Time for Change?

Like a lot of companies during the Covid 19 Lockdown, Walters Architects have been keeping in touch with colleagues, clients and associates via video conferencing apps such as Skype and Zoom.

It is particularly interesting to see how people are working from their homes. Some are working from spare bedrooms, some on kitchen tables, even from their sheds (or ‘man caves’ as a couple like to refer to them) but very few from a study or home office.

The national news even reported on how a PR manager from Birmingham had moved back home with her parents during the lockdown and was using their camper van as an office, on their drive.

People have always reacted to adversity by adapting their existing environment, like the kitchen table as a work station or a motor home as an office. But what happens when the lock down is extended, as was the case this week, and how might we adapt if it goes on even longer or if the virus returns later in the year?

Will people be happy to continue with their current temporary situations or is this one of those once in a lifetime landmark events which remains in our psyche forever and influences us to rethink our spaces and how we live. Might this be a catalyst for domestic change?

I remember writing an essay some years ago about how the internet was going to revolutionise the way we worked and how we travelled (or didn’t) to and from work. 20 years have passed since that essay and while the internet has undoubtably changed a lot of things, it has not (as the conclusion of the essay suggested) had such a devastating impact on our consumption of fossil fuels because we are all working from home.

Obviously, the environmental advantages of working from home are massive but they are less prevalent at the moment than the health issues that face us today with the death toll of over 10,000 at writing this article.

Could something like this happen again and are current generations of homeowners more mindful that in uncertain times we may all be asked to work from home on a number of occasions. And have these events reminded us how we could travel less and possibly do more to reduce carbon omissions. Should we be better prepared for such events and can we learn from them?

Not many homes are fortunate enough to have a designated fully functioning office and very few have more than one workstation space. It isn’t ideal to have a family all working from the one workspace which needs to be cleared every time a meal is served. Is the kitchen table really the answer or should we have a combination of purposeful spaces?

Should we allow for a bureau space on the landing or in the hall, should children have designated work desks in their rooms. Should that spare room be converted into an operational office or is an office better suited at the end of the garden instead of ‘Dads bar’?

Walters Architects have noticed a number of small changes in domestic design and requirements over the years. One of the more noticeable ones was a couple of years ago, people were asking for open plan spaces to be a little more flexible and little less open plan. Mainly because that perfect domestic vision of children playing quietly whilst one parent cooked and the other relaxed and enjoyed watching the news all in one space just didn’t exist. The reality is for a  sperate more relaxed space for when the children are being boisterous and the activity in the kitchen is too loud to properly consume the sports results.

So, could the Coronavirus see the emergence of the fully functional working home office and inturn help with the reduction of CO2’s? An intended space that is quiet, has good internet links, fixed screen monitor (not tablets), references (old fashioned books) and good lighting for the video conferences. Could all this isolation have a more profound effect on how we live and work, the spaces we plan, how we design homes and if we travel to work or not?

I guess until this is all over we will never know but it will be interesting to see how seriously people take the possibility (and opportunity) of home study and work. If the spaces are planned effectively and we are all able to work efficiently, why couldn’t we all work from home at least one day a week and try to reduce our energy consumption that way?

Who knows, some good may come out of this bad situation and we could help heal both the planet and ourselves.

Post a Comment