How Has The Pandemic Changed Our Housing?
I know, I know, we’re still here talking about the pandemic when all we want to do is get back to normality. But what is normal now, aside from the fact that our working lives have dramatically changed, from social distancing to reduced numbers and a smaller workforce? We keep hoping that we will be back to pre-pandemic life, but things just aren’t that simple.
During the various lockdowns and restrictions we’ve all experienced around the world throughout this pandemic, we have had no choice but to rethink our needs. Whereas before COVID19 some wouldn’t have thought twice about having an apartment or flat, now people are craving the outside space, you know, just in case.
But what does this mean for us, as developers?
It comes down to the fact that we’re going to have to re-think how we build. Developers have always built according to needs and desires, as well as budget. If people are changing their requirements, then we have no choice but to open up discussions to potentially change what we offer.
As things currently stand, you have to pass your Sound Test in order to have your build signed off. Now, as with all these Building Compliances, there are levels to this. You can achieve the basic pass, or you can really ensure you have covered all bases and get top results. This might sound like a small part of the jigsaw, but it’s a contributory factor nonetheless. Flats and apartments are often hubs of sound. You can hear your neighbours walking around, hear them talking, hear their music, and hear if they have guests. You can hear them in the communal areas, such as the hallway or on the stairs. When people are confined, it can become quite a noisy environment. Perhaps this is a good place to start a simple, yet effective improvement to apartment living. Improving on the sound insulation can improve the health of the occupants.
Now we can move on to space. Although a lot of the restrictions have been lifted, which have seen more people going back to their place of work, they have also allowed for more flexibility of home working. Some companies have realised that actually they no longer need the office spaces, and the bills that come with them. Others have a combination of both home working and office-based work. Either way, there are more people reliant on their homes to provide them with a working environment. This means, as developers, architects, and designers, we have to consider this option when building. Before COVID19, unless you were already home-based, you might not have thought much about having a study. You would perhaps have used it as a spare room or store room or you just might not have had the space in the first place. Now, buyers are looking for more versatility in their homes. They need to be able to have that space, or they need to be able to have clever design so, if they need it, they have options. There is a shift in thought regarding home-based working. People don’t want to feel trapped, they want to feel they are in control, so that they can, if they choose, alter their homes to fit their needs without having the added expense of moving. This also applies to exercise space, entertainment space and, obviously, general day-to-day living.
There is an excellent article here http://www.bdcnetwork.com/post-pandemic-‘new-normal’-apartment-buildingswhich discusses the way in which we are changing our needs. This study, although completed in America, sets out what we need to do, as developers, to continue to meet the needs of our customers. It’s not a bad read and certainly gives some insight into the changes that need to be made in order to meet the standards we’re now being held to with regards to apartment/flat living.
As flats/apartments don’t tend to always have their own outside space it’s now more important than ever to provide this. It can include things such as balconies or shared communal green areas. It’s escapism at its finest. No one wants to be cooped up staring at the same four walls, day-in day-out. You’d be surprised (or perhaps not anymore) how much of a positive impact a bit of fresh air can have.
So, what do we do now?
Well, we do what we have always done and deliver what people want. The difficulty here is to not go over budget. These homes, whether we’re talking about houses, flats, or complexes, need to be within budget. People’s budgets have not dramatically changed. We need to be able to think outside the box, look to alternatives without compromising on design or quality. It might sound like a challenge, and I guess it is. But one thing our industry isn’t afraid of is hard work!