Designing for the Future


At GF, we have been discussing design solutions for our clients and would like to share our ideas to help you take steps to keep employees healthy and customers confident in frequenting your business. We cannot know if the changes made to the built environment will end up as long-term requirements, as with the airport TSA after 9/11, or become short-term requirements only necessary until successful treatment or a vaccine is available. But we can work to design inviting, logical spaces in which business can thrive.

A customer’s journey through a business has many similarities that are independent of the business type: parking lot circulation, entries, interior circulation, restrooms, seating, and payment. We’ve outlined key considerations and suggestions for these intersections.


As customers turn to drive-thru, to-go, delivery, and curbside pick-up orders, companies are facing increased traffic build-up in parking lots adding delay and frustration. Infrastructure improvements and revised codes to address this increased volume are costly and take significant time to be implemented – so how can businesses address this problem through site design and layout? Drive-thru queuing may exceed the lane length; consider adding cones to define lengthened queuing lanes. Since the number of parked cars for dining in has declined, using parking bays for temporary lanes is an option.

Curbside pick-up is usually a quick transaction but allowing vehicles to stop and wait in the main access lanes close to the entry doors can cause circulation issues for other vehicles. Consider allocating stalls close to the entry for pick up by adding numbered stall designation signage with pick up instructions. Customers would reference their stall number for ease of delivery. Delivery vehicles would also use these stalls.


As companies continue to re-open, common interaction and movement are now shrouded by the public health concerns related to shared spaces. Practical improvements on entries include automatic sliding doors or replacing fixtures for touchless use, such as adding arm pull or foot pull entry devices or utilizing approved antimicrobial material. For restaurants with waiting areas, replacing benches with individual seats that can be properly spaced is a manageable upgrade to create a comfortable space for diners and will reduce the number of people in the waiting area. Businesses that anticipate customers waiting outside, consideration of exterior shelters to protect waiting customers from the elements may be prudent.

Interior spaces create unique challenges for businesses; indoor air quality is top of mind as people consider how the virus is transmitted, and there is a multitude of solutions to adjust or update HVAC systems to demonstrate to customers that risk is being minimized. A quick and practical application is to disable demand control ventilation and operate systems at the maximum outdoor air capacity of the equipment. Additional measures include extra filtration by utilizing more standard filtration that does not affect the system performance or even adding Germicidal Ultraviolet (GUV) light to the air supply to eliminate some of the contaminants. While a more intensive option, additional return air paths could be added to prevent contaminated air from traveling through a room before being removed. The use of an entirely computer-based temperature control system in place of manual temperature controls would eliminate touchpoints.

Electrical systems can be improved to help manage the inside environment, which could reduce virus transmission. One solution that is easy to implement is installing automatic occupancy sensors for lighting to eliminate another touchpoint. A more involved upgrade that is getting a lot of attention currently is the use of GUV lighting in high ceiling areas. GUV lighting placed in high ceiling spaces and combined with recirculating ceiling fans has been tested and proven effective in the elimination of viruses in the air. Proper engineering design and proper maintenance are necessary for GUV lighting to ensure the effectiveness of the system and to prevent exposure hazards.


While building occupancy will be lower from social distancing requirements, the sanitation of shared spaces such as restrooms and seating areas require increased diligence. With new information on the virus being shared every day, we now understand from the CDC the main way of transmission is person-to-person and is less likely to spread through surfaces. Understanding surfaces are not a main source of transmission, many touchless fixtures allow for a more sanitary environment in general. Touchless restroom fixtures including faucets, toilets, toilet paper dispensers, soap dispensers, and hand towel dispensers now have an added-value for public health protection. Removing or disabling hand dryers is another quick solution to prevent the possible spread of the virus through air particles. Where space allows, design restrooms for door-less entry; if not possible, place a hand washing or sanitizing station on the exit side.


Along the lines of pre-COVID-19 improvements for energy use, the same applies to the integration of technology into the business operations for companies. Restaurants, convenience stores, and grocers utilizing kiosk check-out stations is a practical approach to continue implementing as people adapt to contactless transactions. The use of phone applications allows customers to save payment methods for contactless purchasing. While we don’t have a crystal ball to know which adjustments are the best solutions to a broad range of changing customer behaviors, we do know that the industries being impacted will be creative in their response.