However these days, the increasing popularity of interconnected cities and infrastructure, along with population growth, is inspiring higher density mandates in centralised locations and rezoning within accessible suburban locales; while the need for a detached residence or unit living paired with varying price points – from affordable to luxury – has introduced new typologies and reframed conventional ones like co-living.
Pushing the change in how we regard residential design, the COVID-19 pandemic has inspired a massive change in the way we reside; this is owed to the ‘lockdown’, remote working needs, and a broader re-focus on overall quality of life. The economic aftermath of the pandemic has prompted a shift in the drive for more cost-efficient and social housing stock. Coming as part and parcel of these changes is the continuing equality debate, the reduction in affordable homes and proximity of one’s home to the office, mobility, migration and transport, all of which have enhanced the requirement for flex living choices.
The pandemic has expedited contemplation on policy regarding development typologies, with a contemplation of international investment, build to rent and rent to buy plans, investment property, new house grants, first-time home buyer stimulus packages and renovation strategies being considered. Financing models to meet this enhanced demand will remain a key issue as capital is prioritised. Yet it is evident that any crises – whether health-related, financial or climate-related – solidifies the requirement for houses and affiliated policy to be adaptable and strong.
In the wake of COVID-19, people are spending more time in their homes that at any time in history. Attaining a healthful and versatile work-play-life formula is easier for those living in detached dwellings with considerable interior and exterior space, but it is clear that this pandemic has elicited problems for those living single or in smaller houses or units without community interactions or access to exterior space and sanitary community spaces. Even if a vaccine is imminent, the effects of the pandemic will hold major consequences in regards to our lives—and our home designs.
The mental effects of quarantine, isolation, and ’lock-down’ have not been determined, but we know already that our methods and modes of design must change. Residents will need work zones, not just home offices, and accompanying advances in acoustics, power resources, and data connections and machinery.
Interior and exterior break out rooms in which multiple occupants make connections, engage, or remain isolated will be greatly needed. Multi- residential communities must expand exterior community spaces that permit for social distancing and community projects like urban farms, garden spaces, exercise rooms, and other self-sufficient fixtures. Self-sufficient measures could someday include self-generating power and water systems. Quality of life must assume a whole new importance in these high density, cost-efficient developments. This, along with life cycle costs and sustainable design concepts, will take into account construction standards and design outcomes.
Sustainable and passive design concepts have long been embraced by building designers. Our building methods and materials may not have changed substantially in general due to financial or planning barriers, but this is set to change.
Alleviating pandemic transmission and climate damage while taking into account the need for social interaction will enhance the requirement for planned mixed-use communities. Promoting a work-play-learn-live mixed-use built environment, planned within walking distance of work and shopping opportunities, may cultivate a best practise approach for people and for the environment. Yet this will only be made possible through health-conscious infrastructure.
Indeed, even lift cars will have to be reconfigured to conform with social distancing requirements. Even emergency staircases will be more frequently used, so they must be improved or optimised. Entry points must be outfitted with increased security measures and sanitisation stations.
In exterior areas, pathways and avenues must be reconfigured to minimize contact. And automated devices could be used to open electronic doors, signal for lifts, etc., thus minimizing the need for communal surface contact.
We must reconceive the design of gyms, community pools, and communal meeting and eating areas. And, as always, the needs of those with physical challenges must be considered in all situations.
Cleaning protocols must of course be exercised more frequently, and perhaps be automated via robot cleaners. And air and water filtration systems must be in place in all communities, which must strive to attain elevated Green Star ratings/Wells ratings.
The co-sharing model also could take on a familial aspect, as multi-generational housing takes on new prominence.
Co-living residential managers must amend their standards, practices and policies to adhere to health and safety requirements. They need new cleaning equipment, HEPA filtration systems, and UV light devices to reduce the transmission of airborne pathogens.
The issue of student housing also must be considered. The areas of Australia and New Zealand boast a population of foreign students, and they must undergo medical assessments post-travel. And a good number of student housing precincts must impose improved visitor policies.
Elder care, transitional care, and assisted living residences must come under the effect of stricter visitor restrictions, carer policies, and social distancing mandates.
Virtual Reality and other advanced technologies are sure to play a hand in this process, as—thanks to the magic of VR—you can share meaningful social interaction with anyone in the world.
New housing styles also will facilitate this process, as the quarantine process in particular will be facilitated by the building of tiny houses, shipping container conversions, and temporary shelter and temporary housing.
Life has changed—and so must living. But today’s Australian building designers are up to the challenge.