South Florida Hospital News
Saturday October 31, 2020

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September 2020 - Volume 17 - Issue 3


Charles Michelson Discusses Design and Construction During and Post COVID

Charles Michelson can think of no other time in history when modern architect Le Corbusier’s “Form follow function” words are as relevant as they are today.

“All of us are experiencing the immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing, touch nothing, temperature taken at the door, zoom meetings,” says Michelson, president of Saltz Michelson Architects. “This only scratches the surface of the paradigm shift in business and healthcare for the future.”
For example, architects and designers services will exceed the traditional roles as consultants commissioned to design a building.
“We are part of a team that must identify and establish the operational strategy first, then redefine the structure that surrounds it,” he says. “We are within a rapidly changing society, changing service providers, exponentially changing technology and changing workforces. The vision for our buildings, brands, roles and responsibilities have changed and must be synthesized for success and adaptability in the future.”
Michelson notes that we have experienced a baptism under fire in the use of available technology; an instantaneous immersion in the virtual world with online interactive business meetings to allow work to continue, simultaneously keeping us safe and enhancing the activities in which we participate.
“In our buildings we will continue to see the trend of touchless everything, sensors, RFID chip technology, and even voice technology to allow activities to occur without the touch of a human, possibly contaminated hand,” he says. “There will be an increased use of ultraviolet lights to kill bacteria and ionizers in our mechanical systems to filter the air from contaminates. We will soon see sensors and foot pedal controls for elevators.”
What will stay the same, he believes, are the goals to succeed and provide exceptional service within buildings. What will also stay the same is the need to interact with people personally, safely and respond to the physical and psychological needs of the people they service, the workforce, and the C suite people.
The coronavirus crisis has certainly made a large impact upon existing projects from planning through construction.
“Regardless of the phase of a project, how do we keep everyone safe?” asks Michelson. “That is always the primary concern. After that, under the new normal, is the project still appropriate? Will it service the need under the conditions it was originally conceived? Is the cash flow still there to construct and sustain the project? Are the business model and projections still accurate for the project to be successful?"
Ambiguity and the unknown are difficult environments to make decisions and commit millions of dollars in construction money. Once the decisions are made, there must be a commitment to see it through.
“Vision is important and it becomes critical to strengthen what is important to achieve the ultimate goal,” he adds.
Some of the amenities and upgrades that current facilities may consider during the pandemic will be a touchless experience as they interact with the built environment, according to Michelson.
“We are selecting non-porous surfaces that are easy to clean and using technology to screen people from illness,” he says. “We are already past the handheld thermometer gun to the sensor at the door that posts your temperature as you walk in. I have been intrigued by the recent addition of elevator foot controls to ring for the elevator on each floor and then a foot control within the elevator to select your floor. Ionizers and ultraviolet light are good products for cleaning germs and bacteria, but no one should be lulled into a false sense of security that traditional cleaning activities can thereby be suspended.”
The quality of mechanical systems have been greatly improved since the days of Legionnaire’s Disease and newer germ and virus killing system enhancements will be added to mechanical systems. Improved filters for these systems will be available.
“The need for ongoing and proactive cleaning and maintenance procedures must occur,” adds Michelson. “No one element will allow the active maintenance of buildings to be suspended.”
Designing for safety of airborne disease will be an ongoing future design concern.
"How do you design spaces in which to be social and yet achieve an appropriate social distancing for safety?” wonders Michelson. “What is the formula that satisfies the public concerns and perceptions that will allow a space to be used and therefore the business be successful?”
In the foreseeable future, design for public safety will take precedent over design for maximum return on investment. Spaces will need to be flexible and adaptable to events, all of which possess enough space for safety.
“We will move away from being a tactile society, a handshake hello, a hug, touching different surfaces, to a more visual and audio experience,” he says. “Design will need to capture the warmth of human interactions and experience without promoting touch. We are a world in transition. The fabric of design, operations, and our building need to be restructured and rewoven with an additional thread of environmental safety incorporated into the structure of our lives.”

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