April 9, 2020 | Written by Mimi Burns, ASLA, LEED AP, WELL AP, SITES AP
COVID-19 has upended our world. As the pandemic ebbs and flows in cities, countries, and continents across the globe, most people are focused inward - trying to get through the day in quarantine and figuring out ways for their families, friends, and colleagues to stay healthy, safe, productive, and sane. The design community needs to look outward. This is the time for designers, planners, and engineers to apply critical and creative thinking and identify design solutions that will help a changed society move forward. If not us, who? If not now, when?
We are all in various stages of denial and acceptance. It is hard to think critically about what the future might bring when the present is, well, unprecedented. It’s overwhelming. How can we help heal a society that is so anxious, stressed, and traumatized? With better design. As Minnesota Governor Paul Wellstone famously said, “We all do better when we all do better.”
Over the last 25 years, evidence-based design programs such as WELL, LEED, SITES, and The Living Building Challenge, have helped D/P/S and other design firms create sustainable and resilient buildings that contribute to human health and wellbeing. One of the recurring themes in these programs is the importance and promotion of social engagement and community.
With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, strategies designed to build community need to be reconsidered in the context of current public health mandates for self-quarantining and social distancing. New design approaches will strike a balance: help reduce community-wide transmission and second waves during epidemics, without eliminating community quality of life and the emotional, spiritual and economic vitality that occurs when people come together.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s prepare by developing new evidence-based design solutions for public health that will make our communities more resilient and allow us to thrive in an unpredictable world.
Mimi Burns is a WELL, LEED and SITES Accredited Professional and a licensed Landscape Architect who focuses on creating memorable, sustainable and resilient outdoor places that are designed for human health and wellbeing.
This article is part of a series that addresses the need for new design approaches to support community health resilience. Read more:
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