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In Building Design, Hygiene Has Become As Important As Eco-Friendliness. Here’s Why.


Over the last ten years, intelligent buildings have emerged as a crucial component of the design process. Connected and automated solutions have provided operators with greater comfort, energy efficiency, and cost savings. But the COVID-19 pandemic brought another challenge to the frontlines of the building design projects: Hygiene.

A study published last May revealed that 83 percent of people in the workforce ensure they touch as few things as possible in their daily lives. These typically include door handles, elevator buttons, or light switches in public places. Moreover, after touching door handles, handrails, or other things, two-thirds of people now look for a place to wash their hands.

Given the duration of the health crisis, it’s little surprise that employees have reinforced this particular attention to hygiene. The building sector is no exception, particularly in terms of access management. It can add value to the strive for hygiene by allowing users to move from one workspace to another without having to touch any surface.

Evolution of the Touchless Access Adaptation

The notion of a “contactless” world has existed for some thirty years in the field of hospital buildings, especially in sections like operating theatres or recovery rooms, to combat the spread of bacteria and viruses. Similarly, contactless systems have also become ubiquitous in sensitive settings, including pharmaceutical and nanotechnology laboratories, or retirement homes, where residents may experience challenges with mobility.

However, these touch-free technologies recently started to spread to shopping centers, railway stations, and airports, making access control more convenient and secure with automatic swinging or sliding doors.

Given the current public health necessities, these contactless systems now concern all buildings, regardless of their sector or function. From hotels to restaurants, commercial and university facilities, offices, residential or public buildings, touchless access technologies contribute to enhancing hygiene, comfort, and safety.

Optimizing Health and Safety With the Right Solutions

Although there are a plethora of “contactless” solutions, deploying them excessively, everywhere, all the time isn’t the right strategy to optimize the benefits of this solution. Not two facilities are alike with the exact needs and functions. A hospital might have different hygiene standards from a department store. Likewise, the hygiene protocols of a laboratory that works with microbiological substances would likely be even stricter. On the other hand, the primary concern for establishments like hotels, restaurants, or airports is often the flow of people.

Therefore, it’s up to manufacturers, design offices, and architects to identify the unique needs of each facility to install the best solutions to combine comfort and maximum health security within buildings.

Designing Strategic Contactless Gateways

Nevertheless, there are some strategic points where contactless systems can be implemented, regardless of the type of the target building.

The first of these is the main entrances, which are the critical points of passage in any public or private area. They can be equipped with automatic sliding and revolving doors, which are ideal for managing traffic and people’s flow.

The second strategic point is the interior of the building itself, where automated sliding or swinging doors can be installed, together with passage detection solutions.

It’s also imperative to pay attention to access to private areas such as offices. Installation of electronic locks with contactless media, such as a card, mobile phone, badge, and antibacterial handles, could be effective.

Finally, to avoid the overwhelm of large flows of people, which might be challenging to control in respecting barrier gestures, passageways, and access control are ideal solutions.

It’s possible to further enhance the protection against infection by using equipment – such as a health safety terminal – that detects the wearing of masks, the temperature and dispenses disinfectant gel, or by limiting the number of people.

Hygiene to Remain a Priority in the Post-Pandemic World

The COVID-19 pandemic carried hygiene to the limelight, revealing its importance in all aspects of daily life; at home, in transport, at the office, or in shops. Once the virus is eliminated, there’s no doubt that we’ll be living in a different world with new habits.

Nevertheless, even once the amplified fears about catching a virus abates, contactless access solutions are poised to be the norm, following the course with ecology and sustainable development.

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