Back in 2003, we all learned a new term. SARs – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrom. It was a virus that came out of nowhere and had no cure that was rapidly spreading around the world. It brought a sense of panic to the US, but it never really reached our communities. That is in contrast to much of Asia where behaviors and cultures were changed forever as they adjusted to a world where a recently discovered disease could spread rapidly through dense populations and a hyper-connected world.
Now today, we are in the midst of a new outbreak – while it is true that it is not extremely deadly, it is our social contract with each other that we take the steps needed to protect the vulnerable. And while a cure is coming, this COVID event has announced a new reality. That in this connected world, we are exposed to global disruption in our local communities.
In this new world, it is only wise for us to reflect on how we can design and build precautions directly into your church spaces to help slow the spread of germs, sickness, and viruses – be it COVID, the seasonal flu, or some new outbreak in the future. So below, you’ll find our recommendations for beginning the process of designing your space for community health:
Install handicap push buttons at every door. Or to take it to another level, switch to automatic sliding doors. This has a two-fold impact. One, it makes your building more accessible, but then two, it also limits the number of contact points people interact with – thus limiting the spread of germs.
Outswinging Bathroom Doors
We recommend ensuring all bathroom doors swing out of the restroom. This means that as you leave the restroom, you do not have the grab a handle to exit. Beyond that, door-less bathrooms are a great solution if you have the extra space.
Hand Sanitizer Stations
Be sure to provide hand sanitizer stations throughout the facility for convenient access. This will encourage people to practice safe hygiene while also protecting those around them.
Another way to safeguard your high traffic doors is to be sure to put hold-ups on them during peak flow to minimize touch-points. This will limit the number of people having to touch the handles and come in contact with one another.
Having natural ventilation on heating and air conditioning systems can improve the air quality in the building. It also will help to limit the recycling of contaminated air through the building.
Auto Sensor Plumbing
The use of auto sensor plumbing fixtures and toilet accessories (soap dispenser, paper towel dispenser, or hand dryers) in the restrooms will help to limit direct contact points where germs can be spread.
By installing occupancy sensors instead of light switches for controlling lights in rooms, you’ll continue to limit the number of points that large numbers of people would touch.
Limit Play Places
We are already seeing the elimination of play places from fast-food chains because of concerns about surface contamination and being hard to clean. Addressing the concerns parents have for a clean environment while designing a space kids love will have to be a consideration in all designs.
While we see a move away from the standard welcome desk, there will need to be a consideration for times where separation and protection may be required. This protection could include things like sneeze guards, temperature check stations, and other custom solutions that may be desired or even required in some places.
At Visioneering Studios, we believe in the local church, and we are excited for the day that we can gather together again – in person. However, we are also realistic about the needs of the community and the impact we all have on the health of those around us. With that in mind, we see these simple steps as a start to building sustainable spaces that help to promote a sanitary and healthy environment when we do return from social distancing.
If you have any questions about how you can upgrade your building or incorporate these steps into your future project, we’d love to connect.