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Friday, June 26, 2020

COVID-19: Effects on Building Operations and Design

HARC Living Lab

A model of how design and culture helps an organization sustain.

Design in a Time of Uncertainty
By Rives Taylor, Principal, Global Resilience Research Lead

Architecture, and many affiliated design professions arguably, base their decision-making on facts, data and performance outcomes. Many organizations respond to these factors with outcome-based decision-making. On the same token, numerous extensive protocols have been created to respond.

Much of what was created has been based on building physics, human biology, and weather and climate assessments. The design teams – whether designing a hospital room or brand new, high-performance core and shell building – often based their decisions on a trilogy of client needs: building life cycle performance, human experience engaging in the design providing long term value to the larger community, and a design statement or aesthetic. In the past, there was no question of building physics (enthalpy [total internal energy of a structure], heat exchange, and daylighting).

Historically sustainable design has had a great deal of focus on aspects such as indoor environmental quality tied to air quality, optimized airflow, low off-gassing of materials, access to outside views and daylight. However, during the pandemic design has elevated the evolving investigation of airflow and air quality while adding proximity to other people, cleanliness, and antimicrobial, antibacterial and antiviral methodologies. Recently inclusive design has gained a prominent place in the design diversity process discussion.

At this stage in the summer of 2020, there’s not a consistent answer nor a given basis. This points up to a brand-new challenge for the design team who often has chosen to ally with health experts. Perhaps it’s now time to elevate that conversation.

To begin, what are the best scientific sources for best outcomes and design plans? Also, how can operational data help inform future designs?

HARC’s Living Lab: Designed for Uncertainty
By Marina Badoian-Kriticos, Research Scientist, Energy and Natural Resource Policy

At HARC we are focused on science-based solutions that provide a sustainable future for our region and that may serve as a case study of success for the design community. In these uncertain times, we are navigating ways of working apart and preparing for what it means to work together to help our people thrive and our business flourish. For us, this means seeking guidance grounded in science and fact.

HARC was well positioned to sustain our operations and quickly respond to the demands of navigating this global pandemic. Work is defined as a thing we do, supported by an ecosystem of culture, technology, and resources. This organizational resilience has enabled us to maintain business operations virtually and transform our workplace, blending the physical and virtual environments so we can work together or independently anywhere.

All the answers begin with science that can be applied to solve problems. As an organization we are collecting data and sharing data to show how the design and systems of the building work for us and how we can improve operations along the way. Small, private offices combined with technology worked well for our workplace culture and communications prior to the pandemic and are now proving to be a design that keeps us comfortable, connected, and able to contribute. Well-being is front and center as we want to cultivate resilience in our people and keep our colleagues healthy, productive, and safe while they are working together in or out of the office.

As for our physical workspace, it was designed as a Living Lab, a space that could continue to grow and evolve with us. Our building was designed to be sustainable and energy efficient and has an energy consumption 77% lower than the average office building and our 88-kW photovoltaic plant has saved 140.56 tons of CO2, however our top priority is employee health and safety.

In these challenging times, we are confident in the knowledge that our building and our people are resilient and innovative. One day we will return, in the meanwhile we will continue to optimize our building and business operations for today and the future.

Rives Taylor FAIA, LEED AP BD+C

Rives directs Gensler’s Firmwide Design Performance teams and initiatives. He is a recognized global expert in resilient, high-performance and sustainable design and has been a faculty member of both Rice University and the University of Houston for 30 years. Rives has authored more than 150 articles for diverse publications like ULI’s Urban Land, WIRED, Fast Company, and Texas Architect and has been an invited speaker at symposiums on five continents. He founded the Houston Chapter of the USGBC and recently received the Center for Houston’s Future’s Impact Award. A member of the prestigious AIA Fellowship, Rives holds a B.A. in Architecture from Rice University and a Masters from MIT.