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Pandemics and Architectural Design Trends

There is a saying, necessity is the mother of invention, and building design and home remodeling has been influenced by epidemics over history. In the 1800s, unsanitary and overcrowded conditions contributed to the spread of cholera caused by contaminated water. New plumbing and sewer systems were implemented to provide clean drinking water and removal of waste. Tuberculosis, considered to be the world’s most infectious disease, took the life of one out of every seven people living in the late 1800’s, when it was discovered that sunshine and fresh air helped people recover. Building innovations included concrete reinforced with iron rods which allowed buildings to be stronger and have larger windows, and plate glass allowed for the making of bigger windows as well.  Electric lighting became standard (before it was gas). Hospitals and sanitoriums had outdoor patios and walkways so patients could spend time outdoors every day, and their windows opened up for fresh air.  High rises included balconies for personal access to sitting in the sun and getting fresh air.

Early Modernist architecture was characterized by clean lines, white surfaces, oversized windows and indoor-outdoor living. Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes were designed to flood the indoors with natural light. Access to Taliesin West’s bedrooms are through an outdoor courtyard, and his Lake house had a fountain and a bar of soap at the entrance so everyone could wash up before coming inside. Somehow these lessons seemed to have been forgotten.

With urban sprawl, gone are the days where the majority were outdoors walking to work, to the store, to Church, and hiking or picnicking in the park or going to the beach on the weekends. They say we now spend 90% of our time indoors. Starting with the 1970’s, homes became more airtight, making the indoor air 2-5 times more polluted than the outdoor air. We know it is likely that a virus is spread from family member to family member from flushing the toilet with the lid up spraying surfaces up to 10 feet up and 6 feet out contaminating surfaces with the contents in the bowl (which includes viruses and bacteria)….Think about all the public restrooms that have no lids for the toilets!  More people are looking to nutrition for prevention, and more people have started gardens in the last 2 months than did in 2019 as garden suppliers were completely sold out of their stock by April. What are some changes in home remodeling that will likely come from Covid-19?

  • Outdoor Living Having an outdoor living area. A well-designed space will encourage daily use during good weather, including the time of year when it is most comfortable after dusk or early dawn. A customized place will invite and facilitate one to relax, eat, entertain, even cook. Perhaps we will see a comeback of the front porch and porch swing!
  • Dual Master Suites or Guest House. Having a parent or parents that need minimal care that was locked in isolation in a facility with many infected with Covid-19 has been distressing. Having an in-law suite or casita can give them some independence and you some separation from family life. Having a second master bedroom can provide a private bathroom for someone who needs to isolate while they are sick.
  • Fresh Air Exchanger A raised standard that all homes will have a fresh air exchanger connected to their HVAC system to remove the stale polluted air and bring in fresh air from the outdoors.
  • Home Garden When we were at war, the government encouraged everyone to have a “liberty garden” to grow their own food. Considering the majority of food is transported thousands of miles, fruit is not picked ripe, greens quickly lose their nutrition after harvest, there has been an unprecedented surge in people starting home gardens. More people started to garden in April than did in all of 2019. Growing one’s own food cuts down on the need to go to the store, and provides the freshest and more flavorful food. An indoor garden adds the bonus of fresh oxygen.
  • Bidet With the shortage of toilet paper, people are adopting the European standard of having a bidet. There are many bidet seats on the market that one can add to the existing toilet.

These are some elements you may want to include in your next home remodeling projects to make your home your safe place, and more attractive to buyers when it is time to sell.

Happy Home Remodeling!

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