Prof. Zach Colbert: Redesigning retail space for pandemics

Professor Zachary Colbert, of the Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism, is investigating architectural strategies that can help retail environments adapt to physical distancing guidelines.

“Buildings are the site of the pandemic,” says Colbert. “It’s become unsafe to gather indoors in ways we would prior to COVID-19, so architecture suddenly plays a massive role in determining how we can move forward in this new normal.”


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Colbert believes that architects have the ability to be leaders in thinking through the challenges associated with COVID-19. His research will develop adaptive architectural design standards and recommendations, specifically for Canadian retailers.

The work is funded by a Carleton University Covid-19 Rapid Research Response grant aimed at mitigating the spread of the coronavirus and its effects on communities.

Colbert hopes to do on-the-ground research with business owners in Ottawa while continuing to engage with historical research in order to determine the best way to implement physical distancing and bolster business traffic. Eventually, these research outcomes could be extended internationally.