We’ve seen how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed day-to-day routines, but the future could also look different in the way buildings and homes are designed.

The build of a home and the design of a building are concepts that are being forced to evolve because of the pandemic.

“Larger corporate businesses are completely changing how they think about their space,” Ersela Kripa, the acting program director in the College of Architecture at Texas Tech, said. “There will have to be a cultural change in how we imagine social interactions because architecture is always so interested in bringing people together and so what does that mean now and bringing people together now has this other layer of safety.”

COVID-19 is leading to a change in the future of architecture and traditional design ideas.

“I think even if there is a vaccine or if we feel safe for indoor spaces, I really do think the culture of sharing inside air and an interior space has completely changed,” Kripa said.

Kripa explained how workspaces like cubicles could be a thing of the past.

a large brick building with a clock tower

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Caption: Holly Bock reports on{{ }}COVID-19 leads to change in architecture, design industry

“These much larger headquarters are really rethinking introducing courtyards like inside open spaces per square footage of offices so that whoever is working in those offices can actually go outside to interact with others,” Kripa said. “I think in the long-term even on the design of interior spaces is going to incorporate some idea of fresh air and outside courtyards.”

While many small businesses worry about staying afloat, Kripa and her students are working with Project Vida through a federal grant with the city of El Paso to help small businesses retrofit their space.

“If we provide physical barriers human nature is still not comfortable with that. We find ourselves trying to look around the barrier to talk to someone,” Kripa said. “We are designing the physical barriers in a way that their shape and geometry still allows for a feeling of closeness when we’re interacting with people but really just protects against the particulate matter travel.”

Kripa said the need to distance ourselves could actually bring us back together, in a different way.

“We have also seen many restaurants in much larger cities like New York that have really taken over the sidewalk and streets are becoming more pedestrian and more communal,” Kripa said. “Right now as we have seen also in our downtown right around San Jacinto Plaza that there is a sense of being out there actually might save us all. We might still be able to have a social life and see each other while being safe.”

You may have more hand sanitizing stations or motion-activated doors at some businesses or offices. Kripa said we can expect touchless technology to be integrated into future designs. “People are rethinking their relationship with touchable surfaces through this virus.”

The new Hotel Paso del Norte in downtown El Paso faced the challenge of opening their doors during a world pandemic.

“It was a slow process due to the fact that many of the companies that were doing part of the renovation had to come from outside of the state and they couldn’t travel so that delayed for months the process of rebuilding the hotel,” hotel owner Carlos Sarmiento said.

COVID-19 led Sarmiento to think of ways guests would feel comfortable staying in his hotel.

“We decided to invest in plasma air technology which is used mainly in hospitals but we are the first hotel in El Paso,” Sarmiento said.

Plasma air technology purifies the air constantly while attacking viruses and odors in the air.

“This system actually works in every hotel room and every public area and every part of the house,” Sarmiento said.

It’s a system he said creates a piece of mind.

“That is in essence probably the best amenity that I can give our guest is to be thinking of the safety of the air as they enjoy the product and services of the hotel,” Sarmiento said.

COVID-19 isn’t only leading to changes in places you visit or in the workplace. El Paso real estate agents tell me it’s also changing people’s wishlist for their homes.

“Because of the virus I have seen them wanting more space,” El Paso realtor Ashley Bock said.

“What used to be a would-like is now a definite must-have,” El Paso realtor Jese Gonzalez said.

The marketing manager with Desert View Homes, Ricardo Infante, says an open concept home with a lot of space is becoming more common.

“The home building industry has pretty much always had four walls and everything inside has always stayed the same,” Ricardo Infante said. “Now we are making changes to the garage, gyms, and specific details in offices.”

Infante says builders are creating new floor plans to adjust to the public’s needs.

“Right now offices are very trendy as well as bigger spaces between the bedrooms or having the bedrooms to one side and the office on the other side of the house as well,” Infante said.

Though times are uncertain, an added layer of safety or an improved outlook on your home could work in our benefit.

“I think these times are shifting to a better lifestyle at home and to enjoy their home a lot more than they have before in the past,” Infante said.

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