Everyone I know, and likely everyone you know, is currently asking themselves, “What’s next?” As the new Market Director for Luckett & Farley’s Higher Education Design Studio, I’ve been thinking a lot about how COVID-19 has already changed campus life and how universities prepare for the future.
Many institutions aren’t ready to commit to where learning will take place this fall. Harvard is asking everyone to prepare for a fully-online semester even as they slowly reopen some research operations. The Kentucky Department of Education has publicly shared potential opening options for classes this fall. If colleges reopen their physical campuses this fall, it’s likely there will be a variety of additional measures in place to support social distancing.
As with all life’s challenges, we will adapt and overcome. We will eat in crowded dining halls and pile into student sections to cheer on our team again. But colleges have long been a petri dish for flus, stomach viruses, and the like. Let’s take the heightened awareness of the moment to make buildings safer for years to come. While my focus is on serving college campuses, many of these apply to any office, restaurant, factory, retail, library, or religious space where people gather.
- Eliminate as many touches as you can. Door handles, water fountains, faucets, light switches. Hands-free technology is constantly being introduced to decrease the use of shared surfaces.
- Evaluate your HVAC systems. HVAC systems determine how air flows throughout a building and how that air is filtered. A mechanical engineer can evaluate your system and how air is distributed through the building to make sure the air is as clean as possible.
- Integrate antimicrobial surfaces. Interior design finishes and fixtures made from antimicrobial materials or coated with antimicrobial coatings are a powerful new trend to layer protective features.
- Invest in flexible spaces. Already in the process of being incorporated prior to this pandemic, this growing trend is proving itself a necessity. Initially popularized accommodate a variety of teaching styles and activities, now these rooms are coveted for their adaptability to social distancing.
- Embrace distance education. As more and more classes are taught online, educators are going to require more technologically advanced classrooms or studio spaces to deliver the quality of education students (and their parents) will still value.
There is no single right answer. And no one knows what the practice of educating will look like three months from now. But it’s something worth monitoring. At Luckett & Farley, we are always seeking innovative solutions and practicing those in the field to find what works today and provides for a better tomorrow. Read more about our internal response to COVID-19.