We all wish COVID restrictions were over but no-one knows when that will be. In the meantime, many businesses are expanding into new sites and planning for the future. So how do you design commercial spaces that accommodate current COVID safety protocols, yet adapt to a COVID-free world?

According to Eric Sin, Service Lead Managing Director of Northcroft Australia, the ability to plan for the future while designing for now, is something their team has always done.

“We focus on long-term, medium-term and present needs when working with clients. In the era of COVID-19, it means we explore how the current safety regulations affect our clients’ building design. We also analyse how current design requirements can be adapted to accommodate a COVID-19 free world.”

To help you, Northcroft Australia shares their 8 key design tips for commercial premises in the  COVID-19 era.

Tip 1:  Entrance configuration

With social distancing requirements, commercial office buildings may now need to accommodate people queuing for access to lifts. While retailers need to monitor in-store shopper numbers with the knowledge that queuing customers outside will significantly impact store turnover in inclement weather or hot, humid conditions.

As a result, the size and configuration of a commercial building’s entrance may need to be significantly increased along with options on how to transform the space once the pandemic is over.


Tip 2:  AI Implementations

Building owners and property managers are turning to AI to ensure their buildings are COVID safe.

AI-enabled cameras are increasingly being used at building entry points to monitor the number of people entering and leaving the building. They are also using AI-enabled cameras to perform thermo scanning and screening for public health safety.

In addition, AI Monitors are being used to alert cleaning teams so the frequency of cleaning and sanitising in high traffic areas can be adjusted, according to use.


Tip 3:  Tricks to increase lift capacity

With lift numbers limited due to social distancing requirements, building managers are installing removable screens inside lift cars to increase capacity while maintaining a COVID safe environment.


Tip 4:  The boom in online transactions

The number of Click ‘n’ Collect transactions have exploded during COVID-19 as have home delivery services. As a result, waiting rooms and designated collection points are becoming the new norm for a wide range of businesses – including restaurants, hardware, pharmaceuticals and general retailers.

This consumer behaviour trend is here to stay so Click ‘n’ Collect collection points and waiting areas for delivery service personnel are now long-term design requirements for many commercial premises.


Tip 5:  No touch access

The need to frequently clean and sanitise high-use touch points (such as door handles, lift buttons and taps) have become a significant expense for businesses. When refurbishing or designing new buildings, touch-free technology is proving to be cost-effective over the long term life of the design. This technology is also becoming extremely attractive for high-value tenants.


Tip 6:  Temporary measures have become permanent!

Sneeze barriers, hand sanitiser stations and other protective measures were initially seen as a temporary measure. As a result, many of us have experienced the barrier that made it impossible to hear what was being said on the other side or the clunky, wobbling hand sanitiser station that’s become an entrance trip hazard.

These safety measures are likely to be required for many years as we wait for a vaccination to be developed and dispersed in large numbers. When designing a new building or commercial refurbishment, greater attention needs to be made on the aesthetics, functionality and ultimate removal of these safety measures.


Tip 7:  The new dilemma for office layouts

COVID-19 has certainly introduce more complexity into office design. Pre-COVID, team-work, collaboration and flexibility were the driving force behind office design. While they are still important for many teams, there is now the additional requirement to provide social distancing and greater physical separation in workplaces. Juggling these incompatible requirements is the new norm in office design.

Then there is the issue of meeting rooms. Do you still provide them even though they cannot accommodate the same number of people? Or do you use the space differently and incorporate virtual meeting technology into individual workstations? These are new design questions which need to be addresses.


Tip 8:  Interiors and building infrastructure

Our understanding of COVID-19 is still in its infancy but already we know the virus lives on some surfaces for an extended period of time. We are also learning that temperature and humidity affect how long the virus particles remain contagious. This burgeoning knowledge should influence the choice of materials used inside commercial buildings as well as the infrastructure for ventilation and air conditioning.

Already, many building owners are considering the use of HEPA filters with their HVAC systems.


Designing for now and planning for what’s next

As a leading international quantity surveying consultancy, Northcroft Australia specialises in assisting clients with feasibility studies, planning for the future, delivering designs and project managing construction. In particular, Northcroft specialises in assisting architects and multi-site franchises identify and reduce risk.

Are you considering a new commercial build or substantial refurbishment?  Get In touch.