Aaron 236 headshot
By Aaron Pollock, Architect

Now more than ever, we are hesitant to touch public surfaces. Whatever your new technique might be; like using your elbow to say hello, a disinfectant wipe to clean your grocery cart, or pulling your sleeve over your hand to open a door – we’re all guilty of doing something that just three weeks ago others would look at admonishingly.

Today, it is inspiring to see so many people taking this pandemic seriously as we all need to be doing our part in taking care of ourselves and one another. At Number TEN we are also taking this duty seriously and are developing thoughts on necessary design solutions to create safer and healthier spaces.

“necessary design solutions to
safer and healthier spaces”

We challenged ourselves to think about these daily touch points and how we might use them differently. The elevator button, door pulls, fridge handle, even the coffee machine all now have this invisible layer of ‘goo’ that we’re hesitant to touch and try to disinfect daily (if not more). Using the office as our laboratory – we thought about how we might interact with these contact points differently. Not because we are germophobes or are avoiding essential hand-washing – but as an experiment in how we as designers rethink how we touch common surfaces in our spaces.

We all fundamentally know how to touch an elevator button or pull a door handle, but do we inherently know how to use them if we’re trying to avoid touching them?

image 1Using rapid prototyping, we set the task of designing and 3D printing armatures that liberate typical touch points in our office to become “hands-free.” We’ve all tried to open doors while our hands are full, so perhaps this exercise can aid in designing applications for hands-free living. Everything cannot be equipped with a sensor and operator, so which part of our bodies can be the next best dexterous to open, close and otherwise function as typical as possible.

The meeting room doors was one of the first obstacles. Large fully glazed doors equipped with long pulls, the most logistical solution was to somehow use our feet to give the ability to open and close the doors.

image 2The angled armature friction clips to the base of the door and allows the user to grip with the base of their shoes to swing the door open and closed. The hardware pulls in the café were another commonly touched surface in the office and required us to think about how an armature would work in both lower and upper cabinet conditions. Like the meeting room doors, the armature is designed to swing the doors open and closed, this time using the forearm. The initial pull takes the most force as the drawers and upper cabinets continue to slide with ease using the forearm – though with less control. Lastly and possibly the most touched surface in the office: the elevator button. These buttons as with most are small and flush with the wall. The armature is designed to allow the elbow or forearm to hit a larger pad that in turn presses the buttons beyond. In all circumstances we imagined ourselves as doctors scrubbed for surgery and navigating their way through day-to-day activities – all without being able to touch a public surface. 

These prototypes were printed by Richard Cueto, a technician and technology guru with Number TEN. image 3
Richard prepared and printed these armatures on his very own Ender 3 Pro 3D printer from home, using PLA or polylactic acid, a vegetable based plastic material. When he is not helping us rapid prototype ideas and models in the office, he is currently being an amazing humanitarian by 3D printing PPE (personal protective equipment) for hospitals and medical staff in need during the Covid-19 pandemic. If you have the ability, we challenge you to also help contribute where it is needed!

I feel as though we need to provide a disclaimer that this was just a very quick schematic exercise that perhaps posed more questions than solutions. Beyond looking a little silly and unconventional, the exercise explores how this pandemic will inevitably change the way we interact with our public spaces. image 4

How about you the reader – yes, you who uses their sleeves to open doors. Have you come across a similar scenario in public where some sort of armature would have benefitted you to get around while avoid touching surfaces?



 Aaron Pollock is an architect at Number TEN Architectural Group



Number TEN Blog

Number TEN Inspired! captures the knowledge, passion and ideas of our award winning architects, interior designers and supporting staff, as they navigate through the complexities of the modern design landscape. We are creative problem solvers, advocates for better ways of doing things, and observers of all that is interesting and noteworthy in our field. This blog is our effort to share our knowledge and ideas in a way that resonates with everyone. Whether you work in the industry as an architect, interior designer, building manager, property developer, or are just someone with an interest in creativity and new ways of doing things, this blog has something for you.