2020, a year defined by the pandemic. No one was expecting a complete lockdown, COVID-19 came out of nowhere. Most people were obsessing over their next vacation, travel, and life was good. The COVID-19 Pandemic has placed a new blanket of caution on the world. Self isolation is the new normal. Healthcare professionals (and grocery store workers) are superheroes. We must all stay home for the sake of humanity.
Is this sustainable? What does this mean for the world of design? First of all, new makeshift healthcare facilities are needed, hotels are becoming shelters or places for more beds for the sick or healthcare workers. Airbnb has owners scrambling to rent properties monthly. Tourism is dead. The future of office design is debatable and home offices and backyards are seeing a lot more attention.
Here are a few things the design world can do to make things a little better:
Copper and Brass. Copper has been proven to kill bacteria on it's surface. According to multiple sources and this article by Mark Wilson, a writer from Fast Company "When influenzas, bacteria like E. coli, superbugs like MRSA, or even corona viruses land on most hard surfaces, they can live for up to four to five days. But when they land on copper, and copper alloys like brass, they begin to die within minutes and are undetectable within hours."
“We’ve seen viruses just blow apart,” says Bill Keevil, professor of environmental healthcare at the University of Southampton. “They land on copper and it just degrades them.”
No wonder that in India, people have been drinking out of copper cups for millennia. Even in the US and Canada, a copper line are accepted materials to bring in drinking water. Copper is a natural, passive, antimicrobial material. It can self-sterilize its surface without the need for electricity or bleach."
Copper has been pushed out of many building applications because of new materials like plastics, PVC, and stainless steel. It’s time to bring copper for anything from door lever handles, knobs, cabinets, kicks or counter tops.
“even when tarnished, brass—an alloy typically of 67% copper and 33% zinc—[kills bacteria], while stainless steel—about 88% iron and 12% chromium—does little to impede bacterial growth.” “If your hospital is being renovated, try to retain old brass hardware"
Pantone announced the colour of the year for 2020: CLASSIC BLUE Pantone 19-4052
Not quite Royal Blue this colour is softer and calming and can add some pops of colour in your space if used in the right way.
"The cobalt blue hue is also said to be associated with communication, introspection and clarity. Other benefits of the hue include aiding concentration and helping to re-centre thoughts, particularly in light of technology's accelerating developments." - Dezeen
"A boundless blue evocative of the vast and infinite evening sky, Pantone 19-4052 Classic Blue encourages us to look beyond the obvious to expand our thinking; challenging us to think more deeply, increase our perspective and open the flow of communication," said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of Pantone Color Institute.
A recent trip to Morocco had me inspired by so many things. Colours, patterns, materials, textiles. Some of my favourite photos...
Considerations when designing a space for a health, wellness and relaxation:
When designing a space for a wellness facility whether it is a spa, clinic, gym or gathering place the first thing that the user will notice is their comfort level. Is the lighting pleasing and relaxing, is the temperature comfortable, is there sufficient way-finding, does it smell nice, is there loud noises or comforting sounds. All these sensory experiences will have an impact on the user creating a pleasant or unpleasant experience. The entrance should be inviting and calming. Water features create a visual and audio sensory effect that evokes nature and induce relaxation. Indirect dim lighting along with natural materials will aid in creating a relaxing environment. Plants and natural materials like stone and wood will bring a connection with nature.
The use of materials is important to create a healthy space for healing, relaxation and wellness. First and foremost the materials and finishes must be non-toxic. No off gassing or toxic fumes. The materials should have natural properties, look and feel. Finishes can be rustic or sleek and modern but they should not interfere or compete with the users requirement for relaxation to promote healing. Sound is important so surfaces should be softened with rugs or fabric panels to reduce noise vibration. Natural stone looks excellent and creates a natural look and feel. Polished stone will create louder spaces. If the space is large, split faced stone can deflect sound within the space. Precious stones and crystals can add hidden meaning.
Lighting is so important to add emphasis in areas of importance and to create soothing and relaxing spaces where needed. Indirect lighting is an effective way to create a nice ambience while still illuminating the space as required for functionality. Accent lighting can be used to emphasize the materials and finishes. Signage should be well lit.
