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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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.
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.
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.