Since 1 Bligh Street, we have continued to design advanced natural and mixed-mode ventilation systems across a diverse range of projects. Some of these are new builds like 1 Bligh Street, while others were created in the context of existing buildings. For instance, when we designed the Qantas Headquarters in Sydney, we were tasked with transforming an outdated 1980s office campus into a modern and sustainable workplace. A major part of this project was designing an efficient, mixed mode ventilated atrium that connects the campus spaces and innovatively uses spill-air drawn from adjacent office floor plates to regulate temperatures throughout the seasons.
Natural and mixed-mode ventilation systems are just one example of how buildings can protect occupants from airborne viruses. Some buildings are sealed and mechanically ventilated for practical and climatic reasons. In these cases, design features that are already common in hospitals such as optimal humidity control systems and air cleaning light filters including UV light filters may become increasingly standard in city high-rises.
Scientists warn us that, in a world with a growing and evermore global population, the instance of pandemics will rise. Many cities are adjusting to COVID-19 – imposing social distancing rules, sectioning off roads to widen footpaths and bike lanes, taking citizens’ temperatures before they board public transport. What remains uncertain is what the enduring impact of COVID-19 will be; how will cities and their buildings change so that when the next pandemic strikes, we are better prepared?
We don’t have to look far back to find examples of global events comparable to the COVID-19 pandemic that changed the course of architecture and design. In the wake of the cholera pandemic of the 19th century, countries constructed more hygienic sewer systems and introduced new zoning laws to prevent overcrowding. Almost a century later – as the world endured two world wars, the Spanish Flu pandemic and the Great Depression – the minimalist design principles of modernist architecture began taking seed. The desolation of the first half of the 20th century saw the great mid-century architects aspire to create pared back, light-filled buildings – blank canvases for the ideas that would form a better future.
Today, we are more informed and better equipped than ever to design spaces that protect people from the overlapping challenges arising from climate change and globalisation, including rising urban populations, extreme weather and natural disasters, and future pandemics on par with COVID-19.
If developers and architects rise to these looming challenges, one positive outcome will be to fast track the next generation of sustainable, naturally ventilated towers, through which clean air flows and people can breathe easy.
This article first appeared here on Architecture & Design.