Homes for pandemic and post-pandemic modes

A girl looks longingly out of the window. Outside coronavirus elements float in the air.Green building and universal design have a lot in common. They both aim to improve the lives of building users. When it comes to our homes, the brave new world of working from home will no doubt stay with us post pandemic. But there is more to creating a suitable home than just adapting for work. Our homes also need to protect us in both pandemic and post-pandemic modes. Universal design has a role to play here. 

An article in the Journal of Green Building tackles the issue of designing for a world where we should expect further pandemics. Public buildings, transportation, tourism, open space and events were all affected by COVID-19. Of interest here is the section on designing new homes. 

Author Dirk Spennemann argues for universal design and acknowledges the slow uptake in new homes. However, future proofing requires a universal design approach so that occupants can function in both pandemic and post-pandemic mode. Spennermann goes into detail about the four conceptual spaces a home needs and uses drawings to explain. See Figure 1 below from the article. Existing housing stock is discussed in terms of retrofits. The title of the article is, Residential Architecture in a post-pandemic world. It represents some forward thinking in home design. 

diagram of the four conceptual spaces in a home.


COVID-19 has highlighted the disruptive, cross-sectorial effects a sudden-onset pandemic has on a globally interconnected world. A particularly insidious component is the high percentage of asymptomatic cases allowing the virus to seed undetected. The design of residential architecture will need to adapt to the new reality that COVID19 will not be the last coronavirus epidemic. This paper discusses the implications of COVID-19 for new residential construction. It argues for a containment space, separating the largely uncontrollable external environment from the internal threat reduced residential space, for a separation of visitor entertainment areas and private sleeping areas, as well as the design of a spatially separated master bedroom that can double as a self-isolation space if the need arises. The implications of this new design on existing housing stock are also discussed. The advocated concepts are novel and advance the design considerations for future residential developments.

Editor’s note: This article cites my paper, Barriers to universal design in Australian housing


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