Design for Optimal Post-COVID Learning Spaces

In Part 1 of this series on creating post-COVID learning spaces for educational institutions, we discussed strategies for physical adjustments to space in terms of density, geometry, and division. Below, we will cover various design options and recommendations to reinforce those strategies via technologically and architecturally advanced office furniture, collaboration devices, and more.

Space should no longer be designed for permanence, but to change easily, expand and contract, with areas that can accommodate greater or less distancing. While many educational institutions prepared for safety in other ways, schools and campuses were not designed to mitigate the spread of disease. Many schools and universities around the world were not prepared to think about how to design learning spaces that can adapt quickly to unexpected health risks. Going forward, institutions need to preserve how they engage students and educators while minimizing the risk that rapid transmission of a virus could cause a facility or entire campus to shut down.

Design for Disinfecting

Select smooth surfaces that are easy to clean and fabrics that can be cleaned or washed. Introduce protective coatings. Consider materials that don’t degrade with continuous cleaning. Utilize sensor systems to provide information about which rooms have the greatest occupancy and require more frequent cleaning.

Deflect the Virus

Introduce hard or fabric barriers that are scientifically proven to stop or deflect the virus.

Flexible Furniture and Power

Introduce furniture that can be easily moved and reconfigured. This allows students and educators to easily distance themselves from others as needed. Mobile power lets students learn in areas where power is not readily available — giving them more choice and control over physical distancing.

Large-Scale Collaboration Devices

With blended learning increasing, students and educators need more ways to connect. Large- scale collaboration devices, like the Microsoft Surface Hub, are touched with a pen or hands but can also be easily cleaned. Innovative learning often requires large-scale collaboration (whiteboards, etc.) and large-scale digital tools can help facilitate that over distance.

Introduce Standing Connections

Open areas can become impactful learning environments by moving the Microsoft Surface Hub 2S on a Steelcase Roam Mobile Stand and using Steelcase Flex screens with stools to create a space where people can naturally distance themselves and meet without being stuck in an enclosed space. The extra advantage is that standing and moving are proven to boost creativity by 60%, making it easier to get back to innovation and learning while maintaining an appropriate distance away from others.

Contact Tracing

Should you become ill, emerging smartphone technology can anonymously communicate this to anyone who’s been near you and suggest to them that he/she may want to get tested and/or self-isolate.

Common Spaces

Furniture such as sofas should be marked for single usage unless they can allow physical distancing; lounge seating should be removed or placed at least 6 feet apart. Tables and lighting will need to be cleaned before and after each use by faculty and students, not just cleaning staff.

Provide Visual Cues

Use tape or other visual cues to identify and suggest the appropriate distance between people. Arrows on the floor can be used to direct one-way traffic flow in narrow hallways and corridors.

Bonus Strategy: Revamp Cleaning Practices

Clean frequently and visibly. Make cleaning highly visible to ensure spaces are being cleaned between each class and at the end of the day. Make cleaning wipes and sanitizers accessible to everyone, everywhere; include handwashing stations, and promote personal hygiene.

There will be an urgency to not simply return to where we were, but to be resilient, move forward, and thrive. Engagement and creativity can be reignited and accelerated with learning spaces that are designed to balance diverse teaching and learning methods. The opportunity ahead is to reinvent learning spaces that are inherently adaptable — able to change as needed, based on new conditions or the next pandemic.

Contact us today at (858) 569-4700 or complete this contact form to receive a FREE risk assessment and floor plan analysis of your school or other learning facilities.

Read Part 1 here