These tools from AIA can help you assess and manage the risk of COVID-19 in offices, retail, schools and more

by Brianna Crandall — July 6, 2020 — The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has announced reoccupancy assessment and risk management planning tools as well as strategies and 3D models for specific types of buildings to guide building owners, facilities managers (FMs), design professionals, and public officials as buildings reopen from the COVID-19 lockdowns. The practical strategies for specific types of buildings cover offices and retail, senior living communities, and schools.

AIA convened experts from the architecture, engineering, public health and facilities management (FM) industries as part of the development process. In addition, a group of public, environmental, and occupational health experts and physicians provided an independently developed 90-minute briefing on SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus that causes COVID-19) infectious disease transmission, epidemiological models, and insights into the most current research of the virus.

General tools

AIA’s team of experts worked together using credible science and current infectious disease data to develop these new and enhanced tools that can assist employers, building owners, and design teams with best practices to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public while providing services:

  • Tool #1 – Risk Management Plan for Buildings — This provides a comprehensive process for assessing hazards in buildings and reducing risk.  This methodology not only can be applied during the pandemic but for all shocks and stresses to create more resilient buildings and businesses.
  • Tool #2 – AIA Re-occupancy Assessment Tool (2.0)  — This provides an enhanced framework of strategies for reopening buildings, including restaurants, retailers, offices, senior living facilities, schools and housing.
  • Tool #3 – COVID-19 ArchMap — Architects can now input design strategies that mitigate risk of COVID-19 for any building type to AIA’s map. The map is produced in partnership with the University of Kansas’ Institute of Health + Wellness Design and is intended to facilitate design innovation.

Specific strategies

As part of AIA’s “Reopening America: Strategies for Safer Buildings” initiative, the multidisciplinary teams also evaluated behavioral, spatial, material and operational strategies through virtual charrette workshops (essentially intense brainstorming sessions) to customize the tools for the following specific building types. The following reports are intended to be used in tandem with the tools listed above.

Office spaces and retail stores

AIA released design and mitigation strategies and three-dimensional (3D) models to help office spaces and retail stores reopen more safely during the pandemic.

Design strategies provide a holistic approach to modifying offices and stores using a 17-point architectural, engineering and administrative framework based upon recent COVID-19 public health information. They also provide cost-effective options that can be implemented immediately and suggest design alternatives for creating more flexible spaces, enhancing social connectedness, and reinforcing healthy behaviors. Common hazards and considerations for employers are also provided.

Mitigation strategies were developed by a team of architects, public health experts, engineers, and FMs to help buildings reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, promote social distancing standards, and enhance well-being.

Both reports, Strategies for Safer Offices and Strategies for Safer Retail Stores, are available on the AIA website.

Senior living communities

These resources were developed by a team of architects, AIA’s Design for Aging knowledge community, public health experts, and engineers, to assist with pivoting communities toward a more sustainable set of strategies that can reduce risk for residents and staff while creating a more comfortable way of life that is supportive of overall well-being.

In addition to a 3D model — produced by RLPS Architects — the team’s findings are detailed in a report for administrators, design professionals, and public officials.  These strategies are meant to work in tandem with AIA’s tools listed above, which can assist senior living communities with mitigation measures to safely resume activities and reopen closed spaces.

AIA points out that developing mitigation strategies is particularly critical for senior living communities, where risk is amplified. The primary risk of transmission is currently considered to be close personal contact, which could occur among residents, staff, and visitors predominantly in gathering areas, such as dining rooms or common areas, and during group activities.

The Strategies for Safer Senior Living Communities report is available on the AIA website.

For more detailed information on public health hazards and considerations in senior living communities, see AIA’s COVID-19 emerging research and public health data (provided by the health experts mentioned above).


In an effort to support the health, safety and well-being of students, AIA released 3D design models and mitigation strategies that can assist education officials with reopening schools during the pandemic.

For the 2020-21 school year, districts are facing the difficult task of determining if K-12 schools will reopen this fall. AIA’s multidisciplinary team assessed hazards specific to K-12 schools and developed strategies to mitigate risk of COVID-19 transmission.

In addition to the 3D design models — produced by VMDO Architects — detailing strategies for classrooms and corridors, the team is releasing a report that provides additional considerations for entrances, gymnasiums, assembly spaces, cafeterias and other spaces. Other strategies are also available for restrooms and staff spaces such as offices.

The report, meant to work in tandem with the reopening preparation tools listed above, also elaborates on the many factors that need to be taken into consideration when reopening schools and provides basic building blocks that can be adjusted on a case-by-case basis when working with design teams to ensure the needs of individual education facilities are met when adapting buildings for COVID-19.

The Strategies for Safer Schools report is available for free download from the AIA website.

AIA’s Reopening America: Strategies for Safer Buildings webpage provides links to each of the tools and specific strategy reports listed above. Visit AIA’s website for more COVID-19 resources for architects.

For comprehensive reopening guidance and resources geared specifically towards building and facilities managers, see also FMLink’s e-book, A Facilities Manager’s Guide to Reopening and Occupying Buildings Safely.