Sustainability, Design Thinking, Covid-19, Interior design

The future of living - Akshat Bhatt

Updated On : 01 Nov 2021

Earlier a domain of living and rest, the home is now also a space for working, studying, and leisure — with flexibility and adaptability becoming a bigger concern than ever.

The future of living

The pandemic has transformed life as we know it, replacing it with a new, socially-distanced lifestyle. With people spending more time at home, the priorities of residential design have shifted from aesthetic concerns to sustainability and integrating natural light and ventilation. Earlier a domain of living and rest, the home is now also a space for working, studying, and leisure — with flexibility and adaptability becoming a bigger concern than ever.

What will the homes of tomorrow look like?

While the fundamental way we live has not changed much, the pandemic has sparked a push towards minimal resource consumption and sustainable living. It has also brought our attention to what was always important — space, natural light, air, access to clean and inspiring surroundings, and proximity to loved ones. These changes can be expected to persist beyond the pandemic period, contributing to a more eco-friendly and safe future of living.

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Sustainability is not just about certain design elements or technologies — it has more to do with our fundamental value systems and our patterns of consuming resources. The current rate of consumption is quickly depleting our natural resources at a pace that will make our planet uninhabitable soon. We need to evaluate what is truly essential for sustenance and also consider the entire lifecycle of the resource — where it goes once it is discarded and whether it has any potential for reuse or regeneration.

The future of living
The house consists of a modular metal framework,
allowing residents to customize infill spaces and façade panels.

With a growing awareness of environmental problems, residents are changing their approach to designing and building homes. Fundamentally, the sustainable design tenets we follow to create homes and in general for our projects are: minimize consumption, maximize efficiency, reduce waste, and generate energy. The essence of design is sustainability; and when you overlay it with context and other cultural sensibilities – the sustainable concepts get modified and tweaked but yet remain an integral part of the design process.

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Some fundamental principles for sustainable homes are:

  • First, it must be oriented to optimize the ingress of daylight and fresh air that enters the interiors. It must also be designed with enough thermal mass that balances diurnal (day−night) extremes and moderates internal temperatures. These measures can reduce the building’s energy consumption by limiting the need for artificial lighting and air conditioning. Mechanical cooling requirements can be reduced through earth air tunnels and displacement ventilation.
The future of living
Courtyards and light wells bring ample daylight into all spaces
of the house, including the isolation rooms of the basement.
  • Second, it must be an open-ended framework enabling flexible living, optimizing the use of land and space through modular components and spaces. For example, collapsible/sliding partition walls and roofs can allow residents to reconfigure open-plan spaces, enclosing and combining rooms or lending them to the greens. Flexible storage systems allow residents to utilize small or irregular spaces can be used as movable partitions,
  • Third, it must be self-sufficient in the generation of energy, food, and potable water. Geothermal energy or solar panels can be used to harness power and harvesting rainwater or groundwater can help meet potable water needs. Grow rooms or kitchen gardens allow residents to grow their own food through techniques such as hydroponics and aeroponics. This reduces the burden on centralised water supply systems and food networks.
The future of living
The residence is designed with several passive strategies that reduce energy consumption, like natural ventilation, thermal massing, and sunken courtyards. 
Solar panels generate clean energy, while water harvesting and treatment systems capture and reuse water.
  • Fourth, it must treat all dry and wet waste before releasing it to central sewers it produces on site so no untreated waste is released. The compost could be utilised as feed for farming, while all outgoing waste to the municipal grid should be taxed to incentivise responsible resource consumption.

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What will the neighbourhoods of tomorrow look like?

As effective isolation and social distancing have played an important role in physical spaces during the pandemic, they will also be important considerations determining the design of future neighbourhoods, equipping them to handle future health crises. Low-rise residential developments that are three to four storeys high can be navigated by foot, limiting physical interaction in lifts. This scheme would allow for easier isolation of individuals when compared to high-rise residential towers with common elevators and amenities. Each building or dwelling sector can be serviced by autonomous travel capsules that can accommodate individuals or groups of 2-4 people, providing a safe, socially-distanced mass mobility solution.

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Inside the towers, the residences will be designed as flexible dwelling systems through modular, open-ended frameworks. Such well-serviced, well-lit, and adaptable spaces increase the lifespan of the building as they can be used for multiple activities now or in the future. Open-plan studio apartments with collapsible partition walls and roofs and flexible storage systems will allow residents to reconfigure their homes as needed. Basements can house isolation wards with sunken green courtyards that bring in fresh air and light.

The future of urban mobility

During the pandemic, partial lockdown phases saw people forsaking public transport for private vehicles, as the latter allows socially-distanced, safe travel. As social distancing becomes an integral part of daily life, existing systems of urban mobility are losing relevance, forcing us to adapt to changing commute proxemics. New definitions of social proxemics are emerging, creating demand for new models of public transport.

The future of living
The Capsule for Automated Transit (CAT), an electrically-powered urban transit solution.

An attempt to rethink post-pandemic mobility, the Capsule for Automated Transit (CAT) is designed by Architecture Discipline to offer commuters a socially-distanced transit model. The concept provides commuters the flexibility of choosing between a singular travel system or a segregated multi-user travel system, accommodating between 2-4 people at a time. The AI-automated pods are electronically operated and move on guideways to take commuters from point to point.

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