Fourth-year students from Texas Tech University at El Paso’s College of Architecture created a 130-page resource that shows small businesses how to successfully redesign their spaces under new COVID-related recommendations.
In March, businesses and schools across the U.S. closed to help "flatten the curve" of the coronavirus (COVID-19) illness plaguing the world. When states began reopening, new rules and guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were in place that businesses needed to follow in order to safely open.
Unfortunately, many small businesses struggled to follow these new guidelines, either due to financial strain or space limitations. But, in the city of El Paso, 10 students from Texas Tech University at El Paso's College of Architecture (CoA) put together a comprehensive, 130-page book to help small businesses update their spaces to follow the new CDC guidelines.
"This fall, we were contacted by a nonprofit community organization called Project Viva," said assistant professor Ersela Kripa, acting director of CoA El Paso. "The organization received a federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act grant through the city of El Paso to help small, local businesses that were at risk of shutting down because of the updated CDC requirements. The idea for the grant was to provide design renovation services and construction materials to these businesses so they could reopen and operate again safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. They asked if our students would be interested in conducting research into how interior spaces might be redesigned in accordance with CDC guidelines."
Local, small businesses applied online, and the students reviewed the requests and photos submitted of the spaces that needed design updates. From there, the students went to work.
"They designed hand-sanitizing stations before you enter a place; they designed room separators for restaurants," Kripa said. "The students were producing content for a new codebook of COVID-19 safety guidelines, and they were small design vignettes that can be applied based on the type of business interior. So, there are several types of suggestions in the book places like a restaurant, hair salon or an employment office can adopt."
Local architecture firm Prestidge Smith Razloznik Barajas Bustamante Architects Inc. (PSRBB Inc.) then took the students' recommendations and implemented them into the businesses.
Kripa hopes the students' book can continue to be utilized in El Paso and, hopefully, across the U.S.
"My first goal is to talk to the city of El Paso and see if they would like to be able to reference this in addition to their code guidelines," she said. "I think what's really clever is the way the students cataloged their responses: they're specific to a type, but they're generic enough that they really speak to CDC guidelines rather than a specific kind of architectural space."
The students who participated in the project are:
- Angel Arellano
- Jerod Booth
- Evelyn Campos
- Juan Cardenas
- Sofia Dominguez-Rojo
- Leslie Jacqueline Duarte
- Luis Martinez
- Maria Martinez
- Manuel Martinez
- Emilio Olivas