Crises are often a catalyst for change, particularly when they concern public health. The First World War gave birth to the slogan “homes fit for heroes” and while its good intent did not translate wholly into action it did play a part in ridding the country of insanitary slum dwellings and introducing garden cities with their open spaces and urbanised country lifestyle.
The current pandemic is another public health issue, but this time the demands on the housing stock are not about improving basic hygiene. Instead, they are creating a revolution in how homes can be adapted for an era of home-working and ecological sustainability.
As more of us are expected to requisition dining room tables as desks or turn under-the-stairs cupboards into makeshift offices, the challenge is how to redesign the concept of a home, not just as a place to live, but to work.
The future home will need to accommodate purpose-built office space which may go beyond the small box room with just enough space for a desk and table lamp.
It will need to consider available light, soundproofing, the number and position of electric sockets, broadband connections, scope for storage and shelving, and have enough room for multiple screens and printers. It may even require rooms that can be used for meetings and presentations. There will be greater need for bicycle storage and electric vehicle charging, and even exercise facilities.
Not only does the future home have to adapt to change of use, it must be remodelled in a way that is more environmentally sound with better insulation, more efficient heating, wider use of smart technology and more convenient access to public transport.
Niche homebuilder Artisan Real Estate says it is designing new homes in response to the challenges highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The company is best-known for commercial developments such as the New Waverley offices and leisure scheme off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. It is now applying the same low-carbon design and smart technology used in these schemes to residential projects and says it is going beyond the demands of local authority guidelines.
The approach is on placemaking and community, introducing concepts such as green roofs, ‘edible’ gardens and green transport plans, creating a more open and landscaped environment to benefit general health and well-being.
Artisan is behind two projects in Edinburgh: Canonmills Garden and the recently-acquired Rowanbank Gardens in Corstorphine. The company’s Canonmills Garden development, scheduled for completion in early 2021, includes a combined heat and power system helping to support building energy loads whilst charging electric vehicles, reducing both building and transport CO2 emissions.
‘We are envisaging what people want from their living environment, post-Covid 19’
Similar development principles have been applied to the major planning application for 126 homes at Rowanbank Gardens. The former care home site in Corstorphine is designed around a central courtyard garden providing nearly twice the level of open space recommended by council planning policy, filled with fruit trees and communal planting and growing beds. Green roofs ensure benefits of surface water retention, insulation and ecology.
Clive Wilding, Artisan’s group development director, said: “The challenges highlighted by the Covid 19 pandemic has accelerated the importance of changing the way we deliver new home development.
“We are now very much going above and beyond the existing council guidelines as outlined in its ‘Future Edinburgh’ strategy.
“We are also envisaging what people want from their living environment, post-Covid 19.
“Significant emphasis is placed on the quality of internal space and light to create enjoyable home-working environments, whilst accessible gardens and landscaping promote health and well-being by making nature and well-designed outdoor space integral to the day-to-day living experience.”