Open Letter During the Pandemic: Is it safe for you to re-enter your home?
During the period of restricted movements and lockdowns, many remained at home and it became our safe haven. On a basic level, the home provides shelter to protect us from harsh weather, to protect us from potential dangers which now includes protection from the coronavirus. As lockdowns are being relaxed in several countries all over the world, some thoughts entered my mind which I thought I would share.
A quick background story to put things in context. You see, I live with my partner who is a medical doctor. Being a key worker at the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom who has been travelling in and out of our home to one of the most, if not the most contaminated places — the hospital. As an architect who is now working exclusively from home, I carefully considered how we can maintain the home as a safe place for us.
To effectively communicate what we have been practising, imagine your home in three sections:
Red Zone — High risk — Outside your front door
Yellow Zone — Area to reduce risks as much as possible — Entrance hallway
Green Zone — Protected zone — Your home beyond the entrance hallway
To protect yourself and your family / people you live with, as we begin spending more time outside, we can each do our part to maintain our homes as a clean and safe place. I have identified a few high-risk items and how we can spatially contain them:
Researchers have found that the virus can be tracked all over the floor by infected patients and medical staff. At the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in Beijing, China, Dr Zhen Dong Guo and team collected swab samples from potentially contaminated objects in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and general ward from 19th February to 2nd March 2020. The tests revealed that 70% of swab samples from the hospital floor came up positive for coronavirus.
Remove your shoes outside your entrance door (Red Zone) if possible. Otherwise, keep them at the Yellow Zone. The concept of the Yellow Zone is common in the Asian countries, however, in many countries in the West, the culture to wear shoes that were worn outside at home is still common practice. A prominent example is the genkan in Japan, whereby one removes their shoes and proceed into the rest of the house in slippers. To our readers who may not be aware of the risks, I hope you can keep this in mind the next time you re-enter your home after being outside.
Your coat and your clothes
Identify a location within your entrance hallway (Yellow Zone) where you can hang your coat. For us, I have added stick-on hooks on our wall to hang the frequently used coats. As for clothes, I prepared a separate laundry bag just underneath the coats hooks to wash my partner’s clothes separately at high heat. Upon putting his clothes and socks into the laundry bag, he seals the bag and makes his way to the nearest bathroom to thoroughly clean up.
If there are other members of family or friends living in the same house, it may not be possible to openly doff your clothing, so keep that in mind and identify how you can make the shortest distance to the nearest bathroom to thoroughly clean up.
Your keys, phone, wallet, and other important items that you always have with you
Our phones have become so integrated into our lives that it may be hard not to touch your phone whilst you are out. Therefore, within the Yellow Zone, have a dedicated area where you have disinfectant wipes or sprays to clean the items that may pose a risk.
It takes under five minutes to carry out these simple steps. In my opinion, the benefits significantly outweigh the potential risks, so I will be following these steps in the foreseeable future.
For future residential projects, it is already in my mind to incorporate a small bathroom by the entrance. This bathroom will be within the Yellow Zone. Why? This will allow the simple act of disinfecting our hands and feet before moving into the Green Zone. This bathroom can also be a dedicated place for the removal of clothes with spatial provision for laundry bags. Depending on the available area, I will also allow for a shower within this bathroom, especially for those who work in particularly high risk or highly polluting environments.
These simple measures could help maintain the home as a clean zone. As the lockdown is relaxed in many countries, I would urge those moving in and out of your homes to practise these simple steps to improve hygiene levels and keep your home as a safe environment.
It’s up to us to maintain our homes as a clean and safe environment.
If you have any questions or would like to further discuss this topic, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org