Redesigning The Office For The Next 100-Year Flu (Yes, It’s Coming)

Office designers are scrambling now to try to get more members of the workforce safely back to their desks. Clear plastic sneeze guards have become familiar, as have floors taped off at 6-foot increments. But by 2025 or so, after the immediate threat of the coronavirus has likely passed, which short-term fixes will be part of the new normal? And what other design changes could be coming our way?

While the scale of the current pandemic is new, the need for architects to prioritize human health is not, says Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg, director of the Institute for Health in the Built Environment. “We’ve designed buildings for 100-year floods,” he says. “Now we have to learn to design for the 100-year flu.”

“There will be another epidemic or another pandemic — or there might just be another flu season,” says Eve Edelstein, co-founder of the research-based design consultancy Clinicians for Design. “Let’s go ahead and design for that reality.”

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