Robots and self-cleaning rooms? How hotels might look after COVID-19

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The COVID-19 pandemic could radically change how commercial spaces are designed — none more so than hotels, perhaps.

To respond to that, Stephen Overcash, principal at Charlotte-based Overcash Demmitt Architects, has started a task force that will investigate strategies, technology and other methods to make hotels healthier and more sanitary in a post-COVID-19 world.

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About 60% of the work Overcash Demmitt does is for hotels, Overcash said. He participated in a virtual Urban Land Institute panel recently about the hospitality industry, which got him thinking about how design can meaningfully make spaces healthier and safer for hotel guests.

“It’s a paradigm shift, the way we look at where we stay,” he said.

The industry may take cues from hospitals and the health-care sector. Self-cleaning rooms — in which an odorless, germ-resistant cleaning solution is sprayed in a room and coats everything, like Teflon — are already being done at some hotels in Copenhagen. Robots that deliver room service, transport luggage and clean using ultraviolet lights could become commonplace.

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No-touch technology isn’t new — many toilets and sinks, for example, are already sensor-based. But items like light switches and TV remotes may become touch-free in the wake of the pandemic, Overcash said.

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