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  • Writer's pictureFumiko Docker

Blue Skies during COVID-19

Updated: Jul 23, 2020

We are on Week 4 of the shut down here in San Francisco, and I've been lucky enough to work from home during this time. As the rain has abated and the days grow longer, spring time in April during COVID-19 is different from anything I've experienced. The city is quiet, the sound of birdsong is clear and bright, and the skies are clear of haze. I'm realizing the importance of getting outside every day if possible, because it's critical to get exercise even while sheltering in place.

There seems to be a small silver lining during this unprecedented time: during this Earth Month, the 50th anniversary of the first back in 1970, and the movement that spurred passage of the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, pollution is at some of the lowest ever recorded levels in cities around the world. Moreover, studies have shown that areas with better air pollution have lower rates of people succumbing to coronavirus, let alone succumbing to exposure to dangerous particulates like PM 2.5, PM 10, and nitrogen dioxide.

It's hard to imagine, as yet, what our new normal after COVID-19 will look like. I hope that what comes are continued efforts to reduce carbon - and return even more blue skies, instead of "business as usual" - because people all over the industrialized world band together to renew efforts towards a clean carbon economy. As 20th century fuel industries die out, including coal, green collar jobs expand to create economic growth.

Time will tell whether we, individually and collectively, can fully take the blue skies to heart, and decide that we will all together move towards a net positive future, for the sake of present and future stakeholders, all of us. I for one am grateful for the sounds of singing birds as I walk outside, look out at blue skies, and imagine the world to come after the shelter in place has lifted.

One way we can do this as architects is through the Living Building Challenge, and another is the WELL Building Standard. More on those in future posts. Quite possibly, in a post-COVID world, the implementation of these building standards will spread even further, as we increasingly recognize the interconnection of human health with a healthy environment.

For me, these blue skies represent hope for a better world, because it's at least clear now that our world won't be the same after this global pandemic, and now is the time to plant the seeds for change.

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