It is reassuring that the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) is very much on top of the situation regarding the design of buildings in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Building design rules could change as the BCA begins discussions with industry experts on whether rules on air-conditioning and mechanical ventilation in buildings need to be revised. The aim is to boost ventilation in crowded spaces and improve air quality for situations like public health emergencies.
Essentially, the challenge lies in enhancing safety measures to reduce the risk of transmission in future pandemics. At present, many of the more modern high-rise office buildings here do not have windows that can open, and they are ventilated through central air-conditioning, which recirculates air in a confined space. Air-conditioning is a necessity in a tropical climate, but it poses a new risk in the light of the coronavirus. The solution may lie then in combining natural and mechanical ventilation systems to make the most of their confluence.
Existing buildings could also incorporate features of the new thinking into their design. For example, they could seek to minimise the chances of physical contamination by investing in contactless devices such as office doors that swing open, thus eliminating the need to open them physically. The redesign, including the spacing and location of office cubicles, is an important new area of working life in which inventive measures would go a long way in protecting the welfare of staff and that of the company. The infrastructure of a post-Covid-19 Singapore needs to reflect today's lessons. Existing designs and workplace practices will not hold any longer. The environment has changed significantly. Far more than even the haze exemplified, air quality has become a crucial determinant of public health. Buildings have to be held to higher standards.