This is

Building Typology of the Future, Analysed from the COVID-19 Lens. Futureproofing is designing something so that it can still be used in the future, even when technology changes, as defined by Cambridge University Press. FutureProof will research architectural changes made during COVID-19.

This project is funded with the 2021 School of Cities Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy Award. The School of Cities, University of Toronto.

project overview

I’m Ecem Sungur, an architecture student specializing in design and sustainability in cities.

The world is still in the midst of a pandemic that has spread wider and faster than any in human history – affecting families, communities, and nations across the globe. In such a time, it is essential to learn how to improve our buildings and cities to be more adaptive and resilient to future crises.

This project will provide its readers a guide on pandemic responses, adaptive architecture and future-proofing through three main processes:


of changing architecture due to COVID-19


of research to create a “COVID-19 building typology”


of the building typology and how it might look in the future

Table of Contents

An Overview of the Pandemic: Lifestyle Changes

Having started showing significant effect around March 2020, governments all around the world had to take extensive measures in order to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of these drastic changes, people’s lifestyles had to shift accordingly – from physical health to social interactions. How did our way of living change?

Lockdowns and Closure of Public Spaces
Working from Home and Remote Learning
Online Communication
Travel restrictions and Limited Mobility
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Data taken from Parade and Cleveland Clinic (June 2020)

0 %

of respondents have adopted some type of lifestyle change since the pandemic began, whether that’s been getting more exercise, making positive dietary changes, or trying to get more sleep.

New Lifestyle, New Needs from Architecture and Responses

All the abovementioned changes and more have affected our needs from architecture. With a rapidly changing environment, we had to take fast action to fulfill those needs. Therefore, these needs were not only essential, but they were also under a time constraint, which highlights the importance of preparedness for crises.


The need to design and build fast in emergency situations has been highlighted with the pandemic. The demand for more facilities like hospitals, quarantine centers, testing sites, and temporary lodgings increased as the healthcare industry became overwhelmed.

Possible Solution: Modular Construction and Adaptive Reuse

With the need for more spaces in such a fast time, modular construction became increasingly common. Modular construction is the process where buildings are assembled through prefabricated modules. This makes the construction process faster and easier.

Similarly, the need for speed required the reuse of existing structures to serve new purposes. Adaptive reuse is a fast and sustainable option to creating new spaces (especially for aging cities). Along with modular construction, it’s proven to be very effective in creating emergency facilities.

Other examples could include pop-up recovery units that are rapidly deployable or shipping containers converted to biocontainment pods and modular critical care units that can be easily transported.

Social Distancing

Especially in large cities, social distancing in open and closed areas is needed. Therefore, places that can provide this distanced organization became more in demand. Since closed spaces pose a greater threat for the virus to spread, stores have either been continuing their services outdoors or have organized their seats according to social distance measures.

Possible Solution: Implement Social Distancing in Design

Even after the pandemic, social distancing should be implemented within designs. For instance, Studio Precht proposed a social distance oriented park, allowing people to be outdoors. Thus, in future emergencies, such parks would continue to offer spaces of refuge and serenity in urban areas.


Adaptability has become an increasingly evident need during the pandemic. Flexible design has proven to be essential – whether that’s reorganizing one’s home that’s better suited for working remotely or creating make-shift emergency facilities.

Possible Solution: Adjustable Buildings

An Australian architectural firm, Woods Bagot, is already looking towards the future with their AD-APT system. It includes a series of adjustable walls and screens that would be used to segment an open-plan apartment into various dedicated spaces. The same approach could be made in office buildings.


Self-isolation and staying at home made the need to form connections more evident. The connection with people, nature, and surroundings is more desired than ever. Instinctively, the human brain links the color green to nature and vegetation, and in nature, one usually finds freshness, health, and tranquility. 

Possible Solution: Utilize Green Spaces Indoors

Besides painting the walls, interior designers brought the outdoors inside by using biophilia as a source of inspiration. Incorporating natural greenery within designs promotes well-being, health, and emotional comfort – which also helps to reduce stress.

What is Future-proofing?

What is Future-Proofing?

Future-proofing is designing something so that it can still be used in the future, even when technology changes (Cambridge University Press).

Why is Future-Proofing important?

Future-proofing techniques are used in architecture for more resilient buildings and cities. Buildings that are future-proof are often more adaptable and sustainable. With future-proofed cities, we can be more prepared for future crises and lessen the possible damages to our buildings.

Pandemic Architecture Typology

Architecture Approaches

Taken from: Antivirus-built environment: Lessons learned from Covid-19 pandemic by N.A. Megahed and E.M. Ghoneim

Self-sufficient Strategies

In addition to all the energy-efficient strategies with heating and cooling systems, architects might inspire additional methods of thinking concerning water supply and food production.

