Balconies and decks re-emerge in COVID-19 era
Amar Tendulkar, chief of design and sustainability at Mahindra Lifespaces, tells us about the importance of these spaces
While well-designed indoor spaces bring ‘liveability’, balconies and outdoor spaces enable an experience of ‘life’. Can you, for example, imagine Rashtrapati Bhavan without its Mughal Gardens?
Good ‘un-built’ spaces actually help us better appreciate ‘built’ spaces. Balconies bring in fresh breeze, sunlight and openness into our homes and lives; these are essential for a sense of well-being and cheerfulness. Moreover, for our tropical climate, it’s an important enabler of comfort.
If balconies are liked so much, why have they disappeared from residential buildings in Mumbai today? In many places, local authorities had observed that people have enclosed the balconies of their apartments. That may have been because of the need of growing families, which local authorities interpreted as misuse of free FSI concessions, and the concept of ‘enclosed balconies’ emerged. ‘Enclosed’ and ‘balcony’ are a contradiction in terms, but remained in practice as these free-of-FSI enclosed spaces fetched better prices than open balconies. The EQ (Emotional Quotient) value of open balconies was underappreciated for a while, and the developer community delivered basis market demand.
Moving on, balconies or open decks have recently re-emerged among a relatively wealthier stratum of homebuyers, who preferred to enjoy the natural feel of the sun and breeze in their apartments itself. These home buyers did not mind paying as much for outdoor spaces – balconies or terraces – as for enclosed indoor spaces. Thus, you still see some exclusive projects in the recent past built with balconies or terraces or decks.
In fact, per our LifeslicesByMahindraLifespaces study, nationally, about 39% homebuyers consider balcony spaces as an important factor in their purchase decision. In Gurugram, 70% homebuyers consider the balcony area as the most attractive attribute of a home. Chennai homebuyers (60%) also value spaciousness and functional design; and consider balcony spaces as a top decision-making factor.
We believe balconies add great value to apartments and have included them in the living rooms of our Mumbai projects, to begin with. We have also added balconies to bedrooms in our Pune, Chennai and Bengaluru projects. At Luminare, our premium residential project in Gurgaon, each apartment is surrounded by a wrap-around balcony, thus converting each room of the apartment into a unique garden suite.
However, the ongoing pandemic has turned lifestyles upside down. Mid-segment families have once again realised the importance of balconies and decks (just like men have started appreciating the need for good kitchens and good appliances!). When one wants to make life 100% comfortable within his/ her own apartment, it cannot preclude a balcony. Balconies are like your own private outdoor space; you can sunbathe or sip your morning tea at leisure, or just relax in the evenings after a hectic work-from-home session without stepping out of your apartment and worrying about changing pyjamas. You can also place potted plants or grow kitchen vegetables in your balcony, hobbies which serve as a welcome breather from your daily routine. I am sure the government will take note of this and will certainly make necessary amendments in the regulations to promote balconies. It’s also the simplest way to improve the health of our citizens.
Last but not the least, for the cityscape too, a development with balconies brings forth the human scale and presents an active city life, whereas enclosed glazed buildings just appear as shiny untouchable boxes, don’t they?