From April to June 2020, the 3-month long Phase 1 of the Circuit Breaker brought about the indefinite closure of many of our institutional and community assets. In an uncertain COVID-19 future, the eventual reopening of our community assets had to be planned conservatively and thoroughly.
At the very forefront of this pandemic, while Muis worked hand in hand with the Multi-Ministry taskforce in implementing safe-distancing measures and SafeEntry requirements for the community, Warees focused on COVID-Safe building features which can further prepare these spaces to be somewhat “pandemic-ready”.
Essential to this exercise was also finding the most cost-efficient way of implementing these features to multiple mosques of different sizes and spatial configurations. The proposal had to be effective in tackling the mandatory requirements such as SafeEntry and temperature screening yet be flexible enough to adapt to the fluidity of changes in the operation of the buildings, the behavior of users, and the COVID-Safe guidelines issued by the government agencies as the pandemic situation evolves.
Ultimately, these features aim to facilitate our community assets to continue to serve the community while providing assurance of the overall safety of each congregant.
Key COVID-Safe Features to facilitate Safe re-opening
Taking Safe Operations and Safe Management reference from various local government advisories, alongside current technology and knowledge of COVID-19, Warees derived at a set of COVID-Safe Building Features intended for gradual implementation into our existing and future mosques. These COVID-Safe Features center around three main aspects – point of entry & circulation, building materials and hygiene, and employing new technology.
Among these key features are streamlining and segregating the movement of the different types of congregants (eg. prayer congregants, mosque staff, students of Islamic education and other general visitors) in and out of the building and introducing auto-door systems equipped with ultraviolet (UV) disinfecting systems to ensure a more seamless experience with minimal user touch points and contactless operation.
Unlike the traditional mosque convention of having fully carpeted prayer halls, another key feature proposes the use of alternative materials such as vinyl or epoxy floor coatings for prayer halls to facilitate the cleaning and disinfection processes of these large communal spaces. Instead of the temporary sticker markings made on the beautiful Islamic motif carpets, the design of these new floor finishes can expand on traditional Islamic motifs to incorporate key safe-distancing “1-metre apart” guidelines.
Shared spaces such as classrooms, offices, meeting rooms and Customer service offices shall abide by safe-distancing measures and consider reviewing operations by adopting hot-desking concepts and flexible office furniture to allow for evolving configurations of the spaces. Other shared spaces such as the ablution areas can have partitions installed in between each ablution points to reduce cross-interaction – for new ablution spaces, larger spacings between ablution taps can be adopted to reduce crowding.
Far from being solutions, these features will serve as learning points as we continually adapt to the ever-changing pandemic situation. While the proposal is not deemed exhaustive and is expected to evolve as our assumptions and parameters change with the advent of new technologies and development of the pandemic, these preliminary COVID-Safe features are a stepping-stone for building owners in their pandemic-readiness and preparing their real estate assets for the uncertainty of the post-COVID world.