Will Your Space Stand Up To COVID-19?

April 15, 2020
Kris Nankivell Associate, Senior Interior Designer, Healthcare + Senior Living

As countries and states begin to have conversations about reentry and what post pandemic life will look like, companies are starting to think about if they are prepared for when that day comes. The question is, how will your space stand up against COVID-19?

When evaluating your organization’s preparedness, one of the first places to start is the design of the space itself. Aside from exposure to an infected individual, the second place individuals are most likely to catch COVID-19 are in spaces themselves. Looking at top tier design elements like removing touch, durability for disinfectant cleaners, and less porous surfaces, we propose how to design your space to stand up against COVID-19 now, and prepare it for anything else in the future.


Surfaces are the most touched areas in all spaces, including counters, tables, desks, and even wall hangings or fixtures. The World Health Organization suggests that coronavirus may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days if not properly disinfected. Horizontal surfaces provide the greatest risk because microbes will stay there unless removed with cleaning chemicals. While vertical surfaces, like a wall hanging, provide less risk, it’s imperative to maintain a cleaning schedule cadence that aligns with usage rates.

Material selection is a key part of mitigating risk, considering surfaces like wood are the ideal environment for these microbes to exist because they are so porous. Wood is proven to have both physiological and psychological advantages over more sterile materials, like steel or concrete, however, from an infection control perspective it does carry risk. A way to implement stylish design that is safe for infection control can be done through faux wood and seamless materials instead of traditional wood. Faux wood should be used in a horizontal setting and real wood can be used in a vertical setting like behind a reception desk or as an accent wall because of the lack of physical contact with the material.

North Orange Family Dental implemented seamless counters that are easily cleanable.


Furniture is one of the most high-touch items in any space; whether it be a chair, a desk, a cafe seat, etc. A design feature that can be implemented in all settings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 without diminishing the aesthetic is seating that has a cleanable finish on it like a vinyl, polyurethane or silicone that can withstand harsh cleaning chemicals like bleach, ensuring the control of possible infection.

Metallic materials can also be advantageous. Civilizations have recognized copper’s antimicrobial properties for years, and it’s time we bring them back in a more real way. There have long been studies that have shown that silver and copper infused fabric and textiles can kill microbes on surfaces by oxidizing and releasing silver ions. These microthreads can be included in many materials used in furniture, as well as carpeting, to aid in the control of disease spread.

Doctors 5th Floor Renovation has vinyl furniture allowing for an easier and more effective clean.


Researchers recently applied samples of a virus to surfaces such as doorknobs and found that, within two to four hours, the virus had been picked up by 40 to 60 percent of workers and visitors in the space and could be detected on many commonly touched objects.

Fixtures such as faucets, soap dispensers, paper towel dispensers and light switches are items that are highly susceptible to contamination, as proven through research, and while they can be maintained with frequent disinfection, the risk can be eliminated through automation. Opting for automatic fixtures including faucets, soap dispensers, paper towel dispensers and occupancy sensors on lights controls the spread of disease and reduces concern. Installing these fixtures can help reduce the spread of microbes by reducing unnecessary touch.

Inpatient rooms at Doctors Hospital have sinks by the front of the room that allow caregivers to wash their hands before coming in contact with the patient.


You can help with infection control by installing vinyl flooring instead of things such as wood that are porous and prone to microbes settling. With these durable and seamless flooring solutions the ability to use stronger cleaning supplies increases dramatically. Hermetically sealing the cracks in floors with a heat weld helps to prevent infection and improve hygiene by making the vinyl flooring one cohesive piece. Making sure that when flooring is installed it has no creases and is continuous so it can easily be cleaned is a way to increase infection control in an easy way. Healthcare facilities for many years have been designed using seamless flooring and furniture as the most ideal materials to eliminate small areas of opportunity for viruses and disease to hide.

The Cancer Center at Grant Medical Center has different vinyl flooring that is sealed together for a seamless floor that is easy to clean.


An incredible way to prepare your space for infection control can actually be done through the paint you use. Many companies make Microbicidal Paint that is able to kill bacteria, allowing a virus less than 2 hours to live on any surface. These paints are able to continue to kill 90% of bacteria for up to four years. These kinds of paints add a new way to help prevent the spread of microbes on high-traffic and high-touch painted surfaces.

The walls within the OhioHealth Free Standing Emergency Department facilities are easily cleanable.

In such an unknown time, while there is much we can’t control, there are still many things we can. Finding ways to prepare your space for life post pandemic through the implementation of even small design aspects can set your company up for success. People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan. By implementing a design plan in place for your space, you are doing everything you can within your control for future success and the control of disease spread.

If you’re interested in learning more, continue the conversation by contacting Kris Nankivell, Senior Interior Designer, at krisn@designwithma.com.