Throughout human history, pandemics have always resulted in significant lifestyle changes. The Plague of Athens in 430 BC, one of the earliest recorded epidemics, resulted in severe sociopolitical changes that shifted the population’s priorities and called into question the prior legal, economic, and moral dogma. The Black Death of the 14th century, responsible for the death of an estimated third of Europe’s population, paved the way for the widespread urban development of the Renaissance. Most recently, the 1919 flu pandemic led to more conscious urban planning, waste management, and a change in construction materials that aimed toward cleaner surfaces and a pivot to sterile materials. So how will COVID-19 impact construction and planning? A Washington building supply expert weighs in below.
Lighter Building Materials
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of modular construction and lightweight architecture. You probably heard about the modular hospitals built in Wuhan, China. Two medical facilities, each with more than a thousand beds, built in a matter of two weeks thanks to the use of prefabricated construction modules. When dealing with a pandemic, the key factors are speed and convenience, so facilities need to be built appropriately as soon as possible. Lightweight architecture has been vital in the pandemic response from South Korea to New York City. Stable tent structures are used to quickly set up medical facilities in public spaces. Fabric structures have been used as triages, treatment areas, and emergency room extensions. This is bound to influence the building materials implemented even beyond the pandemic itself.
On the micro end of the spectrum, people are spending a lot of time at home. This, particularly in large, dense cities, has brought to light some of the more inconvenient aspects of urban living. Although people already knew this by the time the pandemic began, it’s becoming more and more obvious that there need to be new standards for healthy building implemented in construction. This entails creating better indoor environments from the early planning stages. Better ventilation, more natural light, and immediately accessible outdoor spaces are coming across as all the more necessary now that people are facing the consequences of not having access to them. It wouldn’t be a reach to say that these ideas are going to be implemented more often in the future of residential construction.
Whether we are talking about state-of-the-art convention centers or no-longer-used hospital facilities, reusing structures and repurposing them for the sake of public health is becoming a priority. This might seem discouraging for the building industry given the potential for decreased new construction. On the contrary, this represents an exciting new challenge for those in the field. Repurposing structures means more than just adapting an old place to a new use. It means implementing new and thoughtful materials into older structures, making sure that they address existing issues and predict future ones. Implementing antimicrobial polymer and copper alloy surfaces that can naturally kill germs and viruses, as well as establishing proper ventilation, will be a key part of the overall process.
Washington Building Supply
At New Standard Building Materials, a well-regarded Washington building supply, we are always at the forefront of new industry advances. For years we have been providing the area with quality construction materials that adapt to all sorts of needs and we will continue to do so in the new landscape of construction. For more information, give us a call at (206) 268-0663.