The world has reset in an unprecedented fashion. The Covid-19 has wrought havoc on our lives, compelling us to re-think the way we’ll live and construct in the future. During times of calamities, the spectrum of residential design has always adapted to meet the current needs. The pandemic is accelerating a rapid change in the expectations of our homes and how housing developments will be designed. 

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Residences are to serve much more than a domestic purpose due to people’s prolonged confinement in their homes. They will become the places that must meet the home, work, and social requirements.

Designers are proposing new concepts and approaches for post-pandemic residential designs while keeping the people’s expanding requirements in mind. The dependency on the home will still endure even after the pandemic alleviates. The designers seek to create homes that can adapt to accommodate additional activities and services as the residences have begun to play a vital role in our lives.

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Here are some design strategies that will help in adapting to the Post-COVID world:

1. Making the spaces more flexible

Through the pandemic, people have been confined to their homes, and every work is carried out in the different spaces of the home. The areas must be made more versatile to accommodate more range of uses. One particular place will be required for an added number of activities. The flexibility of the design allows the space to evolve as the demands of the user change. 

Flexibility can include both active features such as moveable walls and intrinsically flexible elements like multi-use rooms, vast floor-to-ceiling heights, and so on. Provision of an amplified degree of flexibility and adaptability can host more amounts of activity spaces.

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The practice of modular architecture has allowed more flexibility in the designs and a reduction in costs. Furthermore, modular furniture can be customized to provide flexible living spaces and can be designed in any way, as well as disassembled and reassembled according to the needs of the residents. The modular architecture is one of the most popular solutions in making spaces more flexible.

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Geo wooden panel in a modern flexible apartment _© digsdigs.com

2. Connection to the outdoors

Following the global health crisis, people are craving increased connection to the outdoors. This has driven increased demand for private balconies and outdoor open spaces, especially in dense and high-rise multifamily residential units. Shortly, residential developments that focus on primary aspects of healthy living, such as increasing fresh air through natural ventilation and access to nature through biophilic design strategies, will have an edge. 

Hence, an amplified appreciation for healthy fresh air is blurring the line between indoors and outdoors.

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Roof deck of a Soho penthouse _©  ny.curbed.com

3. Integration of home office space in the design

Work from home has gained traction during the pandemic. The lines between life, work, and play have become increasingly blurred. As a result, the residential spaces will have to be designed for intensified versatility while promoting productivity. The growing demand for remote work will instigate new typologies of common areas and more flexibility in amenity spaces. 

Because work can now take place everywhere, common areas of residences should evolve into versatile and transformable social spaces that will address numerous work modes such as collaboration and socializing. Due to the prolonged working hours of those belonging to the corporates, the home office spaces need to be designed with proper ventilation, layout, and comfortable furniture.

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Home office _©  aleaoffice.com

4. Designing a smart and contactless home

In the new reality, minimal contact and social distancing have become the new norm. Smart home technologies can assist in the creation of a “minimal touch” in the post-Covid world for many objects that need an operation. There are chances that it will likely affect how people interact with homes and buildings. The smartphone controls for controlling many household devices will minimize or localize the touching of shared control items. 

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Some items do not even need voice assistants or smartphones and are sensor-operated devices that are hands-free, i.e., autonomous. The home automation systems can also be responsible for air and water purification by employing techniques such as filtration and neutralization.

The home automation market has been accelerated due to the pandemic and has entered the mainstream market. The market now encompasses a broad range of middle, entry-level, and lower-cost home automation products making it more affordable as it has now become more of a necessity than a luxury.

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Smart home _© dubaiproperties.org.in

5. Self-reliant homes with minimum resource consumption

In the green building initiative, the pandemic has ensured health and wellness to become the predominant goals. From a new home to an old retrofitted structure, self-reliance in energy, water, and other resources has always been the goal, resulting in net-zero buildings. The houses of the future could be independent mainly with their power and water supply. The aim of homes will be independence from the outside world, minimizing risks in the case of a total shutdown.

