation by upgrading their existing ventilation systems.
Partitions and creative use of space
Gone are the days of working in groups and big open classrooms. Schools will need to either make use of their space to keep students separate, or create partitions between students within classrooms. These materials will have to be easy-to-clean and have properties that prevent viruses from living on them.
Video chat clients like Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Team, and more have become the stars of present-day work. We can expect future lockdowns to prevent students from attending school en masse. In this case, teachers may still go to school to use the resources and host large video conferences with their students. Schools may need high-quality equipment like servers, server rooms, and fiber optic internet to support such endeavors.
How will future schools be built to handle future pandemics?
Schools have shown their resilience through this historic period, and we are watching them adapt to the new normal in real time.
Besides the changes that we already mentioned that can be built into existing schools, we can expect even more adaptability from future buildings.
Large rooms in high schools like gyms will be able to be converted into emergency shelters. We can also expect even more innovative and creative solutions to social distancing while learning.
Looking to make some changes to your business?
If it’s hard to social distance at your business, Reliable Commercial is happy to help. We are a highly-trained, organized, and experienced commercial contractor company. We stringently follow safety protocols for construction and health. Looking for a construction contractor with an eye toward the future, and a nose for safety? We’ve got you covered. We keep up with the current health info, and will help you get on top of it too. If you think your business could use some changes to aid in social distancing, video conferencing, or anything else, send us a message.