We had a very rough year in 2020. As we look to 2021 we are entering a new year with COVID-19. Vaccines are now available, but right away a new strain of the virus emerged. Our future is very unpredictable. Our new normal is sanitizing, mask-wearing, and social distancing. What we do know is that COVID-19 will have a long-lasting effect on how we design our houses, neighborhoods, and cities.
Previous Pandemics/Epidemics and House Design
If we think of the tuberculosis epidemic in the 19th and 20th centuries. In a time before antibiotics, people started spending more time outside. This was because the best known cure was fresh air and sunlight. Designers introduced sleeping porches on the upper floors of Victorian style houses so people could get fresher air and sunlight. This is no longer seen in our current homes, but we do have decks and balconies.
The flu pandemic of 1918 introduced “powder rooms” into houses so that guests would not have to use the main bathrooms. This was also a time of transformation for the main bathrooms. White toilet seats replaced wooden ones and more built-in bathtubs and white tiles replaced those of the previous era. All this was done to minimize the spread of germs.
Le Corbusier, a French-Swiss architect, urged residents to get rid of clutter. He urged people to get rid of heavy furniture, and carpets. This while urging them to keep their walls and floors clear to eliminate dark and dirty corners.
Design Before the COVID-19 Pandemic
Before the onset of COVID-19, several developments in the Metro Vancouver area offered clean white interiors and exteriors. When we look at single-family homes, on the other hand, they are designed for another era.
Many people have started to work from home and so homeowners are revamping their homes to include dedicated office space. Now we are seeing the need for more dedicated office spaces that are quieter and away from your family. Because these types of set-ups are more conducive to work. A separate home office is the most ideal scenario, but smaller apartments will prove difficult to make this a reality. The aim would then be to modify the layout of a living room to offer a space for work.
Previous epidemics and pandemics have transformed our built environments. The Cholera pandemic of the 19th century caused urban parks around the world to incorporate tree-lined boulevards. Central Park was created in the 1850s by the New York City’s Board of Health. This was the first public park in the United States.
Years ago Vancouver established a requirement for 2.75 acres of park space for every 1,000 residents. This seems to be forgotten, but we expect in the coming year that many municipalities will start to create more public open spaces, plazas, and parks.
We may see road space reallocated to allow for wider footpaths which would reduce driving lanes for vehicular traffic. Like major European cities, we may even find some streets converted into pedestrian zones.
Historical data shows that with the increases in the prices of lower mainland homes, commuting times have also increased. For potential homeowners to find something they can afford they would have to drive further.
We find many households moving away from the lower mainland to Pemberton and Squamish which are smaller communities. We even see households moving away from Victoria on Vancouver Island.
The use of video conferencing tools has increased during the pandemic. As such, more and more families are realizing there is no need for them to live physically close to their jobs. We expect in the coming years to see many communities’ housing prices become more affordable.
COVID-19 and Urban Density
There are questions about how COVID-19 will affect urban density and apartment living. We think many residents will prefer to opt for ground housing over apartments that are accessed by elevators. But these high-density developments won’t become obsolete in the near or distant future.
There is talk about “the 15-minute city”. This refers to living in an area where residents can get to work, leisure activities, and shopping whether by walk or a short bike ride.
2020 was an awful year for many of us. But happily the pandemic has changed our focus. Now we all want healthier homes and communities in 2021 and beyond.
On a positive note, the team here at Silver Beam wishes you a Happy New Year and a Prosperous 2021.