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Self-sustaining smart structure _© yankodesigns.com

6. Urban farming to flourish post-pandemic

In the aftermath of the epidemic, urban farming has a lot to offer. It assists individuals with increasing the resilience of their fresh fruit and vegetable sources, improving inhabitants’ health, and assisting them in leading more sustainable lifestyles. Physical interaction with plants has proven to improve mental health. 

The pandemic has motivated individuals, communities, and businesses to get into urban farming practices either as a hobby or for growing a few herbs and microgreens to supplement a healthy diet or even as an alternative livelihood opportunity. It is a potential tool in a suite of interventions that have synergistic climate change, sustainability, and well-being outcomes. As an outcome, many designers are thinking of introducing space for kitchen gardens in the upcoming projects so that people can grow their vegetables from the comfort of their homes, and also making a separate storage room by the kitchen where people will be able to store their provisions.

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Backyard into a mini farm _© houzz.com

7. Conceptual retrace of communal spaces in housing developments

Communal spaces in multi-story apartment complexes will demand a conceptual rethink in the post-pandemic era. As ventilation of corridor spaces plays a role in minimizing the spread of COVID-like disease, external communication corridors should be examined with architectural solutions that promote privacy by hiding users from being seen from the street or nearby apartment blocks. Elevators facilitate the vast bulk of inter-story communication and transportation in modern apartment buildings. Stairs have been consigned to entirely enclose windowless stairwells with the sole purpose of serving as a fire escape. 

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As a result, numerous elevators will be needed to accommodate demand. A public health benefit of making stairs the primary form of inter-story communication once again is that it improves participant fitness. 

8. Additional design considerations

To future-proof new residential designs in the post-COVID era, universal design principles must be embraced, as well as lessons learned from COVID-19. Thus, the residence must be fully functional under normal conditions, with an added ability to function in a pandemic situation. Thus the primary aim of the design has to be to minimize the likelihood of transmission through structural, physical, and practical means. 

Therefore, the building has to account for three spaces:

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  • Spaces with restricted access: A space near the entrance of the house for self-sanitization so that the ingress of airborne particles and aerosols can be minimized into the house.
  • The threat-reduced internal space: Humans interact and socialize with each other at various levels of intimacy, frequently mixing formal, work, and private spheres. Such socializing in the confines of a private residence potentially exposes the occupants to pathogens unintentionally introduced by visitors. Any post-pandemic home design needs to take this into account through functionally differentiating and compartmentalizing the internal spaces.  
  • Space suitable for self-isolation: Starting with the internal, threat-reduced space; the residence will require a bedroom. The bedroom should open to an exterior, but self-contained, courtyard/open space to provide the isolating inhabitant with safe access to the outside environment. This space can also function as a transition zone.

However, these builds will come at a cost in both new and retrofitted builds. But, will make the new builds pandemic ready even though it’s a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. The above-mentioned notions will not only be effective in the event of a pandemic but will also keep the areas clean at all times, thereby protecting the health of the residents.

Conceptual framing of operational spaces and design principles _© watermark.silverchair.com

Therefore, architects need to invent better typologies of houses and housing that better respond to various communities of residents and their accompanying cultures and lifestyles. The residences must include the capacity to isolate within the house compound plus the possibility of communal places. Furthermore, greater care should be given to artificial and natural ventilation and lighting solutions to preserve good indoor air quality and mental well-being.  

References

https://www.gensler.com/doc/gensler-design-forecast-2021

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https://meridian.allenpress.com/jgb/article/16/1/199/461417/RESIDENTIAL-ARCHITECTURE-IN-A-POST-PANDEMIC-WORLD

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/net-zero-cities-cant-exist-without-sustainable-smart-home-jai-thampi/

https://www.toyamaworld.com/post/covid-19-and-the-importance-of-home-automation-and-contactless-solutions

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https://www.ecohome.net/guides/2355/flexible-house-design/

https://www.financialexpress.com/industry/coronavirus-effect-developers-design-homes-for-post-covid-world/1987595/

Author

Vaishnavi Patil is a vivacious individual who loves good wordplay. She is an architecture student with a proclivity for writing and has a keen interest in the art of minimalism. She believes that one should empower one's solid writing skills which will ensure their designs to be more successful.

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