Turning Lemons Into Lemonade

From towels and lockers to face masks and beds

When the number of coronavirus cases started ramping up across the globe, we knew that business (and life for that matter) was going to be far from normal for quite a while. Unemployment rates had already skyrocketed and the death toll was climbing.

On top of our health concerns for our community, we knew this could impact our business; we wondered whether there was a way to help flatten the curve while keeping our staff busy and employed through this inevitable slow period.

So we challenged our team to come up with ideas that could positively impact the current pandemic. The only requirement was that the ideas had to utilize our staff who are not able to work from home, ensuring they can continue to be productive.

We were overwhelmed by how everyone got behind this challenge; we came out with 20+ wonderful ideas ranging from practical to heartwarming to downright funny (we could all use some humor in these crazy times). While several of the ideas will come in handy in other ways, there were two winning ideas that we took to market…(drumroll please)…asymptomatic face masks and temporary hospital beds.

Asymptomatic Face Mask The Temp Bed

Turning lemons into lemonade

Both of these ideas leveraged materials that we already had plenty of: towels and timber. Timber for constructing our lockers (which we always have in stock) and towels for some of our end-of-trip facilities. It’s no secret that less people are commuting right now and thus have very little need for our towel service, leaving us with an excess of clean towels. So we did what we do best – we made lemonade out of lemons.

The development of these two products was headed by our Product Design Lead, William Fierro. With over 13 years of experience in new product design, William was the perfect man for the job, working with our Australian manufacturing team to deliver prototypes for both in a week’s time. Boom.

Asymptomatic face masks

When it came to face masks, we knew two things: they are effective at helping slow the spread of the virus and there was a shortage of supply. That was enough for William and his team to move forward with this new R&D effort. Within a matter of hours, five sewing machines were on their way to our warehouse. In the meantime, they learned that by combining towels with a vacuum cleaner bag (with HEPA filters), the face masks become more effective at capturing bacteria and virus particles. Gathering our team with relevant experience, we used our newfound knowledge to sketch a concept that would maximize the use of our towels (i.e. one towel could yield 12 masks) and be scalable. Our prototype was completed and packaged in about three days. Check out our unpacking video to see the mask in action.

Temporary beds

The bed, meant to serve as temporary beds for healthcare facilities in the event that they run out of space, was borne from the design of one of our most popular bike racks: the Arc. The Arc is unique in that it uses an interlocking system that drastically simplifies the assembly process; the concept for the bed was duly centered around this design feature.

To make it work, we would utilize only one material: the laminated timber panels used for our lockers. No screws, no nails, no nuts or bolts. This would make it easy to construct, with a minimum of two people needed for assembly. With plenty of panels in stock, the team busted out the prototype in less than two days and went ahead and manufactured 10 more the following day. 10 pieces, one bed, no tools. The beauty is in its simplicity.

And that is how towels became face masks and lockers became beds

Five at Heart has transformed spaces across the globe by designing, manufacturing, and installing innovative bike parking and change room facilities that exceed the needs of businesses and cyclists alike. As a multi-faceted organization, we have a diverse set of skills that allow us to be creative and versatile and will ensure our resilience over time. We are pivoting in a time of need and we will continue to adapt to any changes that may arise during this pandemic.


Contact us at info@fiveatheart.com if you would like to order our asymptomatic face masks for your staff. NOTE: these are meant for the general public to help slow the spread of the coronavirus and encourage general hygiene practices. They are not N95 respirators and are not meant for healthcare professionals.

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Since 2007, Five At Heart has helped forward-thinking commercial property people across the globe make spaces sing by redefining the office experience.

Savvy owners in global cities work with us to create projects that make spaces thrive and people sing. It’s a new world. Let us guide you through it.

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