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The COVID Safe Design Glossary

Since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in March 2020, Architectus Senior Associate Diana Rosenthal has been exploring the impact of COVID-19 on our clients, their organisations and their facilities. She’s trawled through the research and distilled fact from fiction covering physical distancing, new technologies and industry messaging on antimicrobial materials and coatings.   

When city offices began reopening, Diana developed a tool kit and put it into practice, offering clients a swift turnaround redesign service and enabling them to safely and confidently transition their workplaces into COVID-safe environments. And then she began looking to the future… 

With a plethora of new and ever evolving information to grapple with, we have compiled a glossary of useful and frequently used terms as a guide to help you wade through everything related to pandemic-resistant spaces where we go about our work, education and life! 

1500 bubble
a 1500millimetre safezone surrounding individuals 

Activity-based working (ABW)
workplace where workers move between various settings designed for different types of tasks  

able and willing to adjust to change 

agentsmaterials, finishes or treatments that can kill or stop the growth of harmful microorganisms 

Bi-polar ionisation
air filters that omit charged oxygen ions that destroy bacteria and virus cells 

Blended experience
situation where a person carries out activities with the suitable resources from home as well as in the traditional pre-COVID location as well as other places 

the number of people in a space divided by the area of the space; many people in a small space is denser than a large space with fewer people  

Desk for the day*
an occupancy monitoring system designed by Unispace where workers virtually book workstations.  See also ABW. * 

Digital equity
a culture where the digital experience in the usual place of work, learning, meeting or play is equal to the digital experience offered at home or other places  

Circulation path
the walkway that people follow through a space, such as a corridor  

Enclosed space
indoor area that is not open to the outdoors 

Functional Assessment and Capacity Tool (FACT) developed by Architectus to interpret space requirements for the COVID era 

capable of adjusting without loss of function 

changing shape in response to an external force 

‘in real life’  

Nomadic services
an interoperable IT and security network that allows access from home or from outside the usual place of work, learning, meeting or play at any time  

the number or people using space 

Physical / social distancing
keeping a defined distance apart from others to reduce spread of infection  

Physical vs virtual
the process of weighing the cost/benefits of being together with others in the same physical space as opposed to an online forum  

future when COVID-19 is less of a threat due to an effective vaccine or treatment, the build widespread immunity amongst communities, or a mutation that reduces the virus’ severity or the period after COVID-19 was discovered 

Post-pandemic world
future when, although the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, the fabric of everyday life has changed 

Propeller Workplace*
workplace concept developed by Unispace where the office extends beyond the physical workplace and combines working from home with working in the physical office  * 

QR code
shorthand for Quick Response code, a two-dimensional machine-readable barcode, which enables people to check-in, open doors, call elevators, use printers, book a desk etc via a digital device, without touching surfaces 

Safe Six*
checklist developed by real estate services firm, Cushman and Wakefield designed to help organisations safely return their workers to the workplace * 

Social-distanced office
workplace designed to maintain a physical / social distancing between others  

Space Explorer*
data rich modelling system developed by Arup engineers that measures the safety of workplaces factoring in the size, shape and nature of the space, staff numbers and the most recent research on how COVID-19 spreads * 

Semi-enclosed space
an office space adjoining a larger open area   

Temperature sensor
automated thermometer recording people’s temperature as they enter and exit high-density environments 

Under desk sensor
a device monitoring 
real-time desk occupancy, allowing people to find and reserve desks, and management to understand how spaces are being used 

understanding how frequently available space and resources are used 

UV cleaning
a disinfection method using short wavelength ultraviolet (UV) light to kill or halt the growth of potentially harmful microorganisms 

‘virtual reality’ 

shorthand for the WELL Building Standard and Rating Tool, a global certification system conceived by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI)  * 

‘working from home’ 

‘working from office’ 

Workplace ecosystem*
a future concept developed by Cushman and Wakefield where workplaces no longer exist in a single location but encompass a main office, workers’ home offices and smaller satellite offices * 

a desk where a worker spends most of their office hours 

Zero-touch / hands-free
technologies and fixtures that automate high-contact touch points 


Thomas Dixon Centre achieves world-first WELL Certification™
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese officially opens Flinders University’s Health and Medical Research Building