How will architecture adapt to Covid-19 and beyond?

 

The global Covid-19 pandemic has created a new world for all of us. While the fight against the virus continues, we are all learning to adjust to life in a socially-distanced society. How we move through our cities, towns and villages has changed, and we have had to refamiliarise ourselves with adapted indoor and outdoor spaces. What will these changes mean for the design of housing, work spaces and placemaking in the future? We think there will be some key changes that architects will need to respond to.

RISE Design Studio architecture and Covid-19

Seeing our homes in new ways

Even those of us who have always loved spending time in our homes will feel, after many weeks of lockdown, overly familiar with our own living space. Bedrooms have become the office or the home gym, kitchen tables have become the home school, and the quiet space that was once a reading nook may now be overrun by all members of the family seeking that rare moment of solitude.

As we contemplate the reality of more time in our home in the weeks and months to come, we are valuing our homes more than ever before and thinking about how to maximise the space. Storage has become more important as we appreciate the simplicity and order of life at home while the world outside seems increasingly complex. What was originally a temporary workspace may become a permanent feature and this presents an opportunity to create a soulful space that inspires creativity and productivity.

Even the tiniest bit of outdoor space has provided a huge boost for those lucky enough to have some. For those without, sunrooms or spaces with good quality natural light for urban farming provide a welcome alternative.

Perhaps the most important question is about how we delineate the spaces in our home that we use to rest, eat and play from those in which we now work. How can smaller spaces be used to perform these multiple roles but still allow a separation of home and work life? The creative solutions need to flow.

The importance of our local surroundings and supply chains

The pandemic has made us all acutely more aware of our local surroundings and what effect these can have on our health and wellbeing. Encouraged to walk, run and cycle close to home, we have become very familiar with our local streets, paths and parks, perhaps much more than we could have ever imagined.

As many of us continue to spend more time at home during the working week, there is an opportunity to implement energy-efficient standards, and push for faster decarbonisation of heating systems to ensure the carbon footprint of the home is reduced and energy costs are manageable.

New developments will need to adopt strong placemaking principles likely walkability to local social infrastructure. This will be crucial to ensure that local businesses can be accessed quickly and safely, particularly as home workers are likely to make these sorts of trips more regularly than in the past.

The longer we spend without regular social contact, the more important our greenspaces become for our mental and physical wellbeing. There is a need to embed these spaces in our local communities and look after them for the years to come.

Adaptable and healthy cities

Perhaps most striking has been the decline of the use of cars in our cities. Streets have been left empty and air pollution levels have dropped significantly. As people are converted into ‘full-time pedestrians and cyclists’, the benefits of making streets safer for those of us not in vehicles couldn’t be more apparent.

There is likely to be a greater focus on health in city planning and development. For example, in Singapore, therapeutic gardens have been built into public parks, and in Tokyo citizens are working with urban designers to create more greenspace in their neighbourhoods to improve their health.

Across the world, architects have been working hard to identify and adapt buildings and other spaces into temporary health care facilities. The pandemic has highlighted the need for fast design and build projects, which has made the use of modular construction – buildings assembled using prefabricated modules – more common.

Perhaps most exciting is the growth in the adaptive reuse approach to design. Using existing structures to serve new purposes, this is a real opportunity to use a sustainable and efficient approach to upgrading our living environments in this new world.

Permitted Development Rights II: House extensions

 

An extension or addition to your home is something that you can do under ‘Permitted Development Rights’ (PDR), meaning that you do not need to apply for planning permission to undertake the work (see the general introduction to PDR in our last post). There are, however, certain limits and conditions that you need to be aware of and we cover some of those in this post.

Permitted Development Rights II

For all types of extension, no more than 50% of the area of land around the ‘original house’ can be covered by the addition (bear in mind that ‘original house’ means the house as it was first built, or as it stood on 1 July 1948, if it was built before then). You will need to check whether a previous owner added an extension as this is included in the calculation, as are sheds and any other outbuildings.

Single-storey extensions

For single-storey extensions, if the project is completed by 30 May 2019, the rear wall of a detached home can be extended by up eight metres. If you live in a semi-detached or terraced house, this is reduced to six metres. These upper limits have been temporarily increased and if you extend more than four metres beyond the rear wall (detached) or three metres (semi-detached/terraced), you will need to go through the Neighbour Consultation Scheme to notify the local planning authority of your intention to use PDR in this case.

Under PDR, the extension must not be to the front or side of the building (if it is, it requires planning permission). The materials used in the extension should be similar in appearance to those on the exterior of the rest of the house, and the extension must not exceed four metres in height.

Double-storey extensions

For higher extensions of more than one storey, the addition can be no higher than the existing house and it may not extend more than three metres beyond the rear wall. You will also need seven metres between any boundary opposite the rear wall of the house. As with single-storey extensions under PDR, the materials you use must be similar to the existing house, and there are some additional rules about upper floor/roof windows.

Other points to bear in mind

The permitted development allowances that we have described in this post apply to houses in England only. If you are seeking to alter or extend a flat/maisonette, a converted house (or a house created through the PDR to change use), other buildings, or your house is in an area where there may be a planning condition (e.g. protected/designated area), you will need to check separate guidance and rules with your local authority. Some local authorities are able to confirm in writing (for a small fee) whether or not a planning application is necessary. Most extensions still require approval under Building Regulations.

You can read more detailed guidance on the Department for Communities and Local Government Planning Portal, or contact us for advice about a project you are considering.