Hotel design may undergo significant changes post pandemic

Corona virus has crippled the global economy, especially the hospitality industry. Architects Ponni M Concessao & Oscar Concessao, Oscar & Ponni Architects, Chennai, explains why hotel designs may not be the same!

There are a lot of hotels that are out there that existed before that are set up already for social distancing, like small resorts where there are individual villas that have a lot of space between them. But the vast majority of hotels are built with many floors and elevators that people pack into, and narrow corridors that lead to hotel rooms and you’re inevitably passing very close to other people, sitting in bars and restaurants in hotels, attending events.

So I think social distancing is an area that will be explored if that remains part of how we move into recovery. Something as simple as pulling up in a car and having a valet take your car and park it in the hotel parking, that’ll have to change. I don’t think people would want that to happen if we still have to maintain distances.We can envisions hotel cars will pick up guests from the airport upon their arrival. So guests know the car has been sanitized and will be a safe/healthy ride to the destination. Hotels will likely provide more transportation services for guests, in addition to airport transfers. More services will be provided by hotels such as safe transportation to an off-property site and hotel-guided tours of destination locations so the experience is private and not a part of a crowd.

Checking in; a lot of hotels had been adopting, slowly adopting, remote check-in or self-check-in from kiosks and using direct-to-room technology. where you pre-check-in and use your personal smart phone to unlock a door.One can check in online or by phone before arrival and use an iPhone code to access the room. Guests can also be escorted to private areas for check in. Once inside the room, they can use their device, or an installed voice-activated device, to control the lighting, temperature, and audiovisual equipment, as well as access concierge and other services. In some cases, the room ambience may be preset for them based on their expressed preferences or time of arrival.

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads globally, architects and designers are increasing research and technical skills to identify new patterns that will be incorporated into designing of hotels in future. The current situation will segregate the timelines as “BC – Before Corona” and “AC – After Corona”, where all the design elements and habitable spaces will be designed with minimum human contact and will drive guests to enjoy the spaces just through visual experiences. It is very likely that we will see a similar shift to disinfection as a new normal while allowing guests and staff into hotel buildings. The design of entrances will possibly have to be modified to integrate such measures, similar to the rigorous screenings we are getting accustomed to seeing at airports.In such a scenario, zero-maintenance buildings, touch-free interactions, and technology based sanitization will evolve as a new normal for hotels.

The hospitality industry is undergoing a transformation. Disruptors to the traditional business model, such as alternative booking platforms. There will be more cost allocated to technology, where one can facilitate minimum human interaction, the use of robots in housekeeping, automated entry systems, one-card identification systems, automatic lighting systems can be adopted by hotels, and automation to avoid human contact with vulnerable surfaces should be a preference. There will be sensor based lighting in common areas, sensor taps and gesture controlled flushing in public washrooms should become industry standard as people will become aware of how many surfaces they touch during a normal hotel visit.Other areas of a hotel, which are in a higher risk of surface contamination, are communal facilities like health clubs, salons and swimming pools. Hospitality projects at the top end of the spectrum may choose to redesign these facilities to have proper social distancing, while these amenities can disappear altogether from mid-range and business hotels.

The other major change that hotel design will witness is the choices of materials. As guest facing facilities need to be designed to quickly wipe down, we may see a departure from the “rough” aesthetics that had gained some traction over the past few years, especially in destination tourism. There may be fewer carpeted areas, and the use of tiles and stones may increase. It’s imperative for hoteliers to change the notion of design and make technology the need of the hour. Hospitality architecture discipline will be on working on reduced densities, and focusing on hygiene levels and standards for our air conditioning, materials, furniture etc. Hotels will also offer a range of amenities to help the guest room stay sanitized and fresh. There will be such things as ozone purifiers and the smart-disinfectant built-in closets, such the AirDresser from Samsung (a freestanding closet that cleans and de-wrinkles clothes). The guest room décor will evolve and bacteria-resistant materials will be commonly used. There was already a trend away from wall to wall carpet, that can be a dust and dirt trap, toward hard surface floors such as wood or stone with a rug overlay that can be removed and cleaned often.  Anti-bacterial switches, paints, laminates, and even fabric will become the norm for designing hotel interiors.  Smooth easily cleanable surfaces and finishes with a contemporary flavor of design will be more popular.

The trend toward light-filled spaces with cleaner lines and more contemporary forms will grow moving forward, and minimal to equate that it is easy to keep clean, fresh and crisp and forward thinking.Less obvious to the guest, but critical to the solution of healthier environments will be an increased volume of “clean fresh air” while the amount of the air that re-circulates needs to be reduced. The HVAC engineers are highly aware of this and it goes into LEED requirements, she says.While the hotel industry has been slow to embrace LEED due to other needs and requirements, the need for healthier, cleaner and more environmentally friendly hotels is now upon us. In addition to LEED, the USGB (United States Green Building Counsel) has formed the Well Building Standards, which is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing.

