Essential reading for retailers and suppliers in the home improvement market

Eight ways COVID is set to change home construction & design forever

Published: 16 February 2021 - Neil Mead
 

How many of us have adapted our homes over lockdown? MyToolShed has taken a look into how the world being trapped in their home for long periods of time has forced us to view our homes differently.

Take a look at eight ways COVID will impact the construction and design of houses in the future in an effort to alleviate the struggles we’ve found during the last year.

Key Findings:

-  Searches for “home desks” skyrocketed 517% in March 2020

-  “Home office chairs” also saw a 311% increase in searches.

-  Enquiries for buying homes in a village saw a 126% increase according to Rightmoves data for June/July alone

-  12% of adults moved back in with parents during the pandemic according to finder.com

-  Home gym equipment sales spiked by a massive 5,813% since the UK went into lockdown according to Idealo

-  Extensions are on the rise: Simply Loft saw 54% orders increase compared with 2019

-  “Hot tubs” quadrupled in searches compared to the summer of 2019. They reached an average monthly search of 1 million.

-  “Fire pits” saw a 309% search increase in summer 2020.

1. Home Office-Based Searches Skyrocket Over Past Year

We’re going to be seeing a lot of homeowners doing what they can to create a space where they can work from home effectively. For many, going back to the office may be a thing of the past, with more and more companies realising they can function perfectly well from home, and can therefore save money on office rental costs.

You see this by looking at searches for “home desks” which skyrocketed by 517% from February to the March when the lockdown was introduced. “Home office chairs” also saw an 311% increase in the month of March compared to the previous month. These searches only increased as the year progressed.

And it’s not just smaller independent companies thinking about moving their workforce out of the office either, mega-companies such as Microsoft, Google and Twitter have all announced that they’ll be allowing either their entire or at least part of their workforce to work from home in the future.

As a result of the general public realising that they may be home for the foreseeable future, maybe perhaps for good, there’s been a huge surge in people upping sticks and moving to the country. According to a recent press release by Rightmove, they’ve seen a 126% increase in enquiries about buying a home in a village in June and July alone, compared to last year, most of which are from those currently residing in large cities like Birmingham, Edinburgh, Liverpool and London.

2. Multigenerational Living - More Living Under One Roof

The COVID pandemic has forced many families to move in together and/or made those who have flown the nest return. Experts have also predicted that the events that occurred in 2020 won’t be the last time we’ll end up in a lockdown either, so multigenerational homes will be needed moving forward.

According to a survey conducted by finder.com, at least 12% of the UK population were adults who had moved back in with parents as a result of the pandemic and that more than two-thirds had no move-out date in sight.

It wasn’t just the UK either, with research by real estate website Zillow finding that in March and April this year, 2.7 million Americans moved back home.

As a result of this, homes will need to be split up more to give each member of the family their own private space. Christian Adams, CEO and cofounder at Repair Pricer backs this up saying “One trend I have seen emerging in major markets... is the creation of purpose-built multigenerational homes with essentially two separate homes under one roof.”

3. Closed-Planned Living

Yes, you read that correctly. As we’ve covered above with multigenerational living, we’re finding that lockdown is forcing more people to come together under one roof, and with many needing to work from home, this will cause a lack of privacy and also an increase in distractions.

According to Professor Phil Hubbard, a Professor of Urban Studies at King’s College London, a study of social media accounts last year (2020) revealed that “some of London’s workers (are) resorting to working on fire-escapes or in hallways just to escape from their roommates.”

Due to this, the trend of open-plan living is likely to reverse itself and become more ‘closed-plan’ in order to help those who need to work from home and to give more privacy in general. Tara Hipwood, a researcher at Northumbria University, discusses this in relation to ‘phased’ and ‘concurrent’ patterns of occupation within homes.

“A popular trend in recent years has been for open plan living... These open-plan areas usually function on the premise that (for example) any home working parents can occupy this space during the day before the family comes together to socialise in it in the evening. This, however, relies on a “phased” pattern of occupation, whereby different members of the household occupy the home at different times of day. This is very different from the “concurrent” pattern of occupation–whereby all members of the household occupy the home simultaneously–that lockdown has made more prevalent.``

4. Home Schooling - Moving School To The Sofa

With schools across the nation, and many across the world, are shut down to avoid the spread of the virus, parents are finding that they’re having to alter their homes to cater for home-schooling, in order to provide a space for their children to study, distraction-free.

Harriet Fitch Little states in her article in the Financial Timesthat homes are going to need to find space for our children to learn from home. “The popularity of homeschooling has risen sharply — some UK private schools are even creating “remote-first” cohorts, who will be taught over video call with the exception of hands-on classes. As a result, our homes will have to adapt.”

