COVID-19 Is Requiring Changes to Buildings for Occupant Health

In the May-June issue, I struggled with the words for this column in light of the tragedies surrounding COVID-19. Here we are exactly two months later and the situation in our nation has only gotten worse: no end in sight to COVID-19 and now there also is social unrest from coast to coast. I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve had many sleepless nights and days in which I just plain was not doing well.

I’ve had to turn inward as a matter of self-preservation and focus on small victories. Here are two I consider at the very top of my list: My daughter Clare has been potty-trained and she moved into a big-girl bed—all before the age of two-and-a-half!

Those of you who are parents know what a feat this two-fer is, and I’m actually grateful for the pandemic lockdown so I had the dedicated time with Clare to potty-train her in just four days. I believe that had our lives been “normal” (regular work schedule with babysitters), it would’ve taken much longer. It took eight days for Clare to put herself to sleep in her big bed and sleep through the night (and she’s still taking daily two-hour naps, woohoo!). I’m delighted we are back to her regular sleep routine, but this achievement doesn’t mean Clare doesn’t wonder about the way things were.

Last night, while I was reading her bedtime stories, Clare asked, “Where is me crib?” (Despite being a grammar geek, I love that Clare’s pronouns are an adorable mess!) I explained that we took her crib apart because she’s growing and needs a bigger bed to grow with—and more room for her 50 stuffed animals to sleep with her. She seemed satisfied with that answer.

Clare is learning new ways of living her life and, yes, she’s wistful for the past but she has her parents to keep encouraging her forward on this journey. Meanwhile, I am also missing a past where my husband and I could gather with friends, relatives, even complete strangers without masks and without COVID-19 in the back of our minds. We may never return to those completely carefree days but I’ve taken quite a bit of comfort from the words of Kevin Heinly, principal managing director of Gensler’s San Diego office. While speaking with retrofit’s writer Allan Barry for this issue’s “Trend Alert”, Heinly recalls that after 9/11 some early security measures disappeared and others we simply became accustomed to. Building changes based on the current pandemic likely will be similar. Read the article to learn more about how building design is evolving in a COVID-19 world.

In fact, there already are changes taking place in our buildings that aren’t noticeable to occupants at all. For example, HVAC systems will need to do more to filter the air for aerosols, including coronavirus. Wade H. Conlan, P.E., CxA, BCxP, LEED AP, a member of ASHRAE’s Epidemic Task Force and the leader of the task force’s Building Readiness Team, outlines HVAC’s role in minimizing the spread of aerosols in “Component”.

I for one appreciate the visible changes in buildings so I feel safer from the virus, but I am also grateful to be a part of the design and construction community so I know there’s much going on behind the scenes (like with HVAC) in the battle against COVID-19 and future epidemics/pandemics. Similar to Clare, we’re all going to have to get used to new ways of living our lives. At least as adults we already know the only constant in life is change.

About the Author

Christina A. Koch
Christina A. Koch is editorial director and associate publisher of retrofit.

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