COVID19 has impacted our lives and jobs in so many ways and as we consider the months ahead, and in to 2022, its impact looks likely to continue for some time, with long-lasting changes to building design.
As far as construction of healthcare buildings is concerned, we at GEZE expect to see several trends likely to be implemented during this year alone, specifically to help prevent or reduce infection rates. These include increasing automation technology, reconfiguring waiting areas, improving ventilation and installing flexible partition solutions to “section off” areas or improve comfort.
“Clients and architects across the sector are already considering these design changes in new construction as well as refurbishment to existing hospitals care homes and clinics,” comments Andy Howland, Sales & Marketing Director for GEZE UK. “From even before the pandemic hit, our experienced GEZE teams around the world have been busy helping medical facilities implement practical solutions to cope with higher patient volumes and elevated infection control measures. Going forward we anticipate a continued rise of healthcare construction projects focused on these challenges.”
Touchless Entry and Enhanced Security
To reduce the number of surfaces touched by hand, hospitals and other healthcare facilities are looking even more at automation in 2021. Healthcare facilities are already well equipped with automated doors, often in entrances and corridor areas, to allow barrier-free movement. In addition to improving infection control, automatic doors continue to allow healthcare facilities to better manage where visitors are permitted to go. If a section of the building must have restricted access, healthcare personnel can automatically lock entry-exit doors rather than having to do so manually and can monitor the status of these doors at all times. A feeling of safety is critical to a feeling of wellbeing in any facility but especially healthcare buildings, when we feel at our most vulnerable.1
Socially Distanced Waiting Rooms
As recently reviewed by the IHF (International Hospital Foundation), space management in facilities has become a critical consideration.2 Healthcare facilities will look to their supply chain when configuring waiting room areas that allow patients and visitors to wait comfortably with adequate social distancing space. Surfaces in and around these areas will be designed for easy cleaning and sanitisation, with touch-free movement for occupants in these spaces or clever use of movable glazed partitions to separate waiting spaces at busier times.
Socially Distanced Hallways and Larger Rooms
Healthcare facilities handle a wide range of patient health issues, including a broad range of contagious conditions. Facility owners have had to reconsider the design of wider hallways and larger rooms to keep people from passing too close to each other, plus the reduction of the number of people in each room. Where modification to existing buildings is not possible, due to budget or layout, many may turn more to modular construction, adding these as additional and flexible facilities to existing buildings without compromising on the quality or comfort of these spaces or the technology within them.
Updated Ventilation for Better Infection Control
Airborne diseases can circulate through a building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Recent BBC research has drawn further attention to the fact that these can in fact be carriers themselves to a range of bacteria.3 Facility managers are looking at other solutions to help maintain optimum air pressure, whilst allowing air from outside the room to infiltrate, keeping potentially harmful particles from entering or leaving the controlled space. Whilst healthcare and commercial buildings would always be required to meet minimum air quality requirements, it looks likely that further consideration will be given to these parameters to reflect this higher need for ventilation. This would make it easier to convert commercial spaces into healthcare facilities at short notice, as we have seen with facilities such as the Nightingale Hospitals, where GEZE provided essential equipment. The BBC also agreed with this need in further studies.4
Whatever the challenges facing healthcare construction, there is little doubt that there are several solutions ready and available to help rejuvenate buildings to this new normal.
Healthcare professionals continue to concentrate on the safety and recovery of their patients and equally so, GEZE prepared to help manage the safety and redesign of their properties, this year and beyond.
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