With 2020 finally behind us, co-op shareholders and condominium owners are looking forward - and their boards are seeking to make improvements and changes that reflect both the crises of the past year and issues put on hold as the pandemic started. Nearly every aspect of multifamily administration and management has had to adapt or evolve in some way over the last year or so - and that includes the very public (and often very subjective) issue of lobby design. In addition to the usual aesthetic back-and-forth over paint vs. wallpaper or what kind of tile looks best, concerns today are centered around three areas of sheer practicality: safety, sustainability, and cleanliness.
Whether a result of the pandemic or not, NYC has seen an increase in crime over the past year. Break-ins are up, as are street muggings and robberies. Given this troubling trend, what can communities do to protect themselves?
“Have a presence - or at least a perceived presence,” says Marilyn Sygrove, president and owner of Sygrove Associates Design Group, an interior design firm based in Manhattan. “The visibility of building staff, such as your doorman, is key. Making him or her more easily seen - and able to see others - is a good first step. Locating the doorman’s desk as close to the door as possible definitely can be a deterrent [to misbehavior]. Close access to the package room or package closet to the desk assures that there is always someone in the lobby even if they have to step into the package room or closet for a few moments. Which reminds me that the package closet needs to be organized so that packages can be efficiently retrieved without wasting time.”
Another option under consideration by many boards, Sygrove continues, is to add or update security cameras at building entry points, elevator cabs and laundry rooms. “We are designing doorman desks to accommodate the viewing screens, so they are an integral part of each desk we design,” she says. Other security options and upgrades many buildings are considering include alarms and electronic entry doors. Sygrove also has a client contemplating having a panic button built into the doorman’s desk that is directly connected to the building’s security company. Electronic entry doors also provide lobby staff with a button at their desk or station to lock down the lobby in an emergency.
The trend toward environmentally conscious and renewable, sustainable technologies was gaining speed long before the pandemic. With pandemic management becoming more routine and less acute, boards are revisiting ideas and issues related to making their properties more sustainable.
Wall coverings, for example, are just one place where greener choices are available. “There are many sources for wall coverings that are eco-friendly, manufactured from sustainable materials and recycled materials too,” Sygrove informs us. “Paint, stain and products with no and low VOC’s (volatile organic compounds), are preferred. These products help reduce allergy causing toxins, lower odor and improve air quality, reduce the concentration of contaminants, are safe for children and pets and are more easily cleaned with soap and water than other paints.”
Other options, such as tiles and flooring made from recycled or other post-consumer materials are gaining popularity, and now that LED lighting has evolved past its awkward, fluorescent-glare adolescence and can cast warm, soft light indistinguishable from old-fashioned incandescent bulbs, the options for cost-saving, longer-lasting lighting are almost endless.
One of the most lasting effects of COVID-19 will probably be concerns about cleanliness and decontamination of common areas - certainly that’s at the forefront of efforts to keep lobbies up to step with the times.
Increased traffic through lobbies and entryways from deliveries, dogs, and children coming and going through the space often lead clients to ask Sygrove about materials and finishes that staff members can easily clean with soap and water. Interestingly, leather is at the top of the list. It can be cleaned with soap or a disinfectant on a damp cloth. “Color selection is important when selecting leather, though,” Sygrove says. “New vinyl upholstery materials have also become more sophisticated [and are available] in an array of textures, patterns and colors. Microfiber is also a good choice along with Crypton. Fabrics today can also be successfully treated with stain resistant finishes such as Nanotex and Fiberseal - but added service is often required.”
As we see the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel ahead, boards will continue to be challenged by both those issues that grew out of the pandemic and those that were put on hold during it. Hopefully, solutions to both can be put into effect in tandem.