Refocusing on Green Spaces

We require physical interaction with living plants for our mental health, and to grow what we eat to reduce risk, specifically during self-isolation

Low-rise Buildings

During a pandemic, it is necessary to reduce contact with everything in multi-story buildings such as elevators, elevator buttons, door handles, and surfaces

Better Air Quality

After forced self-isolation and spending more time indoors, an approach to improving health through strategies such as greater natural light, improved ventilation, fewer toxic substances, and incorporating plants and other natural materials is necessary

Possible Strategies

Examples from: Antivirus-built environment: Lessons learned from Covid-19 pandemic by N.A. Megahed and E.M. Ghoneim

Adaptive Reuse

the reuse of existing structures to serve new purposes.

Adaptive Reuse

Modular Construction

the process where buildings are assembled through prefabricated modules.

Modular Construction

Lightweight Architecture

lightweight fabric construction is often preferable for its speed and portability.

Lightweight Architecture

Healthy Buildings

the Healthy Building Movement is an approach to improving health through various elements.

Healthy Buildings

Vic hospital, Melbourne, Australia

 A semi-permanent resuscitation unit has been built at the hospital. The unit comprising a prefabricated semicontainerized two-story COVID-19 specific-purpose hospital in its car park.

Leishenshan hospital, Wuhan, China

A 1,600-bed hospital constructed on a parking lot from prefabricated modules placed into steel skeletons above concrete foundations.

Temporary hospital, Javits Center, New York

New York City’s Javits Convention Center turned into a 2,910-bed temporary field hospital for COVID-19 patients

The Nightingale Hospital, London, UK

Excel Exhibition Centre turned into a 500 -bed hospital equipped with ventilators and oxygen with the capacity increased to fight COVID-19.

Inflatable Emergency Hospital, Pachuca, Mexico

The hospital designed to be the quickest response to an immediate care center. A 1,000-square-meter structure prepared to see up to 80 COVID-19 patients daily.

UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco Bay, USA

The hospital sets up two outdoor tents to prep for a possible influx of COVID-19 patients which employed as triage and emergency room extensions, waiting, and treatment areas.

Elements like greater natural light, improved ventilation, fewer toxic substances and the incorporation of plants and other natural materials are considered.

Kilroy Realty Corporation. Rooftop at 100 First Street. 2 Star Fitwel Rating, San Francisco, California, United States.

Specific Features: Case Study

Taken from: MASS. Designing Senior Housing for Safe Interaction.

This case study from Mass looks at achieving infection control principles while offering solutions that allow people to safely come together by looking at a Senior Housing. By exploring this case study and how to improve spaces, we can apply them to our current and future buildings.

Hover over the labels to see areas of improvement.


Have a rigorous system of checking in visitors. This will aid in contact-tracing if an infection is discovered in the building.


Adapt space where possible to accommodate additional services and provide basic amenities such as a small grocer or health screening station within the building.


Create a changing and storage area to provide space for staff to don and doff PPE separate from residents.


Research states the elevator buttons require enhanced cleaning protocols. Install hand sanitizer at elevator lobbies and where possible make elevator buttons larger and more accessible so they can be pressed with an elbow or cane.


Create buffer zones where people may be queuing –  class for shared restrooms, mail boxes, elevators to allow for distancing.

Package Desk

Provide space for cleaning of packages. This should occur within the lobby to avoid unnecessary exposure within tight circulation paths such as hallways and elevators.


Decorate each mail box for easy identification. This not only allows the resident to extend their sense of ownership, it also reduces the likelihood that their mailbox will be touched by accident.


Encourage use of stairs where possible as an alternative to elevators.


Look for ways to reduce use of high touch areas, such as elevators, by setting limits on the number of people able to use the elevator at the same time and improving existing stairs to encourage use of other means of egress.

Applications for Housing

Examples from: Residential Architecture in a Post-pandemic World, Dirk HR Spennemann

The Containment Space

In a pandemic environment, this creates a permeable zone that commingles the exterior and interior. To pandemic-proof residential buildings, buffer or containment space needs to be established between the uncontrollable external world and the internal personal universe.”

Having a containment space would not only limit the possibility of infection, it would also help structure the circulation within the building itself.

The Threat-Reduced Internal Residential Space

An internal residential space would be threat-reduced with space suitable for self-isolation and communal spaces accessible to visitors. Spaces like these were high in demand during the start of the pandemic.

Spatial and Social Distancing

The image depicts a common family housing where areas with a high risk of infection are colored in red, whereas safe zones are colored in green.

Best Practices

Taken from: MASS. Designing Spaces for Infection Control

Design for social distance, not social isolation.

Reduce congestion and reliance on waiting rooms and other communal spaces where infectious and healthy people mix. Sequence the flows of people to limit unnecessary overlaps. Make sure to separate clean and dirty entrances, ensure proper donning and doffing areas for PPE, and consider how people and materials will be moving through the space.

Rethink material selection and treatment of surfaces.

Surfaces contaminated with infected droplets can transmit disease. We need to rethink guidelines determined by previous diseases, in the face of new realities.

Make your spaces breathe better.

