Ram Raheja, director of S Raheja Realty.
Ram Raheja, director of S Raheja Realty.

Design in the post-pandemic world: Back to the drawing board

Ram Raheja, director of S Raheja Realty, share his views on the design changes that will come about as a result of COVID-19

As India gathers itself and prepares to begin its path towards recovery, starting with Unlock 1.0, the long-term impact of this pandemic remains to be seen. What is certain is that the ways we live, work, and sustain our lifestyles will change drastically, compared to the pre-COVID era. The world is likely to be in-sync with nature and adapt towards a more resilient and healthy way of living going forward. COVID-19 has changed the way we used to imagine, ideate, and implement things and so the role of design will also change. It is likely to adapt and be implemented most innovatively and effectively while upholding the priorities and creating spaces that nurture our inherent characteristics. This is the time to rethink methodologies and advocate for a future where the world is in-sync with nature for a more resilient and healthy way of living.

Designers and developers will be conscious and considerate towards the spaces they build and ensure people’s health and safety remains one of the main priorities. Design’s biggest strength lies in its adaptability. And especially in the premium living segment – the ultimate concept of luxury is flexibility. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach here and homes are constructed keeping the buyers’ aesthetics and demands in mind. Home designs will be recalibrated keeping the ‘work-study-life’ balance in focus.

The biggest change from this pandemic is the emergence of Work From Home (WFH) cultures — a change that is increasingly being looked at. This calls for the creation of spaces in a home, and building dedicated office/ workspaces within the house design. Separate and defined spaces will be of increasing importance going ahead.

Dedicated space for holding virtual meetings, conference calls, and work-related events will be another facet of design adaptations. They could also have spaces with cubicles provided apart from meeting rooms with soundproofing, optimal lighting, air quality and décor. With the shift toward WFH culture, there will be a great demand for the set-up of the business centre within the housing complex as that gives people the option for flexible planning and can be used as alternative office spaces. A business centre could also work as a great revenue generator for societies.

Almost everyone predicts that public spaces will move towards being automated to mitigate contagion, with COVID-19 speeding up the development of all types of touchless technology — automatic doors, voice-activated elevators, cell phone-controlled house entry, hands-free light switches and temperature controls amongst others. The entire area, right from the entrance of the building to one’s own home will need to be designed incorporating features that decrease human/ physical touch to control contamination or spread of the virus. Sanitary stations could be set up to monitor safety protocols for visiting members. Separate entry paths for residents and exclusive access via key card system for elevators are some ideas that could be looked at. The entrance foyer of the houses could have spaces that could act as decontamination zone, where home residents and their guests can disinfect their gear and belongings to improve the focus on hygiene and cleanliness and help contain the transmission.

The one big learning for most from this pandemic is the need for healthy living and focusing on one’s wellness – physical as well as mental health. Some planning standards for the design of spaces will certainly reflect a new way of pursuing a life that will include greater personal space. Designing green spaces has regained importance – and playing with natural elements to bring a sense of peace and tranquillity is paramount. Meditation areas are a great add-on. Developers are and must continue to use minimal-energy materials across all phases of the construction process. As is the basic need to provide ample ‘green’ amenities like rain-water harvesting, efficient solar-heating and conservation, and recycling of storm water for relevant purposes.

This is not the first time that a disease has led to the re-invention of designs. One has witnessed great transformations before – be it Haussman’s renovation of Paris or New York’s landscape change in the 19th century. Diseases have played a significant role in the way cities have been redesigned throughout history. The learning from this COVID-19 pandemic is also important and will bring about changes in the way designs will be implemented in the future. Going ahead, building a self-contained community is very important. At the end of the day, a well-designed home that features natural hues and material brings about a great sense of safety, security, balance, and happiness in one’s life. And the right fit is important when you buy your dream home!​

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