What's in store for the future?

5 ways how Covid 19 may transform the way we design our homes.

Editorial Team | November 25th, 2020

With governmental lock-downs and the ongoing pandemic has meant that many of us have spent far longer in our homes than we expected, and while lock-down has provided many of us with opportunities to do those much needed DIY jobs, it has also provided us with time to look squarely at how we occupy the spaces we live in and how it might work better for us.

We asked the experts how the Covid-19 pandemic might change our homes and the way we live in future.

1. Community Spaces

Local communities have forged important connections during the pandemic, with limits on travel and more vulnerable people relying on others for food and medical supplies.

This new sense of connection is set to be reflected in future homes, according to our experts. “The value of shared spaces is something we are seeing a lot more in high rise development,” says Kelly Bream, chief operating officer of Navana Property Group. “Before Covid-19, nobody wanted to know their neighbours, but since lockdown, getting to know others in your buildings has become really important.”

Proposed Curl la Tourelle Social Housing Scheme in the London Borough of Brent

Shared spaces might take the form of rooftop or community gardens, areas for growing fruit and vegetables, function rooms that can be booked for events and weekly meetings, film screenings, exercise classes and more. Instead of going to the pub, a shared living area might be the place you hang out with your friends, with or without a beer.

Aside from large residential buildings, people may choose to pool resources in smaller dwellings and set-ups such as eco-living, communal living and different models that suit younger or older generations.

2. Adaptable footprints

One of the immediate changes in how we use our homes as a result of Covid-19 is the fact that many of us now work in them. And this is something that looks set to continue, at least on a part-time basis. Bream, believes this shift will see shared office space incorporated into the design of high rise developments . “I think onsite co-working spaces will be really popular,” she says.“For those who live in one- or two-bedroom flats, particularly those with children, being able to go down in a lift to a co-working area so they feel like they're going to work in an office will be really important.”

With many of us having to fashion offices out of our kitchen tables or creating pop-up work areas in bedrooms, the trend for open-plan living may reverse. Hugh Pearman, editor of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Journal says: “The old fashioned idea of the study suddenly becomes very attractive as more of us work from home.”

But what about socialising at home if going out is off-limits?

“People still like living in the kitchen and open social spaces, and that might become more important as we find it harder to go to the pub or restaurants,” says Alex Rose, director of new homes at Zoopla. “Open- plan is a trend that is set to continue. But there’s a trade off. We need more spaces which we can close off, to make an office or bedroom. Spaces need to be more flexible and be able to adapt to meet changing needs.”

3. Design for home deliveries

One of the key logistical challenges for property managers during lock-down was what to do with all the parcels that kept arriving. With people stuck in their homes and ordering online what they might usually have popped to the shops for, the packages began to stack up.

The solution? Sorting offices or locker systems included within residential developments.

“In one of our developments we had an 800% increase in delivery of parcels during lockdown,” says Bream. “So ensuring we have a parcel sorting office and effective delivery system of parcels within a building is crucial going forward.”

Bird has witnessed a similar preoccupation with the management of parcels in residential blocks, but warns of a wider negative impact on local high streets and services.

“If you live in a block of flats you need to think about those deliveries and the impact on the wider community,” he says. There needs to be discussion around what it means and how it’s going to work if everyone is at home and ordering essentials rather than going out and getting them.”

4. Focus on broadband

Broadband has become so vital it is influencing where people are choosing to buy. The internet is now widely seen as a ‘fourth utility’ - as essential as water, gas and electricity.The effectiveness of broadband speeds is an increasingly key consideration when buyers are looking at where to move to, especially if they are working from home.

“A lot of people finding themselves working from home have struggled with their internet provider,” says Bream. “Communication connection is going to be really important going forward, ensuring that properties accommodate multiple providers and that bandwidth for our residents.”

5. Converting offices into homes

More city centre office buildings, many of which remain shut, may well be transformed into residential homes. The government’s permitted development rights, which remove the need for certain types of planning permission, make it easier to turn office spaces into homes.

“The city of London is such a special place and it’s hard to see how it would work,” says Bird. “But if you’re talking about town centres in general, other city centres, I can see some of those areas being turned into residential. But then the nature of things like offices will change, too. They’ll become hubs similar to hospitality locations.”

London’s Centre Point is subject to proposals for 82 flats.

Not every demographic will choose to live in a converted office building, but the appeal of city centre living is clear, says Bream “Cities provide a lifestyle that can't be replicated in the shires - restaurants, bars, museums and cinemas as well as access to services like Deliveroo and same-day Amazon Prime deliveries,” she says. “Particularly for young people, these areas provide an opportunity to live close to their friends, meet new people and have vibrant social lives.”


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