COVID-19 is mainly spread by droplets—produced by coughing, sneezing or even just talking—that can travel up to 6 ft (2 m). To dilute and remove contaminated indoor air, open windows for cross ventilation (if appropriate, and if the space allows), or use exhaust fans or mechanical systems to pull air outside. Air cleansing strategies are also an effective option, such as Germicidal Ultraviolet (GUV) air disinfection units or air filters.

Temporary shelters are never temporary.

Whether erecting a tent clinic or retrofitting a lobby, decisions we make now will have long term effects on institutions and communities. When the spigots of relief dollars begin flowing to temporary structures, invest in something that will last for a year, not a month.

Design for people, not just against pathogens.

Well-intentioned spaces will fail if they clash with how people will actually use them. Designs need to respect user and cultural preferences and anticipate natural human behaviors. Design can help rebuild trust in the public realm. Use signs and graphics to reveal the systems that are working behind the scenes: publicly display safety standards and protocols for restaurants and places of convening, construction sites, and job sites.

Looking into the Future

Even though the pandemic has made us change our way of living at the time, it will most definitely impact the way we design our buildings in the future. This will also have an obvious impact on the way we live in cities. Therefore, it’s important to look into the ways architecture could change after the pandemic. Below are some questions this project looked into, answered by architects.

The pandemic, to me, exposed the need for businesses, designers, creators, even entire countries, to be able to adapt. I see the same challenge being posed in this realm of architecture and design – as creators we must be adaptable and fluid in our skills and our practices, but the places and structures we’re creating need this ability as well.”

“I think the coronavirus pandemic has made people realise that having architectural spaces that are secure and safeguarded is extremely important. In times past, the primary function of architectural structures was to shelter human beings from the elements and predatory animals. In the future, protecting people from viruses will be one of the important functions of architecture.

This aspect will be paid more and more attention to in design. For example, the need to revise the distribution ratio of open space and private space in spatial layouts will promote the forming of new design specifications; and the need for sterilization and sterilization technology in architectural materials will instigate the production of new products. This will undoubtedly lead to changes in the way future buildings are designed.”

Long-term, interiors and architecture will have to be created with hygiene and practicality at the forefront. Both vision and design details will need to be adapted to ensure space adheres to everyday living, with the additional demands highlighted by Covid in a post-pandemic world.”

“I think the coronavirus pandemic has made people realise that human beings are vulnerable to nature and that we cannot ignore the impact of the earth’s environment on our lives. In the past, people were content to stay in air-conditioned rooms or a comfortable car, without giving a second thought to the environment or nature.”

“I believe that one long term impact of coronavirus will be that we’ll value places that bring us together a little bit more. But I also believe we’ll be looking for places that better reflect the true diversity of our society.”

Taken from: Dezeen, Interview with Architects and Designers

The changes in architecture not only affect construction, but also cities. Therefore, it’s important to also think about the urban effects and approaches to possibly future-proof our cities with adaptable, sustainable, and resilient architecture.

Urban Approaches

Expanding Horizontally

Regarding the impact of social distancing, planners and architects might design according to expanding horizontally approaches with more available open spaces, which could be essential to prevent the spread of infections and diseases.

Fewer Density Cities

Urbanization might take a step back to enhance villages and city suburbs, particularly with the increased acceptance of digital transformation


The pandemic highlights the importance of distributing smaller units such as health facilities, schools, and services across more of the urban tissue and strengthen local centers

Urban Farming

It is urgent to rethink how land is used with landscapes and urban farming integrated approaches

Fewer cars, more cycling, and walking

The pandemic has emphasized that efficient multi-modal transport is more robust and thus essential to sustainable growth. No single mode of transport is in the long run superior

Lessons Learned

It’s not possible for us to remake everything in our cities, however, as our world becomes more interconnected, we need to utilize new options that are more responsive, holistic, and flexible to better address the pandemic. Utilizing these options will also help us tackle other urgent issues like migration, social disconnection, inequality, climate change, pollution, and much more. In order to address such complex issues, we need to improve our ways of building and planning.

I believe the pandemic was a good opportunity for us to reconsider our preparedness for crises in our cities. COVID-19 reminded us that if we prepare our cities according to possible crises, we can lessen the damages made to our communities. So, we should be more protective instead of reactive – and this is why we need future-proofing.


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“POST-PANDEMIC ARCHITECTURE.” Natura, October 23, 2020. 

“Role of Architecture in Fighting COVID-19.” MASS Design Group. Accessed June 23, 2021. 

“Urban Solutions: Learning from Cities’ Responses to COVID-19′.” UNESCO, July 23, 2020. 

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Students in the Spotlight: Ecem Sungur

May 5, 2021

“Students in the Spotlight” is a conversation series with members of the SofC Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy Program. In this conversation, I answered the below questions:

  • What are your research and engagement interests?
  • What has motivated your interests and journey? How do you hope to make a difference?
  • What’s the latest project you have been working on that you would like to share with the SofC audiences?
  • As a student, researcher and or activist, what have you learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and its global impact? How do you envision post-pandemic recovery? What do you hope for?
  • Please share with us your experiences at the SofC. How do you think being a member of the SofC Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy Program has contributed to your scholarship and added to your experience as a student?
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