Rodić Davidson Architects

How Covid-19 has changed the way we live and approach design.

Two-years into a global pandemic, Covid-19 continues to impact various aspects of our lives including affecting the way we live and inhabit residential architecture. In April 2020, we forecasted trends that might arise as a result of living with the virus, and as the situation has evolved, it has become clear that these predictions are part and parcel of a new normal.

 

The importance of multi-functional spaces.

Open-plan living has been incredibly popular over the past few decades, maximising space and combining the most important rooms in the home to create an atmosphere for socialising and connecting. This is unlikely to change, however the way in which we adapt and divide these spaces has become increasingly important. There is a desire for multi-functional spaces where designated activities can easily change or be stored until undertaken, transforming the traditional view of static rooms with a designated function and use.

The need for space to work-from home has changed the agency of space in our homes, increasing the need for a home office to separate personal and professional lives. A similar negotiation is observed with the rise of home schooling, with the hierarchy of space ever-changing.

Whilst flexible space is experiencing an accelerated interest, it is not a new concept. Architects such as Cedric Price and the Archigram group demonstrated the then-radical thinking behind flexibility and function in the 1960’s with their conceptual explorations of spaces that could adapt to the needs and activities of their occupants. Their ideas are still drawn on today when thinking about the use of flexible lighting, AV, furniture and storage.

 

The desire for self-sufficient living.

The increase in people’s desire to become more self-sufficient has been growing in recent years, with increasing awareness of personal responsibility and care for the environment becoming mainstream.

Self-sufficiency can be achieved through various means.

Using sustainable materials within your property can provide longer-term savings and a lower reliance on grid-power and natural gases. However, this decision is linked to how long one plans to stay in their property and often involves an upfront investment. Nonetheless, post-pandemic uncertainty about living a more nomadic lifestyle has forced people to look inward and improve what they immediately inhabit.

For the homeowner or landlord, the implementation and need for internalized utility connections such as wells, solar panels, geothermal and solar technologies has increased as we emerge from the pandemic, with a desire to offset increasing energy prices as well as a worsening climate crisis.

The development of new buildings will take inspiration from buildings such as the Strata SE1, one of the tallest residential buildings in London and one of the first in the world to incorporate wind turbines as part of its structure. Passiv Haus principles are also being integrated at a building’s design stage such as utilizing the correct thermal mass for climate and current and adaptive use of the structure.  The retrofit of existing buildings, will rely on the increased value of insulation, updating HVAC systems to detect the presence of inhabitants in real-time. The addition and integration of solar panels within existing electrical systems and the retrofit of bathrooms to contain low-flow taps to conserve water is increasingly common. The addition of rainwater harvesting for grey water use and potential processing will also be seen to increase, particularly in rural areas.

 

The need to connect.

The need to connect, or disconnect poses a unique design challenge. The importance of social connections outside of the home have become increasingly apparent. The increase of online interaction through various forms of social media sky-rocketed for people across all generations, creating a desire for more private spaces, sealed off from other members of households.

The contrasting effect of wanting to maintain connections within the home whilst upholding a heightened need for privacy illustrates the need for responsive and sensitive design. The need for meaningful connections has arguably promoted the use of open-plan living for the principal areas of the home to prime communal interactions.

 

The need for peace.

The need to connect, or disconnect poses a unique design challenge. The importance of social connections outside of the home have become increasingly apparent. The increase of online interaction through various forms of social media sky-rocketed for people across all generations, creating a desire for more private spaces, sealed off from other members of households.

The contrasting effect of wanting to maintain connections within the home whilst upholding a heightened need for privacy illustrates the need for responsive and sensitive design. The need for meaningful connections has arguably promoted the use of open-plan living for the principal areas of the home to prime communal interactions.

 

Embracing technology at home.

Homes have been steadily embracing smart technologies, particularly to control temperature, lighting, manage security and connect appliances through smart tablets or utlising mobile phones as a remote from outside the home. These are all implemented from the homeowner as a result of valuing the convenience and efficiency of domestic life, the most common example being simple voice assistant systems such as the Alexa or Siri. As with any major world event in recent history, technology is usually at the forefront of how humanity responds to adversity. The covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent return to the office has highlighted the importance of also embracing new technologies in the workplace, with hygiene taking top priority. Soon utilizing the touch-free solutions to avoid contact with frequently used surfaces such as light switches and taps and replacing common contact points to remove any areas in which the virus may linger, the technology is becoming more accessible to everyone. As people are becoming more comfortable with the consolidation of appliances into one ‘remote’ or touch free solution due to the post-covid workplace, it subsequently accelerates the number of people who wish to implement these in their own home. This could be in the form of enhanced mechanical and electrical provisions, providing better ventilation systems and more considered placements or access to sockets and other data points, or the desire for high-tech solutions to living with covid such as self-cleaning surfaces or U-V Lighting systems to kill bacteria on transitional surfaces and control the spread of germs.

AV – or Audio Visual – demands will also increase as more people choose to work from home or choose to future-proof their current systems in the event of another period of lockdown. Almost overnight, video calls with friends, family members colleagues have become commonplace and subscriptions to media streaming services and online shopping outlets have expanded beyond all expectations. As such, a fast and reliable internet connection is perhaps now more of a priority than some of the more traditional utilities and we also anticipate that the development of satellite internet will be expedited making it widely available and more affordable to the general public.

Finally, an increase in demand for self-sufficiency will likely see an increase in the use of geothermal and solar technologies allowing properties to effectively be taken off-grid and reduce reliance on standard suppliers who may now be seen as vulnerable when demands are high.

 

The future of home life.

Whilst the above effects of how covid-19 has subtly manifested themselves in our subconscious and have continued to develop over the past few years, design trends are ever-changing to adapt to an ever-changing world. It is clear that future of home life will involve a conscious awareness of distancing and controlling the spread of the virus.

The past century has seen a majority of the world’s population move from the countryside to the city. However, recent years have seen a shift away from dense, urban living in favour of more space and better value. With densely populated areas seeing the most rapid spread of Covid-19, we could see yet more people swapping their city apartments for suburban sanctuaries and rural retreats.

Similarly, home working and self-isolation has arguably been easier to accept for those in living in houses as opposed to those living in apartments as there is more opportunity for partitioning and separation between individual working and living areas.

Outdoor space – be it a garden, balcony, or roof terrace – is now more important than ever for two primary reasons. Firstly, the benefits of sunlight and fresh air are well known and can improve both physical and mental health as well as providing a space for socialization in the form of pools, hot tubs, outdoor bars and pizza ovens and covered pergolas. As a result, larger gardens in suburban areas may see a rise in demand. Alternatively, those in the city may seek to bring nature to them via the creation of additional roof terraces and balconies, which in turn should be reflected in planning policy in the coming years to adapt to mental health needs in densely populated urban areas.

The use of transitional spaces such as entrance halls and balconies will becoming increasingly requested, a space which is neither inside nor outside of our homes, catering for infection control and an opportunity to create a safe space which is separated from the rest of the dwelling.

The future style of homes is already emerging as many central city office or retail locations are being converted into new homes, reflected in the new permitted development rights. While these apartments or homes will be unique in their adaptive style the focus is on the re-domestication of city centres to both make use of dormant space and provide local community and business to suffering cafes and restaurants due to the absence of office workers.

Rodic Davidson Architects
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