The Pandemic-Proof Office

It’s a new era we’re living in, one that’s going to take some getting used to. As the country relaxes the lockdown and people return to their workplaces, architects and designers are working on new concepts for the future of office space. 

For years, the trend in office design had moved in the direction of open spaces in an effort to promote collaboration and camaraderie. 2020 has changed all that. The coronavirus has forced designers to reconsider their philosophies and adapt to a new reality in which social distancing and additional sanitation are the norm. 

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The new desk space (courtesy photo).

This has become an important subject not only for architectural and design enthusiasts, of which I count myself one, but for the country at large, as the ramifications have grown so significant. It’s time for anyone who works in a social setting to start caring about their environment.  

As a journalist, I’ve worked in several newsrooms. Think about the zoom-out shot from “All the President’s Men,” which recreates the newsroom floor of the Washington Post. Now, that’s a vast work area where most of us will never have a desk, but it’s something of a  Platonic model in the way that modern workspaces have been conceived. And it needs to change. With this in mind, I reached out to a local company to see the changes they’re making to try to adapt to the new imperatives. Urban Design Specialists is a Marina del Rey-based company that specializes in eco-friendly materials and aesthetically pleasing workspace designs.

The company recently launched its New Era Offices, a series of post-pandemic protective office solutions for open-space offices. It is building desk modules to improve well-being and reduce the risk of getting sick. This design helps people stay six feet apart while still being able to collaborate. The idea is to maintain a sense of community and promote creativity while staying healthy. 

“Employees want refreshing spaces that are attractive in their design and health benefits,” the company says. “Green materials tend to contain less harmful chemicals than standard ones, making office air purer and healthier for the body. They are also more flexible, which allows construction workers to use them for individual eye-catching structures and layouts. When employees are satisfied, so are employers. Green building materials are a win for all. Employees enjoy better working environments, employers earn higher profits, and the planet thrives from less strain.”

Among UDS’s designs are a bioplastic sneeze-guard partition. Bioplastics are plastic materials produced from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, straw, woodchips, sawdust and recycled food waste. 

Another material the company relies on is bamboo, which is known for being durable, attractive and renewable. It’s also resistant to plant pathogens and insects, reducing its chances of being destroyed by rot or beetles. 

Other eco-friendly materials include LED lighting and recycled aluminum, as well as ferrock, which they describe as an alternative to concrete made from waste steel dust and silica, and which absorbs more carbon than it emits, actually making it carbon-negative. 

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Preserving collaboration while protecting safety (courtesy photo).

“Our philosophy is to create designs with wellness in mind, easing people’s anxiety about appearing in public spaces and creating a safer environment,” the company states, adding that they provide safe solutions for any type of business, including restaurants and retail.

The world has changed and it’s reassuring to see businesses recognize the needs of people, adapt and even find new ways to participate in creative solutions. Stay healthy. Cheers. 



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