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Designing for Social Distancing

The Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has brought with it so many changes to the way we live, not just here in the UK but globally. Moving forward there will be many more changes to the way we live, and the way we shop, work and conduct business.

As we start to re-occupy our cities, towns and offices we’ll need to re-evaluate the way we use our space and re-imagine how they will need to change. Spaces will need to have maximum adaptability for our current circumstances and also for the way we may need to change in the future. The emphasis on not just building back better, but also building back greener has been quite prominent on the agenda. Including new incentives bought in by the government.


The ‘new normal’ brings new thought processes and new ways to look at things. How can we arrange our spaces to accommodate this new way of life?

As much as public spaces have been a lifeline for some during lockdown, they’ve also become a source of anxiety for some. Areas are now swathed in caution tape in a bid to direct the behaviour of the public, meaning they’ve lost their tranquility and comforting familiarity.


The ‘Where We Stand’ project asked creative agencies to re-imagine public spaces to fit the new socially distanced demands so they still maintain their beauty whilst being safer and still welcoming. The project focuses on different public spaces well known throughout the world including a series of individual beach huts that blend into their natural surroundings on Bondi Beach, Australia; and an app that projects ever changing shapes on the ground so people can take their own little spot for activities.


Visuals for the AR app proposed for Where We Stand by dn&co


Many towns and cities are already in the process of re-thinking their spaces with a big emphasis on hospitality as things in this area are slowly being re-introduced.

As our bars and restaurants have started to re-open, albeit in a more controlled way, we’ve seen a big increase in alfresco dining. Derby City Council has been one of many to streamline the licensing procedure to allow tables to line our pavements within days of applying (formerly weeks), creating safer spaces for diners. Liverpool announced last month that it is introducing an outdoor dining initiative to boost the business of the city’s restaurants and eateries. The plan involves pedestrianising a number of streets completely and introducing parklets where former parking spaces were located.

We’ve put together a few inexpensive ideas and considerations into ways to create safer spaces for yourselves, your colleagues and your customers. After all, Fisch are the experts in Spatial Planning!


Flooring – Flooring can be such a versatile material and pre-pandemic, flooring has been used to create intricate designs, match corporate colours and logos and add visual interest to any area. This is where inexpensive versatile materials like Luxury Vinyl Tiles come into play. They come in a huge variety of colours and designs and can be easy disinfected in high traffic areas. They can be used to create directional flow, one-way systems and zoning. They don’t need to be harsh and authoritarian. A slight subtle change in colour can create the zones you need without affecting the welcoming atmosphere in the space.


Altro Adhesive Free Luxury Vinyl Tile in Wood effect


Fixtures and Fittings – The main consideration when looking at new fixtures and furniture is that the space’s we use need to be more versatile. From creating an impromptu socially distanced meeting area, to making safe working space for colleagues and visitors alike.

There are materials with anti-microbial properties naturally like copper or copper alloys; but there are also many manufactured materials on the market with anti-microbial properties, including fabrics and wallpapers, so your spaces can still be soft and comforting whilst providing the protection needed.


Creating barriers doesn’t just need to be clinical, think less Perspex screening and more colourful niches that are inviting. We love the idea of creating smaller working nooks for people that are soft and comforting like these acoustic flexible screens by Zilenzio and private lounge chairs by Poppin.


Focus Divider by Zilenzio; Quiet Time (QT) Privacy Lounge Chair by Poppin


Technology – Less social contact is high on the agenda as we move out of lockdown and has been something we’ve seen around for some time. As more and more retailers have provided online shopping provision and stores have introduced self-serve this seems to be something that will be around much more in the future.


We’ve seen lots of ingenious ways of using technology. Businesses can provide wristbands to notify their employees when they’re within 2 meters of each other. As touch free technology seems to be the way forward, retailers have invested more in contactless payment technology including many small businesses. Touchless sanitary facilities have been introduced more and more to conveniences in restaurants and shopping centres and you can even get self-cleaning elevator buttons, using self-cleaning mineral nanocrystals that continuously break down surface contaminants.

Many shopping centres are investing in UV lighting to disinfect, reducing the cost of continuous manual cleaning. Cinemas in South Korea are using ticket scanning AI robots and voice activated popcorn machines.


“Checkbot” an AI Ticket Robot in Seoul


However you decide your spaces need to change; we have a full team of experts on hand to help. Whether it’s specifying the right materials or creating new layouts to allow you to continue to run your business; we’re here to provide all that you need to get up and running back at full speed again.

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