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As stores and offices reopen, the AIA puts out 3D resources for designers

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As stores and offices reopen, the AIA puts out 3D resources for designers

The Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street in Manhattan boarded up. New York City began phase 1 of its reopening plan on June 7. (Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

As much of the United States takes tentative steps towards reopening public-facing businesses and communal offices as the first wave of coronavirus seemingly ramps down, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has put out the results of its Reopening America: Strategies for safer buildings initiative, including 3D models for architects to draw from.

With retail and restaurants reopening, businesses are looking at strategies to keep their customers safe from communicable disease. To that end, the AIA’s Reopening America: Strategies for Safer Retail Stores report compiled references from the National Retail Federation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other sources to create a design guide for stores, including 3D models of effective design strategies. Those include HVAC suggestions and new standards to avoid spreading the coronavirus, modular displays and shelving for easy cleaning, circulation mapping, and segregated checkout areas.

Strategies for safer offices, conversely and as promised by the name, offers design suggestions for those returning to work in offices (even though many employers are making the leap to permanent remote working). As the report points out, offices in recent years have become denser to increase overhead, moved to open floor plans, and in many cases encouraged “hot desking,” or variable seating—all of which are conducive to spreading coronavirus. Every part of the office will need to be rethought accordingly, from the entrances to the bathrooms, to the break rooms and common areas.

A large part of the future will be touchless, offices can expect to operate at half capacity, and partitions will make a comeback in a big way, all sensible suggestions. But the AIA’s report also delves deeper into considerations that might not have arisen at first glance. Office acoustics will need to be rethought so that employees wearing masks, standing six feet apart, will be able to hear each other clearly. Meetings might be moved outside or virtually, and sightlines might be installed around corners to prevent employees from passing each other too closely.