These times have given us the opportunity to reflect and re-imagine the future of design
BY RON NESTOR
We are living in an unusual time. The coronavirus has upset our nation and the world in so many ways. As we adapt to this situation and look forward to our new normal, we are being propelled at warp speed into the future.
The changes in retail, workplace, education, and entertainment have been percolating for years, but now, almost in an instant, they have become reality. A Colliers International survey conducted in March found over 80% of employees surveyed around the globe prefer to work remotely at least one day a week; in the U.S., 45% of employees would like to work from home one or two days a week, the survey found. Our homes, our safe havens, have become even more important than ever.
As I’m writing this, I’m surrounded by boxes for a move in a couple of days into a brandnew house in Irvine, Calif. This is the first time I’m buying new and while it’s been in progress for a while, some of my motivating thoughts seem more applicable now than ever.
The new home has loads of energy-saving features and is set-up for future solar and electric vehicle charging. It’s a little more than half the size of my last home, but wellplanned and spacious. And it’s in a beautiful environment, right at the edge of civilization, just steps from significant open space.
Given the opportunity to pick out flooring and other materials, I chose to have no carpeting, known to be a haven for dust, dirt, allergens, and other critters. Porcelain tiles offer no bacteria absorption and quartz counters have an antimicrobial feature; both are easy to disinfect. A separate loft/den will become a home office, which seems to be a must-have these days.
Having lived in an interim apartment for nearly a year while my home was built has caused me to reflect on how many of our neighbors live. I am surprised by all the families with small children that live in a one-bedroom apartment here in costly Irvine. How do they function, all being home in tight quarters, especially during lock-down? Outdoor space for exercise, sunshine, and spacing people out is clearly important. I’ve never seen so many people walking with their dogs and kids on the sidewalks and in the parks.
During the onset of the coronavirus, these thoughts have moved to the forefront. Creating a healthy living environment has become paramount. In the new house, extra care was taken during the construction to protect the air ducts. Enhanced insulation and quality windows will offer protection from the outdoor environment.
The new home brings peace-of-mind that no one has lived in this house before. It’s a new start to continue to maintain the healthy living environment.
In small apartments, the importance of efficient and flexible space utilization has become more evident. I see the need to create a niche that can function as a spot for bunk beds for young families or for an athome office space for someone like me.
Home offices were recently downplayed because work can be done “anywhere” with a laptop. This trend led to providing a small “home management” center in the kitchen. Lock-down has caused us to realize that a physical space where you can get away from distractions is becoming an essential component of the new home. Home may not be the ideal work situation, where energetic kids trying to learn complicate the mental stress of the pandemic, or where one might be taking care of elderly parents. And, with two spouses working from home, there can be a need for more than one such space in a home. I think a home office will become one of the most requested features going forward.
Dining rooms have started to make a comeback. As one of the least-used rooms in a home, it can be outfitted with clever furniture to double as an office. Speaking of this, I see an increase in versatile multi-function smart-furniture to make spaces flexible.
More broadly, I see the use of AI and touchless voice-command features quickly being advanced and incorporated into everyday life. Imagine getting on an elevator and instead of pushing a button, you just say what floor you want.
These interesting times have given us the opportunity to reflect and re-imagine the future. It came upon us quite suddenly and caused us all to innovate and adapt quickly, advancing trends at warp speed. Creating a healthy living environment with smart, flexible- use spaces, and access to the outdoors is more important than ever.
Live Long and Prosper.
Ron Nestor, AIA, LEED AP, is a Senior Principal with WHA Architects, Planners & Designers, Inc. of Santa Ana, Long Beach and San Ramon, California. Ron’s areas of interests include High Density and Mixed Use living environments. He can be reached at email@example.com