Re-designing homes to suit the New Normal in Covid times

Updated: January 13, 2021 3:34 PM

Now that more people are spending time at home, stronger customer preferences that allow for the flexible adaptation of the home to be used for living, learning, working and playing are clearly emerging across segments in most cities.

Home owners will prioritize and seek proximity to all essentials within walking radius. This may result in a preference for mixed use master plans with a focus on clearly demarcated cycling and walking routes.

We believe that Health, Wellbeing and Sustainability will be amongst the key tenets of the ‘New Normal’ emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. Global lockdowns the world over have recently rooted our collective attention to our homes as a base or sanctuary; underscoring the many ways in which the quality of built environment has a significant impact on daily life, productivity, recreation, rejuvenation and rest. This may also explain the spike in residential interest and sales numbers that most pundits had initially dubbed as likely to be muted in the wake of the pandemic.

Now that more people are spending time at home, stronger customer preferences that allow for the flexible adaptation of the home to be used for living, learning, working and playing are clearly emerging across segments in most cities. In doing so, the decision to buy a property seems to be ever more positively influenced by aspects of ample open spaces and greenery, daylighting, ventilation, quality of air & water, density, proximity of multiple uses, walkability and the ability to adapt to impacts of climate change or any other natural adversity.

We can therefore anticipate an increased adoption of Green Building and Wellness standards more robustly integrated and demonstrated in use for the residential planning sector. The scope of sustainability in design is likely to expand and include a development’s ability for its inhabitants to cope better with public health emergencies and extend further towards building a robust framework with the city allowing for better handling and management of such events. including the ongoing impacts of climate change.

At the outset we may need to reevaluate what we want to achieve in re-designing our new homes. The idea is not for us to necessarily do fundamentally different things but rather to do things we did earlier, differently and more sustainably. Given the uncertain nature of public health emergencies and looming climate change our intent should not be to design specifically for a particular situation but rather to make new homes easily adaptable and resilient for any such eventuality after having learnt from our current experience.

This will impact most aspects of the development from urban planning to building typology & design, density, MEP, materials & finishes, and finally the lifecycle and use of the project. Some of these considerations in the wake of the new normal are highlighted as below.

1. Home owners will prioritize and seek proximity to all essentials within walking radius. This may result in a preference for mixed use master plans with a focus on clearly demarcated cycling and walking routes.

2. Robust Services planning/ monitoring for water and air quality including increased automation with sensors. Integration of thermal and other health symptom detection mechanisms or readiness for them.

3. Design for effective facility management, easy maintenance and use. Increased focus on waste management systems.

4. Integration of medical/quarantine spaces as part of amenity planning including operational partnerships and ambulance tie-ups.

5. Fewer apartments to a core and a focus on daylit and well ventilated cores. Separate elevator cores for staff/visitors and increased adoption of touch free technology.

6. Innovations for health – antimicrobial/antibacterial materials which are easy to clean, double bowl kitchen sinks for disinfection and a dedicated pantry for food storage.

7. Spaces to engage and unwind with the emergence of home gyms and a renewed focus on balconies to get fresh air.

8. Focus on resilience with amenities that encourage self-sufficiency – balcony gardens for apartments and community urban farms for the collective.

(By Anubhav Gupta, Business Head – Vikhroli, Head of CSR and Sustainability, Founder of GPL Design Studio, Godrej Properties Ltd)

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