Jeremy Altman has been keeping a notebook since the beginning of 2020. It’s filled with insights and observations on how the pandemic has sparked new trends in his industry.
Altman, an architect with Architecture Incorporated in Sioux Falls and Rapid City, South Dakota, said a lot has changed in the past two years.
Some architectural ideas that weren’t as popular before the pandemic have since become a priority for many businesses and school districts. Often these are not big changes, but changes that make working and learning indoors potentially healthier environments for employees and students.
Take windows, for example. Altman said before the pandemic, it was popular for some schools and businesses to opt for windows that didn’t open because they were cheaper. These days, however, many are asking for the more expensive windows that open in an effort to provide better ventilation.
Since COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, it makes sense to have better ventilation in enclosed spaces.
“We have always, as architects and even our engineers, placed great importance on indoor air quality,” Altman said. “The idea was that we spend so much time indoors, but the air indoors is often worse than the polluted air outdoors.
“Our idea has always been that the solution to pollution is dilution. It has been a slogan, that you produce fresh air by diluting the polluted air indoors with working windows. Sometimes in the past we have seen a bit of resistance to this. This is no longer the case. People recognize that it’s a good thing to have. It’s almost more of a self-inclusion (in the projects).”
Other tools that provide better indoor ventilation include a mechanical system called a bipolar ionization system.
Altman, who works primarily with public schools, said the system has been popular in those learning environments, but other types of buildings have also adopted it. He said even some planes now use the filtering system.
“It’s a system by which the air can be purified,” he said. “And it’s a relatively simple addition to existing mechanical systems or new ones.”
As for the price, it’s also “relatively inexpensive,” Altman said.
More space to work
Something that has been touted since the first cases of COVID-19 were detected was the importance of social distancing to help reduce the spread of the virus. It’s something Altman says he’s noticed schools — and some businesses — are paying attention to. In an effort to provide more distance learning for students, the buildings have remodeled the space. Businesses have learned to leverage the use of rooms.
“People have had to use storage areas, even if only temporarily for someone’s office,” he said. “When they think of future spaces, they think of this flexibility – the ability of a space to serve multiple uses, which is something we’ve always kept in mind as architects and designers, but now we see it coming also on the owner’s side, which is a validation of what we’ve always believed.
Flexible spaces are good options for schools and mixed-use areas, and are projects he continues to work on with clients. Flexible classrooms, Altman said, that can be modified to accommodate remote learning, allow education to continue in school instead of students having to attend virtual classes.
“It’s something we incorporated,” he said.
Some restaurants have also created more space for their customers. Altman said restaurants that had access to outdoor space or an area they could use for overflow helped them stay afloat during the early stages of the pandemic. And since at this point the pandemic continues, many companies are pushing for similar options.
“We’re seeing the same for some companies,” he said. “Those who serve the public, they also need flexibility to go outside or to accommodate more space between users. …Before the pandemic, the focus was on consumer behavior, but now the focus is more on human behavior – for example, what are people going to do, as opposed to how we sell things to them ? It was rather interesting.
Stephanie McDaniel, president and CEO of BWBR, a multidisciplinary architecture firm based in Minneapolis but with projects in both the Dakotas and western Minnesota, also observed trends in the areas of architecture. architecture and design, some of which are related to health care. As an example, she said hospitals focus more on outpatient care and less on inpatient care.
There is an effort to create specialized hospitals, for example, and put these buildings in places that are suitable for patients. One trend is for health care organizations to develop day surgery centers away from their care campuses.
“It’s definitely something we’ve seen for a while, but it’s still going on,” McDaniel said. “It allows them to focus on acute care at their main campuses.”
BWBR has a number of projects in health care, public education and other areas that McDaniel is excited about, including with Fargo Public Schools and his Explorers Academy at Lewis & Clark Elementary.
Additions will be made for students who receive special programs under the Education for Persons with Disabilities Act. McDaniel said Explorer Academy is a “school within a school” model, an extension of Lewis & Clark Elementary that allows students to develop not only academic skills, but also personal and social skills and behaviors that help them better transition to a general education setting. .
“Behavioral health is definitely something we’re really keen to help our clients with, because it’s such an important issue for us as a company,” she said.
BWBR focuses on “human-centric security,” McDaniel said, noting that among its many other features is secure access to Explorer Academy. It is also designed to meet the needs of building students and teachers instead of being a cookie-cutter model.
“It’s a bit of a hallmark of BWBR, to focus on the needs of students and teachers as the center of design,” she said, noting that the company’s motto is to focus on “transforming lives through exceptional environments”.
Architecture and design trends extend beyond the office setting to the home office. According to a December report from Forbes, 33% of designers noted “luxurious comfort as a big trend, with soft materials and shapes ‘used’ to bring about a sense of well-being.”
This makes sense when more and more people are working from home these days. “With more time at home, people are more sensitive to comfort and feel,” according to the article.
As for the challenges of the industry, there are also some. Trent Stone, owner of Stone Group Architects in Sioux Falls, said the biggest thing was supply and demand.
“We’ve actually been asked to do a bunch of emergency response projects, COVID isolation units,” Stone said. But with a tightening supply chain, it has been difficult to obtain the necessary materials. “Salt Lake City, Omaha City, St. Louis, Kansas City, Sioux Falls, Fargo, Minneapolis – they all ask the same question: how soon could we set up a COVID isolation unit?”
Answer: Not fast enough.
“I would say the biggest trend we’re seeing right now is just a slowdown in the delivery of raw materials and an increase in the cost of raw materials and labor,” he said.
Stone also said her field, like other industries, has been hit by labor issues.
“Finding good people is a challenge probably everywhere,” he said. “I think we’ll probably start to go back to a near-normal environment if we end up going back to a bit more stable environment, but our industry is currently overwhelmed. Everyone and their brother are trying to do something. We’re pretty lucky right now to be able to choose the projects we want instead of everyone that comes our way. »
As the pandemic continues to evolve, so do the fields of architecture and design.
Altman, of Architecture Incorporated, shared his perspective on this: Of course, current times have brought challenges to his field, particularly in regards to supply chain, but architecture not only remains his bread and butter, but his passion.
He keeps his notebook handy, ready to jot down any new ideas or trends as they arise.