Building Health Series (Part 2 of 6): Layout & Planning
Have you ever thought about the impacts of a building's physical layout on your own health? I doubt many have! Everything from door swings to layout can have a profound impact on our potential exposure within a building. Here are some thoughts on what we can do to help mitigate those impacts in various scenarios, however, it's understood any improvements need to be balanced with practicality, building codes, premium of space, and economy. You'll find many of these strategies are also universal and can be implemented in a host of other applications.
Lobbies & Entrances -
Make the entrance clear and apparent from the exterior to prevent visitors from roaming to other doors and trying to open them.
Limit the necessity for touching doors and hardware by using automatic doors, openers, or operators and minimize the need to turn a knob or handle where possible.
Utilize access control door hardware to limit who can access the building or areas inside of a building.
Have separate public and staff entrances.
Many lobbies have hospitality stations with coffee and refreshments - consider creative ways to add a sanitization station nearby or near each entrance for convenience.
When planning lobby space, provide ample room for adequate distance between people and provide a layout that minimizes intermingling of high-traffic paths with static areas, such as seating.
Create clearly defined and direct circulation paths that aren't interrupted by other areas or spaces.
Have clearly defined "crowd control" paths for queuing at waiting and check-in lines utilizing barrier stanchion posts or even using tape as guides on the floor.
Reduce the use of pulls, knobs, and levers on doors in main circulation areas and when exiting a building to minimize physical contact points.
Utilize lighting on occupancy sensors to reduce the need for manual switches that require physically touching.
Restrooms & Common Spaces -
Have entry/exit doors swing out to minimize the need to grab a handle when exiting after one has just washed their hands.
Consider not having doors on restrooms if proper visual screening and acoustic isolation can be accomplished (this strategy has a limited number of situations it would apply to!).
Install equipment and fixtures that minimize direct contact such as toilets, urinals, faucets, soap dispensers, paper towel dispensers, and electric hand dryers with automatic sensors and use waste receptacles with foot-operated lids or without lids.
Utilize fixtures, surfaces, and equipment that are low maintenance, durable, and easy to clean.
Teller & Checkout Lines -
Install transaction windows or shields at points of direct client interaction to ensure there is adequate separation between the teller or checker and the customer.
When planning queuing space, provide ample room for adequate distance between people - ensure circulation paths for other portions of the space do not disrupt the queuing space.
Minimize equipment, surfaces, fissures, open joints, and crevices at customer interface.
Utilize point of sale systems that minimize the need for the customer to touch any portion of the equipment.
When planning waiting space, provide ample room for adequate distance between people - keep this area separate from the entrance/exit as much as possible.
Provide as clear and direct circulation as possible to seating, restrooms, condiment and drink areas, and entrances/exits.
Utilize booth seating in lieu of open areas with loose tables and chairs.
Use high-back booth seating as much as possible to minimize direct paths from adjoining booths - top portion can be an opaque, semi-transparent, or transparent material to maintain light and visibility.
Utilize area screens where needed to separate bar or other areas - the screen can be an opaque, semi-transparent, or transparent material to maintain light, visibility, and perceived openness.
Event & Assembly Spaces -
Provide adequate total space to accommodate the number of seats desired both in the event/assembly space and the lobby.
Have a clearly defined entry with queuing and crowd control measures into the event space.
Have clearly defined circulation paths through spaces.
Where possible, utilize one set of doors for entry into the space and a different set of doors for exit from the space.
A lot of the aforementioned strategies are fairly universal across building uses and occupancy while some relate to a narrow group, but all represent a good-faith, proactive effort to improve upon building health as we plan the layout of our buildings and spaces.
Ryan is a Vice President at Ackerman-Estvold and the architecture team lead and has been applying his trade in the region around Minot for the past 17 years. If you have any questions throughout this series or would like more information on a particular topic, by all means contact us and we'd be more than happy to have a conversation.