Over the past year, even throughout the periods of construction shutdown, the Horizon Offsite team have been working on essential projects, including the rapid delivery of a number of healthcare facilities. For this reason, it was interesting to read about the impact of the pandemic and resulting restrictions on office and healthcare buildings through the Fast Company media website recently. The article in question details Gensler’s latest report on the trends reshaping healthcare spaces across North America. More importantly, it explores what trends are likely to be long term in nature. You can read this article in full here: https://www.fastcompany.com/90603463/offices-and-healthcare-have-been-upended-by-the-pandemic-heres-how-theyll-look-in-the-future 

Essentially, the Gensler report is a culmination of the global architecture practice’s experiences, including understanding the role, function and performances of both office space and healthcare buildings over the past year. Obviously the outbreak of Covid-19 forced building owners and occupants to take a critical look at their spaces under a host of new criteria, not least of all, layout, air quality, human touch points etc. While it is arguably too early to determine what changes need to be made for the longer term or to question how these buildings will look after the pandemic, it is important that we start this conversation now. And the design teams at Gensler are actively working to address this question. Through its latest report, it is clear that the company sees some substantial changes when it comes to the design of both these two types of spaces.

Office

Looking first at the future of the office, this is a hot topic of conversation at the moment, with opinions divided on the future of work and whether that will be office-based, remote-working or a hybrid solution that involves either working from home or from a third space, for example, a local co-working hub. Gensler takes the view that “the hybrid model of part-time office work and part-time remote work is here to stay”. On that basis, their research shows a strong need for building owners and occupiers to design workplaces where people actually want to be. Given the available choice to work from anywhere, there must be a compelling reason to go through the inconvenience of commuting to the office. Pandemic-responsive design solutions include a high level of flexibility for all spaces. So, for example, this might be rooms that can be subdivided or expanded to accommodate different uses at different times, catering to a need for greater privacy or greater collaboration. It seems likely that the hybrid model will lead to the office being used as a collaboration base. 

Healthcare Facilities

The above article rightly points out that “the pandemic, and especially the first wave of cases, which overwhelmed many public health systems, have made it clear that hospitals have some design flaws”. Gensler describes legacy health systems as being “like network TV in an age of streaming”. The report remarks on the increased demand for virtual healthcare consultations and ‘hospital-at-home services’ from service users who wish to avoid turning up to the hospital building. This trend has been evident across Ireland and the UK also. The big question is around how much of this change is likely to last beyond the pandemic. If the change is cultural or behavioural, then this might well change how hospitals and healthcare spaces are designed in the longer term. Fewer physical visits will likely inform how available space is laid out and used. Flexibility will still be key, as will the use of more naturally sterile buildings materials.

One quite interesting observation made by the Fast Company article is that “For Gensler, the two sectors are almost beginning to merge. Life science and healthcare spaces are beginning to look more like offices, just as offices are being reimagined as places needing more elements of health and well-being. Whether this lasts into a post-pandemic age remains to be seen, but for 2021, the trends seem likely to hold”.

About Horizon Offsite

Horizon Offsite Ltd is one of Europe’s leading players in Offsite Construction and Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), providing a fully accredited structural light gauge steel system to the residential, industrial, commercial, healthcare and educational sectors. Contact the Horizon Offsite team at https://horizonoffsite.ie