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In these uncertain times, could the future of home design include provision for areas to self-isolate? Can smarter architecture help prevent the transmission of diseases? Let’s find out more.

 

At the time of writing, the UK is living with the threat of Coronavirus. The government has asked anyone who thinks they may have the virus to self-isolate for at least 14 days, while the rest of the population are being asked to practise ‘social distancing’; keeping as far away from other human beings as possible. Many people are working from home. Non-essential travel is discouraged.

 

It’s an uncertain time, which hopefully won’t last too long. However, it could have a significant bearing on the future. We don’t know whether this virus can be totally eradicated. Nor can we be sure that there won’t be other viruses in the future that require us to take similar action.

 

If you’re building or redesigning your family home, it could be worth bearing all of this in mind. You can take measures at the design stage now, that could make self-isolation easier and less stressful in the future. Here are three areas you should consider.

 

1 – Rooms

 

The current trend in home design is for large, open plan, ground floor rooms. These rooms look stunning and are great for living and entertaining in. However, they are not ideal for a family in self-isolation.

 

If self-isolation becomes more prevalent, your home would be better with more individual rooms that can be used. Having a separate kitchen and dining area would be optimal, as would a small area of the house that could be designated as an office when you need to work from home. Government advice is to avoid sharing bathrooms if possible, so if you can add extra bathrooms, it would make life easier. Finally, you could create a secure zone outside your front door for deliveries.

 

The goal for all of these is to keep contact between family members to a minimum. It’s not fun, but it could be necessary.

 

2 – Surfaces

 

Design with the goal of creating a clean, filtered environment for you and your family to live in, so there is less likelihood of you transmitting viruses between each other. For example, go for a smooth, tiled floor in your home where possible, rather than a carpet that can hold in moisture.

 

On your walls, use paint that is anti-bacterial, with no VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in it. VOCs are compounds found in some paints that help it dry quicker and last longer. It’s the VOCs that give off that ‘new paint smell’. However, they also contain chemicals which can be harmful, contributing to health issues such as headaches, nausea and even damage to the nervous system. In the past, VOCs were necessary for a better finish, but today’s VOC-free paints are just as good.

 

You should also consider the air quality in your newly-designed home. Install filters and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment to regulate the temperature and humidity. Make sure you keep them maintained to ensure maximum effectiveness.

 

3 – Technology

 

You can employ the latest tech in your design to minimise the number of surfaces you and your family need to touch. Diseases can spread on shared door handles and switches, but technology means you don’t necessarily need to have them in your home.

 

Instead of conventional light switches, you can install automatic light switches (PIR), with motion sensors to light up the room when someone walks in. In the bathroom, you could fit taps with sensors that start the water when you place your hands underneath them, and toilets with automatic flushes. Automatic doors in the home are less common at the moment, but who knows what the future holds?

 

You can also configure your connected devices so you can switch on your lights or central heating with only your voice. The technology is there. We just have to start using it.

 

What’s next?

 

We hope the Coronavirus crisis will end soon and life can return to normal, but it will be extremely interesting to see how it all plays out. Will architects be more inclined to start designing with self-isolation and social distancing in mind? Only time will tell.

 

To find out more about Harvey Wright Architects, call 020 3239 6044 or visit hwarchitects.co.uk.