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Future of Housing
“Covid-19 will speed up the process of how we perceive our homes,” says Katerva expert Mahmoud ElBurai, VP of the International Real Estate Federation. “Lockdown has driven people to look for better houses with bigger balconies, better viewings, bigger spaces and more public amenities.”
By: Adi Gaskell, Contributor
The coronavirus pandemic has had a profound impact on so many areas of our lives, but with vast swathes of us confined to our homes for extended periods throughout the year, the home has taken on a whole new lease of life. Lockdown measures have forced our homes to become equal parts office, school, gym, and even pub, as we attempt to maintain a degree of normality in the confines of our own home.
As we spend more time at home than perhaps ever before, the very nature of our abode has fundamentally changed, as indeed have our requirements for them. For instance, a traditional property maxim that it’s all about location, as we strive to live near good schools, our workplace, public transport connections, or other amenities, and people spend considerably in order to ensure their home is in just the right place.
This love of location has underpinned the home improvement boom of the last few generations, as property owners have sought to adapt their properties to meet their needs, whether through loft conversions, installing renewable technologies, or retrofits. Installations of renewable energy and energy efficiency devices have also been desirable as home owners have sought to bolster the value of their investments.
In the post-covid world, it’s probable that the daily commute will become less frequent than in the past, with more of us choosing to work from home. This fundamentally changes both where we wish to live, and the functionality we look for from our homes.
For instance, there have already been numerous suggestions that city dwellers will forgo the various advantages of city life for more space and greater access to the kind of nature that the countryside provides. The pandemic has also driven home the challenges inherent in the current design of properties.
For instance, open plan living has become hugely popular in many new developments, but when we’re all in the house at the same time, the ability to find personal space in such a layout is significantly restricted. Single, open plan and multi-functional spaces may become a thing of the past, as the logic of the homeworking adult occupying the space during the day before the entire family coalesces together in the evening may no longer apply.
Such usage relies on the kind of phased occupation that the pandemic has rendered obsolete, as all members of the household have been occupying the house all of the time. If home working, and even homeschooling, are to become more prevalent, then there are likely to be changes in the way our homes are designed to provide more flexibility, so that parents can supervise children just as easily as they can obtain privacy and quiet for online calls or dedicated work.
If homeworking does rise in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s likely to see greater investment in dedicated space for such work. It’s also likely to see greater interest in sustainable heating so that comfort can be maintained alongside energy efficiency. Factors, such as air quality and noise pollution, which have been features of workplace design for years, may now become just as important in our home environment. Equally, homeowners, and property developers, might begin to emphasize triple-glazed windows or increased insulation to make the home more comfortable to be in around the clock.
These concerns are as pressing for the education of children as they are for those working from home. It’s well established that children who have a private and comfortable space to study in perform better than their peers who lack such luxuries. Just as many parents used the quality of local schooling when deciding where to live, many now will choose their home based on its ability to provide a good study environment for their children.
The pandemic has also provided fresh incentives to our focus on health and wellbeing. Those in cities have flocked to parks and green spaces to take advantage of the fresh air and greenery, and this is likely to precipitate a desire for homes to have ample natural light and access to nature. It might even signal a reversal of trends away from tower blocks towards houses with gardens.
The pandemic has also resulted in gyms and other exercise facilities being shut, which has forced many people to exercise at home. Sales of home exercise equipment have risen considerably, and people have turned their homes into personal gymnasiums, whether for yoga, indoor cycling, weight training or one of many other activities undertaken to maintain physical and mental wellbeing.
The early weeks of the pandemic also saw a huge surge in demand for non-perishable food as people worried about the ability of the grocery industry to maintain supplies. This coincided with a surge in demand for storage space, both for frozen food and long-life produce. There has also been a rise in self-sufficiency, with those with suitable facilities growing their own produce.
“The pandemic has highlighted our extravagant lifestyle and the consequential costs of social disadvantage,” says Kathi Holt, Director at Tandem Design Studio and Katerva expert on Cities and Mobility. “Although COVID-19 respects no borders, there can be no doubt about who is living in the front line. Where we live, our postcode and the amount of space we have in our home, can all influence the speed and extent of community transmission.”
The coronavirus outbreak has had a profound impact on so many aspects of our life, and it remains to be seen whether the changes we’re living through today will endure once restrictions are lifted and life returns to some semblance of normality. Given the length and breadth of changes to our lives, however, it does seem likely that the demands we have for our homes are likely to change as a result of events this year.
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