REAL ESTATE MINUTE With Cyril Nii Ayitey Tetteh

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THE FUTURE OF DESIGN – Our Public Spaces

Hello Ghana, it’s been a long while since we had our weekly conversation. We do know that some of you joined us at the just ended 3rd Ghana Green Building Summit which focused on rethinking design of our living, work and public spaces in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. We had very insightful presentations and since you are our valued reader and stakeholder, we will be sharing some of the highlights for those who missed out. This week we will share with you Engr. Dr Kwabena Akrokwa Gyimah’s presentation on the future of design with particular focus on our public space.

Can the design of our public buildings and spaces like retail outlets & malls, hospitals, hotels & restaurants, schools, and churches etc. be such that it can adapt or mitigate the effect of such pandemics?

For instance, air changes per hour or air change rate which is a measure of the air volume added to or removed from a space (usually a room or house) divided by the volume of the space, is a crucial influencer of ones state of health. In simple terms, the level of air within a particular space should remain constant or at an equilibrium so as not to compromise one’s state of health or make them susceptible to infectious diseases. These and other highlights of his presentation is captured below.

Literature and various documents have established that for us to help mitigate and/or manage a pandemic we need to have good ventilation, greenery and plants, good day lighting in our spaces and clean water. Here are a few measures to achieve these targets.

 

AIR CHANGE RATES

To achieve good ventilation in our public spaces, the air change rates in our public space should be of a minimum of 6 and therefore when you design your public space and the air change rate is below 6, then it is at a level that will compromise your health. This 6 is just the minimum but depending on the space you are actually designing, the air change rate might differ as indicated on table below.

 

TYPICAL AIR CHANGES PER HOUR TABLE
OFFICES 
Business Offices6 – 8
Lunch And Break Rooms7 – 8
Conference Rooms8 – 12
Medical Procedure Offices9 – 10
Copy Rooms10 – 12
Main Computer Rooms10 – 14
Smoking Area13 – 15
RESTAURANTS  
Dining Area8 – 10
Food Staging10 – 12
Kitchens14 – 18
Bars15 – 20
PUBLIC BUILDINGS  
Hallways6 – 8
Retail Stores6 – 10
Foyers8 – 10
Churches8 – 12
Restrooms10 – 12
Auditoriums12 – 14
Smoking Rooms15 – 20

 

The table here shows different air change rates required for different spaces, and the air change rates are linked to the activity as well as the volume. For instance if you look at the kitchen the air change rate is higher because there is a lot of pollution in a kitchen. In the normal business space where there is just business activity with individuals, the air change rate is a bit lower.

 

Per the activity in the space, a required air change rate should be adhered to in our public space design and every designer of any public space should adhere to these things so that we can help contain pandemics.

 

Correlation between Air Change Rate and Pandemics

 

Patent by Gary G Kolleth established that aerosols or droplets suspended in the air as with the current COVID-19, are propelled by CO2 which is all around us and from this finding, we realised that with more CO2 in our spaces, we will have a lot of aerosol propagation, which will in effect facilitate transfer of viruses.

 

If you are within an environment where you cannot achieve that air change rate naturally then you will have to use air conditioning but air conditioning has its dynamics. If the air conditioner does not have a good filter that can kill viruses and bacteria then it means the air conditioner can actually bring into your space viruses and bacteria. Therefore, you will need an air conditioner with a good filter. A research done by Yu et al has been developed using a filter that allegedly actually kills and they are certain it can even kill COVID – 19, therefore, if this filter is embedded in your air conditioner it will help kill any bacteria or viruses coming through your air conditioner and its highly recommended that we apply it to our public space.

Energy efficient air conditioners should be encouraged because if you use energy efficient air conditioners it means that the emissions of CO2 related to the energy use is reduced and these emissions are linked to CO2 and therefore, using energy efficient air conditioners an really help us curb pandemics because we will be reducing the CO2 in our environments.

 

REDUCTION OF CO2s

Plants and Greenery

To reduce CO2, the number one tool is through greenery and plants, and what greenery does is that it absorbs all the CO2 that is not supposed to be in our environment and gives the oxygen we need. As we can see, plants applied in a public space adds to the aesthetic value of the public space as well as absorbing all the pollutants that you can think off. Plants that can absorb CO2 in our environment are the Snake Plant, Aloe Vera and the Spider Plant, these three are very common in Ghana and if we could apply these plants in our public spaces they will actually absorb CO2 and other pollutants so aerosol propagation can be reduced.

 

 

Good Day Lighting

Another factor is good day lighting, the research by Hobday and Dancer talks about the fact that sunlight in our indoor spaces has helped in curbing viral infections, such as pneumonia, scarlet fever, meningitis and tuberculosis. It is advised that we should allow sunlight into our buildings. Sunlight can come into our buildings by passive solar designs, that is the shape of your building as against the orientation of your building in allowing in sunlight as much as possible and this is a design principle that has been used for ages and we should go back and apply these into the design of our public spaces so that we can help in the killing of these viruses.

Various strategies can be used when it comes to using solar passive designs when we have the atrium, the sky light, light walls, therefore different approaches can applied based on your public building. Certain public buildings may not be able to go for the atrium because the design may not be a court yard approach, but if that’s your design, you can use that.

Humidity Levels

Other research has established that viruses can’t thrive within the humidity levels of 40 to 60, therefore if our public spaces can really mitigate or manage pandemics then it means that we must always maintain the humidity level of 40 to 60.

How can we increase our humidity levels in our public spaces if it is below the 40? This can be done by just applying water fountains in our public spaces at various points which will then increase our humidity levels. In a situation where the humidity levels are above 60, these fountains can be turned off, then the humidity levels can be reduced. In so doing we are actually going to maintain a humidity level range that viruses cannot thrive in.

 

Technology

To end it all, we need to bring in technology as much as possible since surfaces are the number one channel in transmitting these viruses and bacteria. We need to make sure that we don’t touch any surface in the building and this can be done by having touchless access, so you enter a building and there is an automatic door and for washrooms, one recommendation is that where there’s a button you just wave at and the door opens and within the wash room everything should be touchless like soap dispensers and taps, because washrooms are known to be areas where viruses and bacteria can easily be transmitted, so as much as possible everything about washrooms should be touchless. Then we can have a sanitization entrance and when all public spaces adapt that, when you go through it and you have some viruses or bacteria on your clothes killed by UV rays as you go through that tunnel. These UV rays in the tunnel will only kill the viruses for the minute or two that you go through the tunnel, which is just enough time not to harm your person but effectively kill off viruses making the public space virus and bacteria infectious free.

Now to conclude, though social distancing can help us on the interim, we need to take our time and find lasting solutions by going green so as to achieve indoor environmental quality in our public buildings. This can be done by going back to the basics as all design these principles already exist and apply them in redesign of our public buildings to help us mitigate and manage pandemics in our public spaces.

PRESENTED BY ENGR. DR KWABENA AKROKWA GYIMAH AT THE 3RD GHANA GREEN BUILDING SUMMIT

 

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