Why you should give importance to interior design in disease prevention?
We spend maximum 90 percent of our precious time indoors. Our physical and mental health is influenced by everything we touch in these indoor interior environments. viruses-causing pathogens can be transferred from one person to another person, but also through everyday items like the waiting room chairs at the our office, the handle of the door, cupboard table, the clipboard passed around at a volunteer event. Being exposed to all viruses and bacteria in this way can help to improve our immune system. When it comes to more severe diseases, illness, though, it is critical to have interior surroundings that can protect our health by reducing pathogen transmission.
What are the few things we learned about the role of design in the current coronavirus outbreak?
The Coronavirus is a large family of viruses. Some can cause familiar illnesses like the common cold but some of the virus also cause more severe diseases like SARS – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. The current coronavirus covid-19 outbreak is caused by one member of this family that we have never seen before, and that means that we do not necessarily have all the answers about how this novel virus behaves. Based on what we know so far, one of the ways the virus can be spread is by touching contaminated surfaces. We touch a lot of surfaces in our everyday life, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, are advising the public to follow some commonsense practices like washing our hands and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Interior Designers also play a key role in outbreaks like this. Some objects transfer pathogens more severe than others. Some materials are even inherently antimicrobial, meaning they can weaken or kill the disease-causing organism before it can infect a person. Biosecurity measures during an outbreak like the one we are seeing now will make use of antimicrobial materials, personal protective instrument, thorough cleaning routines and vigilant waste management to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.
We would like to share a specific example of the role interiors have played in the outbreak
The British luxury cruise ship Diamond Princess was quarantined on Feb. 5, along with almost 3,700 passengers and crew, at a dock in Yokohama, Japan. This Cruise ship rooms are relatively small; the interior rooms of the Diamond Princess are promoted as being something between 158 to 162 square feet in size – that is just a little bit bigger than four single-person handicap-accessible restrooms – but with all of the features you would expect in a luxury room. That is a lot of surfaces to clean in a very small space. And when someone in that room is sick, they may breathing and sneezing and coughing on all of those surfaces.
If we look at hospital rooms, which are also relatively small, interior designers choose materials that can be easy to clean and sterilised – materials like sheet vinyl floors with rolled edges, laminated countertops and stainless steel sinks with offset drains. We have more rigorous cleaning aids, too. In spaces designed to handle infectious viruses, we even install specialised air filtration and pressurisation process to ensure that harmful agents cannot move from room to room.
On a cruise ship, though, staff may not necessarily trained in the same biosecurity protocols. Interior designers choose items for their sustainability and aesthetic appeal and not necessarily for antimicrobial properties. Some floor mate and fabrics are able to be sterilised, yes, but those are selected for a luxury hospitality space are not necessarily the same ones we would choose if we were design specifically to protect against viruses. The air filtration process and the waste management process on a cruise ship are not designed to do what the specialised systems in hospitals can do. In essence, the Diamond Princess and its crew are being asked to provide all the luxury services of a cruise ship experience as well as perform all the functions of an isolation ward in a hospital – in a space that was never designed to work like that. The fact that they have been so serious on both fronts is a testament to the dedication of the crew.
This is the case serves to remind us why interior designers and other professionals of the construction environment – apparel designers, architectural designers and product designers – must always look beyond the obvious, to reduce the risks and respond to threats through better designs that proactively protect our physical health and safety.