Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, our homes have been serving as makeshift workplaces, schools, gyms and pubs. And many of us are spending more time in them than ever before.
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People often choose to buy or rent their particular home because of its location – perhaps it offers access to good schools or an easy commute to work by car or public transport. This means people often invest in more expensive homes in locations with access to quality facilities and then adapt them to accommodate the activities of their daily lives.
As an architect and researcher in housing and sustainability, my research examines adaptations ranging from extensions and loft conversions, through to the installation of renewable technologies and retrofits. Many homeowners view their homes in desirable areas as a financial asset they plan later to cash in. For this reason, renewable and energy efficiency measures are often not included in adaptations, due to uncertainties about how these will be valued when they come to sell.
But with fewer people now commuting and more people working from home, where people choose to live and how they want their houses to function may change after this prolonged period of lockdown.
Goodbye open plan living?
It’s likely that for many families, this period has also highlighted that when they are all in the house at the same time, it can be hard to find any personal space.
A popular trend in recent years has been for open plan living. This often involves opening up several ground floor rooms to create a single, open plan, multi-functional space – usually a kitchen, dining, living, utility and work space. These open plan areas usually function on the premise that any homeworking parents can occupy this space during the day, before the family comes together to socialise in it in the evening.
This, however, relies on a “phased” pattern of occupation, whereby different members of the household occupy the home at different times of day. This is very different from the “concurrent” pattern of occupation – whereby all members of the household occupy the home simultaneously – that lockdown has made more prevalent.
Being able to supervise children while working may be beneficial for some. But for others, the lack of privacy afforded by these large, open plan spaces has no doubt presented challenges. Particularly when, for example, you might want a quiet corner in which to hold online calls. Self-isolating is also more difficult in such spaces, as is quarantining objects coming into the home.