Lanterns can create soft lighting and play with shadows which can make a space feel more comfortable and intimate. Lighting can create a focal point and interest on an otherwise plain surface.
If the space is a gym or activity area, brighter colour or coloured lighting can energize the space. Colours can be effective and invoking emotion and therefore creating energy.
THE FLOOR PLAN & WAYFINDING
Confusion creates stress. The space should be easy navigate. Planning and signage are key to create simplicity for the user to experience the space. Whether small or large the plan can be centred upon a hub, for example a relaxation area, or it can be successional spaces. As long as the flow is consistent and is not confusing. There is nothing worse then getting lost in a twisting hallway with too many doors. The plan should be intuitive and thoughtful. Waiting and relaxation areas should be quiet and not adjacent to busy spaces. If possible a separation between staff areas and public areas creates more of a stress free atmosphere for guests.
Sofas containing flame retardant on foam are dangerous for our health. The chemicals have been found to cause health problems including cancer. Prior to synthetic foams, feathers, horsehair, wool or cotton batting, and straw was used to fill furniture cushions. Polyurethane foam was introduced as a cushion component in furniture in 1957. Flame retardants were introduced as a safety precaution but end up causing more harm than good. The following are fire retardant chemicals to avoid:
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs, are chemicals used as flame retardants in a many products, including building materials, electronics, furnishings, motor vehicles, airplanes, plastics, polyurethane foams, and textiles. 1 PBDEs resemble the molecular structure of PCBs, which have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems and impaired fetal brain development. PBDEs have been banned in some U.S. states and the European Union, but they persist in the environment and accumulate in your body – and often exist in products imported from other countries. Higher exposures to PBDEs have been linked to decreased fertility, hormone disruptions, fetal developmental issues, and cancer. In utero and childhood PBDE exposures were associated with neurodevelopmental delays, including decreased attention, fine motor coordination, and cognition.
Another dangerous flame-retardant chemical known as chlorinated tris (TDCPP) can be found in some couch cushions across the United States. The chemical can be transfered in dust form from the foam into household dust and inhaled or ingested. Vacuums and air filters with a HEPA-filter and/or a wet mop helps to reduce exposure to toxic dust. 2
Polyurethane foam products manufactured prior to 2005 are most likely to contain PBDEs. Avoid reupholstering furniture pieces you may suspect to contain PBDEs as the reupholstering process increases your risk of exposure
Firemaster 550 made with bis(2-ethylhexyl) tetrabromophthalate (TBPH). TBPH is nearly idential to DEHP, the phthalate banned in children’s products due to evidence of carcinogenicity and developmental toxicity.
How to Avoid It
Healthy Alternatives: 3
Tyical Upholstered Chair
One of the most beautiful, strong, and intricate features in Moroccan architecture are the traditional wood ceilings which are hand carved and hand painted. It is a main component of the decoration of private homes and sacred spaces in Morocco.
The hand painted designs used for the traditional ceilings is called Zouaq. The painting technique originated in Morocco and consists of detailed geometric and floral patterns in a multitude of colours. This traditional painting is composed of geometric and biomorphic motifs and is painted onto wood using natural pigments.
Zouaq painting can be found painted onto ceilings, doors, furniture and wooden objects.
Geometric Design and Floral Motifs are used in the design of the ceiling patterns. Based on Islamic beliefs, avoiding the use of human or animal images is preferable.
This is a new hand carved, hand painted traditional wood ceiling using traditional motifs on cedar wood
Here you can see a hand drawn template, hand cut and used to trace the pattern onto the cedar wood ceiling in pencil. The pattern is then hand painted with custom colours.
Colours are matched to the design and mixed for an exact colour match
In the workshop, the artisans have many templates and spend hours perfecting the technique and matching the designs
The hand carved frieze and ceiling elements are done by first sketching the design with a template and then hand chiselling the soft cedar wood
Below is an example of a traditional reeded ceiling.
Intricate details in the frieze, and trims conceal air slots for HVAC air supply and return grills