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How Will Urban Planning And Building Design Change In A Post-Covid World?

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

Singapore is a fast-growing country. In March 2020, the Singaporean government stated that by 2030, 80% of all the buildings (both existing and new developments) in Singapore will become more environmentally-friendly. However, the pandemic is proving to slow down many of Singapore’s developments. The coronavirus pandemic is pooling valuable and sustainable resources. It can be inferred that building and design may be heavily influenced by Covid-19 measures and change to accommodate for it as well its eco-friendliness. Rather than focussing on buildings that won’t exist for several years, applying new-found design information to existing buildings is much more efficient. 

Since quarantine disables us from seeing wide spaces and new things every day, it can make one feel negatively towards their environment. To resolve this feeling, designers are going against recommending multifunction spaces in households and saying that it is better to have separated spaces with dividers or partitions to also limit the number of people in one space.

It’s important to keep one’s mental state of mind on track, so having a space to oneself (a space that is customised to one’s likes and dislikes) is recommended. These separated spaces also account for acoustics, which is significantly important since zoom calls are being attended by all occupants of a household (producing sound). Triple-glazed windows are worth investing in to prevent sound from traveling across space.

Office spaces are also recommended to keep partitions between offices and desks at a certain distance from each other. Disposable (and maybe eco-friendly/recyclable) chair coverings and desk pads can be implemented. Some bacteria are transferred as a result of touching surfaces, which can be fixed by creating “contactless pathways”. With contactless pathways, tenants/occupants will not have to touch any surfaces, except their possessions, while going about their daily activities.

Representational image (Petr David Josek/Associated Press)

For example, elevators can be called with a phone, voice command or facial recognition to enter office premises and motion sensors to open doors. Designers at Cushman and Wakefield firm have developed ‘six feet office design’, a concept in which there are 30% fewer desks in the office space, six feet distance between desks, enclosed meeting rooms with a capacity of two people instead of six, and perhaps, an alert system for each employee to notify them when they are at less than six feet of another person. 

One view is that there shouldn’t be any large windows since it might be difficult for people to see and communicate with one another (especially for differently-abled people). But a general view from many designers is that any space post-Covid — indoor or outdoor, open or divided, commercial or residential — should be well-ventilated and filtered to reduce the spread of bacteria. To avoid the build-up of bacteria, non-porous surfaces work best since they do not absorb them.

Granite, other natural stones, wallpaper, rugs and certain textiles are porous since they absorb microbial spores and food particles. Steel, Quartz, Corian and other copper alloy surfaces are the best surfaces since they are easier to sanitise. Architects and designers are aiming to have at least 30% outdoor space in the overall area of a residence.

With more access to outdoor space, there would be more access to natural light which can reduce reliance on artificial lighting and electricity (an eco-friendly option). For urban planning, sidewalks should be wider for people to uphold social distancing regulation. There should also be more available outdoor spaces for holding events to reduce the density of people in enclosed spaces and therefore reduce the spread. 

lockdown deserted

In a discussion with Dr Nirmal Tulsidas Kishnani, Associate Professor and Program Director of Master of Science and Integrated Sustainable Design at the National University of Singapore, I was able to get a perspective on what building design will look like in Singapore’s future. The discussions on design were around theories and possibilities, with no definite answers. He believes that Covid-19 has made conversations about climate change more urgent since human’s relationship to Nature is negative, which indirectly results in the spread of more diseases.

With this virus, density has become an issue. If people are spread out, it will not be cost-effective or sustainable for a city, and there needs to be a way to alleviate the crowd. One of the newer topics of discussion is in regards to whether or not specific spaces are required anymore. Working from home is proving to be more convenient than expected. Office spaces may not be eliminated, but they might become less used/smaller or converted into apartment buildings or hotels for a hybrid system (working at home and in-office). Retail systems/space might change, since the convenience of ordering in is being used far more than going out to shops and restaurants. 

The pandemic is proving to be a significant challenge interfering with our quality of daily life. Considering the number of regulations and changes that public spaces have had to make, there is a likelihood that building design in Singapore (both commercial and residential) might change to better suit the contagious nature of Covid-19. The mission of being environmentally-friendly will not be hindered by the pandemic’s design circumstances. 

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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