Interior Design, Built Interior Environments & Pathogen Transmission Reduction

Social distancing in the wake of COVID19 has most of us staying at home. In fact, even without social distancing, ninety percent of our time is spent indoors. Many people are taking this extra time to declutter and clean to help improve the energy flow as well as cleanliness of their homes-clean being a key term in preventing contaminants from spreading. But did you know that interior design also can help?

Why is it important to consider interior design in disease prevention? Our overall health is substantially influenced by everything we touch within these interior environments. Disease-causing pathogens can be transferred from person to person and through everyday objects, like a cart at the local grocery store, the door handle to the gas station, and even the mail. Being exposed to common viruses and bacteria in this way can help build strong immune systems. However, when it comes to more severe diseases, it is crucial to have an interior environment thoughtfully designed to help preserve overall health by reducing the transmission of various pathogens.

The work of interior designers encompasses mapping complex problems across the frameworks of our built interior environments. In doing so, they are able to find and implement design interventions or alterations for the protection of health and improvement of life, while also making our built environments aesthetically attractive. The COVID-19 outbreak provides us with an excellent example of how our built environments play a central role in disease outbreak and prevention.

The British cruise ship, Diamond Princess, is an excellent example of how interior design can increase the safety and cleanliness of a space. The cabins of the Diamond Princess are approximately one hundred fifty-eight to one hundred sixty-two square feet in size. Consequently, the ship consists of a plethora of surfaces that must be regularly cleaned within very confined spaces. As a result, interior designers selected materials that are easily cleaned and sterilized, such as vinyl floors, laminated countertops, and stainless steel sinks. On a luxury cruise ship, interior designers must also balance the need for disease prevention with that which is aesthetically pleasing.

On February fifth, the British government quarantined the Diamond Princess because of a COVID19 outbreak. The ship and its crew are being asked to provide all the services of a luxury cruise ship coupled with the functions of a hospital isolation ward. Their effectiveness on both counts is not only a testament to the ship’s interior designers but also to the dedication of its crew. This case serves to remind us why interior designers must always look beyond the obvious, anticipating risks and responding to threats through better designs that proactively protect our health and safety.

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