We need to address how design materials to be considered in interior design for disease prevention.How the design of certain places can affect the disease’s transmission and investigate how disease-causing pathogens are spread throughout indoor environments. In the wake of the alarm over the coronavirus we spend more than 90 percent of our time indoors. Our health is influenced by everything we touch in these interior environments. Disease-causing pathogens can be transferred from person to person, but also through everyday objects such as the waiting room chairs at the doctor’s office, the door handle to the breakroom at work, the clipboard passed around at a volunteer event. Being exposed to common viruses and bacteria in this way can help to build up our immune system. When it comes to more severe diseases, though, it is critical to have interior environments that can protect our health by reducing pathogen transmission.

Architects and designers also play a key role in outbreaks like this. Some materials transfer pathogens more effectively than others. Some materials are even inherently antimicrobial, meaning they can weaken or kill the disease-causing organism before it can infect anyone. Bio-security measures during an outbreak like the one we are seeing now will make use of antimicrobial materials, personal protective equipment, thorough cleaning routines and vigilant waste management to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.As in hospital rooms, we need to relook at Hospitality rooms, which are also relatively small, interior designers choose materials that can be easily cleaned and sterilized, materials like sheet vinyl floors with rolled edges, laminated countertops and stainless steel sinks with offset drains. They have more rigorous cleaning protocols, and in spaces designed to handle infectious diseases, they even install specialized air filtration and pressurization systems to ensure that harmful agents cannot move from room to room.

This case serves to remind us why interior designers and other professionals of the built environment, apparel designers, architectural designers and product designers, must always look beyond the obvious, to anticipate risks and respond to threats through better designs that proactively protect our health and safety. Another area we  see design shift into has to do with cleanability and the things that are easy to clean, and you can tell that it’s been cleaned. That’s both in the hotel room and in the public area.Something that comes from the medical world, which I think will be another area that will be explored, is antimicrobial materials and surfaces. And that’s been very prevalent in hospital design, healthcare design, for a long time. Those are materials that inherently, either through chemicals that are added to them or just that by the nature of the natural materials in them, kill microbes and viruses and germs on contact, like copper, for example, kills a lot of things.And there are chemically treated fabrics and floor finishes and wall finishes that are used in hospitals that may be considered for hospitality to give a guest sort of a higher level of confidence that there aren’t viruses sitting on a counter in their guest room.

Architects and the creative types have to be very innovative, to rise up to the challenges that are our world really is facing in these times and going forward, and will be playing a major role in solving some of these challenges. And that’s what gets design juices flowing, thinking about those kinds of challenges. How do you take something that is inherently social and puts hundreds or even thousands of people together in close proximity? How do you design that so that you can maintain a social distance or separation that’s going to make everyone feel comfortable? That’s a huge challenge, that’s exciting as an architect and a designer.

Periods of transition provoke experimentation. Some of the world’s top hoteliers and hospitality design firms are exploring new approaches to designing hotels that seek to reinvent the guest experience. By adopting a “co-creation” methodology that gathers input from users of the space during the creative process, to find out how they use a space, what technology they want and how they want to feel.Developers, hotel executives and business partners have a say in the design, of course, but so do guests and employees. The final payoff, is a design that really works for everyone who enters that hotel or retail store or restaurant or workplace.No one knows what trends will shape hotel design a decade from now. One thing seems certain, though. Hotel interiors will interact with guests in new ways and offer environments that will cater not only to their desire for rest and relaxation but also to their overall health and well-being. They will do this by combining the latest technological innovations and biological science with centuries-old traditions of providing excellent service and guest care.


Hotels are about bringing people together and about travel and tourism, and I think travel and tourism is going to be impacted for quite a while.One way designers are helping ensure the environment works for everyone is by integrating technologies that allow for more convenience and personalization. Addressing guests concern for their health and wellness, architects and designers also are taking a more holistic approach, creating spaces that appeal aesthetically and systemically to all five senses, not just the visual. Adopting practices such as biophilia, they are using more natural materials, providing more direct access to plants and nature views, and creating a refuge from the surrounding urban environment.

Recognizing that guest preferences and technology will continue to change rapidly. Devices and supporting technology can be more easily swapped out if needed or the space adapted to accommodate some new, unforeseen technology.As for those disruptors, they are unlikely to have a substantial impact on higher-end properties. Whether delivered by staff or devices, guests will always value personalized service, comfort and convenience, along with security and a memorable experience. Designing hotels to be future-friendly as well as occupant-friendly will help to deliver on that promise and thus extend their lifespan and profitability.