If you’re looking to create the best working from home setup, following these 5 simple steps;

a. Find A Quiet Spot

The first and most important step is to find the quietest place in the house. This may be harder for some more than others, as many may have roommates, children etc, but the rooms to avoid are more communal areas, such as living rooms and kitchens. These rooms tend to have people coming in and out constantly throughout the day, so if possible, find a quieter area such as a spare room, bedroom or wherever as the least footfall throughout the day.

b. Remove All Distractions

Once you’ve found a quiet spot, there’s still things on your person that are ready to disturb the peace, in particular your phone. A big tip is to go into your settings and turn off all non-essential notifications, as these can really get in the way when you’re trying to concentrate. Other things such as the TV, Radio etc can also be highly distracting so make sure all devices are either off or on silent.

c. Have The Correct, And Enough, Lighting

Having the right lighting seems like something that isn’t essential but after a while, you'll soon realise that it is. Poor lighting can cause unnecessary strain on your eyes, and with prolonged poor lighting conditions, eventually you’ll strain your eyes trying to see through the dark. The best way to counteract poor lighting is to either find a nice spot near a window, to get as much natural lighting as possible, or, if that’s not possible, make sure your desk has a lamp you can flick on whenever conditions aren’t adequate.

d. Screen Positioning

Another culprit for eye strain is having your computer screen to close to you. Ideally you want to keep your screen at arm's length at a minimum. If it’s gloser, the screen’s glare will cause strain on your eyes.

e. Take Regular Breaks

That brings us onto getting away from your computer screen. This is vital for helping you stay fresh and unstrained by our at home work setup. When we’re at work, we normally get a lunch break and then maybe one or two bathroom breaks on an average day. As you’re at home, take advantage to take regular mini breaks throughout the day. Another great benefit to home working is the ability to get outside now and then. Taking some time outside will help relieve any claustrophobia that can be felt after long periods inside. So remember to get away from your setup regularly.

5. Home Gym

Another impact of lockdown has been the need to exercise at home. Similarly, with work and schools, gyms have also been locked to the public forcing many gym-goers to find solutions at home.

According to research conducted by price comparison site Idealo, home gym equipment sales spiked by a massive 5,813% since the UK went into lockdown on 23 March. This is backed up by market figures that show the home fitness industry grew globally by a massive $2.73 billion in 2020. Industry experts also predictthe global home gym equipment market expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.5% during the period 2019-2025.

6. Multipurpose Spaces

For those who can’t afford to create their own office space or those who simply do not have the room to create a separate space, more homes will begin to have “multi-functional spaces''.

Evidence of this is reported by Insightdiy that state they saw the term ‘Murphy Beds’ (beds that fold up onto the wall) take a surprising surge in popularity, with bedrooms and spare rooms having to double as offices while many of us work from home.

Architects agree that this is something that’ll have to change moving forward. “Houses must be transformable,” said Gonzalo Pardo in his Houzz article.

Multipurpose spaces will become increasingly important to those trapped in many of the UK’s micro-apartments, located in the major cities, London in particular. According to a study by King’s College London, average house sizes are continuing to fall in the UK, thanks to the construction of these micro-apartments, which are aimed at young professionals and students. Currently, they’re the lowest in Europe in terms of size with one retrofitted scheme making national headlines for offering a single studio that was only 13 square metres.

7. Homeowners Forced To Spend Big For Extensions

With people hunting for more room in their homes, many will have resorted to converting unused space into new rooms where they work, exercise or to simply find somewhere to get some peace and quiet. Lockdown has already seen homeowners reach for the sledgehammer loft conversion specialists Simply Loft demonstrating the public’s desire for more room, boasting an increase in orders by 54% compared with 2019.

8. The Need For Nature

As we become more and more confined to our homes thanks to COVID 19, don’t be surprised to see many homeowners spending as much time as possible outside. We’ll also see many people creating indoor-outdoor spaces too, with the use of balconies and terraces.

Javier San Juan, founder of Lado Blanco Architects states that “Terraces and rooftops will be planned to be continuous with adjoining areas, shaping indoor-outdoor living rooms, bedrooms with private patios, and so on.”

Not only that, but people will also be missing friends and family, so once we’re able to mingle again with others, whenever that may be, homeowners will want a space outdoors where they can entertain both themselves or for hosting. According to Houzz, terms such as ‘summerhouses’, ‘firepits’, ‘hot tubs’ and ‘outdoor kitchens, have all risen in popularity on their site. This increase is also seen across the UK with searches.

(March - August 2019 vs 2020)

-  Summerhouses - 124%

-  Firepits - 309%

-  Hot Tubs - 398%

-  Outdoor Kitchens - 174%

Hot tubs took the spotlight with nearly quadrupling in searches and reaching an average of 1 million searches per month across the summer of 2020.

However, both these options cost quite a bit of money, and if you’re already in a home and looking to find a cheaper solution to help bring nature inside, simply adding plants around the house can make a huge difference, in particular to your mental health.

Talking to Marie Claire, wellness expert Emma Mills highlights that, “human beings are hardwired to respond positively to (a) natural environment. For example, studies now show a significant reduction in stress when plants are introduced to the workplace with a 37 per cent fall in anxiety, 38 per cent decrease in fatigue and 38 per cent reduction in hostility and anger.”

So if you’re finding yourself becoming increasingly stressed about having to stay home, try adding some plants for some relief.

Methodology: Search volume data was collected through Google Ads by MyToolShed. All other sources can also be found at the bottom of the blog post at www.mytoolshed.co.uk/blog/post/how-lockdown-changes-our-home

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