Looking Forward: Social Distance-Friendly Building Design

Experts are noting the effectiveness of social distancing practices implemented to combat the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus, and expect to see long-lasting influences. The building industry is pondering how these may impact the infrastructure and development of future commercial spaces.

As a result, the way they are designed will change, too. Planning the commercial spaces of the future, including office buildings, restaurants and gymnasiums, will present new challenges. In addition to meeting performance goals, architects will also need to give thought to new best practices for occupant comfort, safety and personal boundaries.

These new challenges include increasing usable space to allow for social distancing and designing for irregular occupancy.

Creative Installation

The commercial building design of tomorrow requires new thinking about specifying and installing mechanical systems. But fortunately, HVAC innovation is already trending toward greater space optimization.

Depending on what standards are set for future new construction, a couple of inches saved could mean the difference between a comfortable workspace in our post-COVID-19 world, and one that is non-compliant. From an HVAC standpoint, the first step in combating this problem is to consider indoor heating and cooling units, as well as ventilation systems, that allow for flexible installation.

Our PVFY Multi-Position Air Handler, for example, supports horizontal, vertical and down-flow configuration without the need for additional stability supports. It can also be disassembled to fit into extra-tight confines and uses short duct runs, so no part of the installation is utilizing valuable space.

On the ductless side, a great way to conserve space is by utilizing low-profile units such as our PLFY Four-Way Ceiling Cassette that are installed flush to the ceiling.

Remote Control

A number of large companies have made headlines by giving their employees the option to work from home indefinitely. Schools nationwide are weighing the options of in-person, remote or hybrid learning for the 2020-2021 school year (as discussed in our recent blog). This shift toward unconventional schedules and fluctuating occupancy will mean increased demand for zoned systems, smart sensors and wireless controls.

Zoned systems allow for units in different zones to be turned on or off as needed, leading to greater flexibility and efficiency. Smart sensors, such as our 3D i-see Sensor® technology, can scan a room’s thermal profile and adjust airflow and temperature based on occupancy. Similarly, the SmartME Controller® detects room occupancy and brightness through motion and light sensors. Comprehensive controls, such as Diamond Controls™ solutions, also help meet the demands of atypical schedules.

The full impacts of social distancing may still be unknown, but we are already considering how our products and technologies can solve the unique challenges we may face. For more information on METUS, visit mitsubishipro.com.