Working from home: co-designing a housing toolkit

Working from home is one way people make a living in developing countries, but are their homes designed for this? One way to get a more suitable design is to involve the occupants in the design process. Researchers from the UK and Thailand used a co-design method to devise a housing and livelihood toolkit. The research explored the connection between ageing, housing, and livelihood for low income residents.

Housing for older people means much more than a physical dwelling space. Often it is a lifetime home and in developing countries it has to support their livelihood. Many older people and women depend on their home for their livelihood.

A woman is holding a straw broom in a footway between housing on both sides.

Klong Toey, which is located near Bangkok,, was the subject of the study. Bangkok Port Authority owns the land and wanted to evict residents to expand port facilities. Residents were offered cash compensation to relocate to new 24 storey apartments on the outskirts of the city. The affected families thought that moving out of the port area will take away their livelihood.

Co-designing in the context of low-income housing

Most of the literature on co-design comes from Western economies. Researchers needed to explore the ties between neighbourhood, housing, and livelihood using adapted methods. The outcome was a design toolkit whose purpose was to serve at a catalyst for design options. These were based around live-work housing and neighbourhood design for flats and houses.

Three livelihood groups emerged from the co-design workshops: service, cooking, and stocking/storing. Service is typified by hair salons, grocery stores and laundry. Cooking needs space for food preparation activities and dining space. Stocking and storing is for jobs that include recyclable waste and online selling. These three livelihood types formed the basis of the design toolkit.

Residents can use the toolkit to advocate for improvements to the living and livelihood conditions rather than being relocated. Other stakeholders – landowners, policy-makers, designers and community organisations can also use it. The toolkit helps stakeholders to identify, understand, and propose inclusive solutions acceptable to all.

Western housing design should also incorporate the concept of working from home. The COVID pandemic highlighted that homes need to have flexible space for work activities.

The title of the paper is, Co-designing a housing and livelihood toolkit with low-income older people for future housing in Klong Toey, Bangkok, Thailand.

Residents found the co-creation activities gave them the chance to imagine their own living and working space. The toolkit gave them a well-founded instrument for advocacy and negotiation.

A man and a woman stand behind a street stall selling cooked food.

From the abstract

This paper is about a research project involving low-income older people in Klong Toey, Bangkok. The aim was to co-produce a design toolkit to guide the development of live–work housing for low-income older people in Klong Toey.

A three-day co-design workshop was held with local stakeholders to develop design alternatives for their live–work activities. The researchers engaged with the users as facilitators and translators to produce design options that informed the toolkit.

The toolkit was developed under the overarching AgeingHood project. It was inspired by the unique housing and livelihood needs of the older people of Klong Toey, who often run small businesses from their own homes. Ageing, housing and livelihood are interrelated aspects of the lives of low-income older people in this area of Bangkok.

The project also led to impacts such as supporting residents’ live–work needs assessment and positive engagement and collaborative working with various local stakeholders.

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