Study shows consumer concerns about health will change the way homes are designed post COVID
My current home style includes a 25-foot gray cord that snakes its way from the router, along the staircase wall — tucked precariously behind hanging family photos — continues down a short hall and into a bedroom-turned office, finally plugging into my husband’s work computer. It’s quite attractive.
Of course, others have it worse, as a recent study shows. “We had one survey respondent tell us he worked in his wife’s car in the morning so he could make calls and not disturb his wife and daughter while they slept. Then, in late morning he’d begin working from the breakfast table,” says marketing expert Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki of tst ink, who, along with consumer strategist Belinda Sward of Strategic Solutions Alliance, and architect Nancy Keenan, president and CEO of Dahlin Group, conducted the America at Home Study.
Across the U.S. (the world), people are scrambling to figure out how to reconfigure their homes and apartments to accommodate a new norm that includes spaces for sleeping, eating, studying, educating, working, relaxing. (Socializing indoors at least is no longer on the list, for the time being.) What does the way we’re using our homes now mean for the future of home building?
Home = Safety
Conducted from April 23 to April 30, the America at Home Study compared responses from 3,001 consumers 25 to 74 years old with household incomes of $50,000-plus; 77% were homeowners, 20% were renters, and 3% live with relatives or friends. At the time the survey was conducted, nearly half (48%) of the respondents or another household member had lost a job or income as a result of COVID-19.
Not surprisingly, the survey team discovered that the popular open concept floorplan is problematic when one room has to have multiple purposes. For one thing, there’s the issue of noise and distraction with so many occupants working and schooling at home. “The challenge as we begin the recovery phase is to dig into what consumers say is missing from their current living space and what they are willing to pay for in their next home,” Slavik-Tsuyuki says.
When asked what they thought the word “home” meant, 91% of respondents said, “a safe place.” Safety as a category encompasses many things such as “hygiene, health and wellness, and flexibility of space,” Slavik-Tsuyuki says.
More than half of respondents said they want germ-resistant counters and flooring; greater technology; energy efficiency; more storage, specifically for food and water; touch-free appliances, faucets and toilets; a better equipped kitchen for cooking.
More than 30% want touchless home entry; home offices to accommodate more than one person; flexible walls to create adaptable space.
Concept Home On The Way
Keenan of the DAHLIN Group points out that since the 1850s, health crises have changed the way we live. With cholera and Tuberculosis a fear, many cities improved water quality standards, and an acceptance of fresh air to combat disease, meant more homes were built with porches and better ventilation. After the Spanish Flu, built-in tubs became the norm as they were easier to clean than claw foot tubs, and lacquered toilet seats replaced wooden ones; powder rooms near a home’s entry provided a place for visitors to clean their hands.
After this pandemic it will be no different.
Keenan says that many of the changes that consumers want can take place immediately and that builders are already refreshing their home designs. She mentions drop zones for clean package delivery, more storage, flexible spaces for home offices, better technology and energy efficiency, connection to the outdoors, full baths in mudrooms, multi-use garages, the potential for movable wall systems and multiple office spaces.
Beyond the study, the team is collaborating to design and build a concept home, based on their findings. The process will begin with a design charette in August. Dahlin Group will work with Garman Homes to design and plan a home that Garman will build. The goal of the concept home, Slavik-Tsuyuki says, “will be real-time research and development, sharing design and planning decisions made along the way to provide the desired features and make the home attainable. Once the concept home is built, the learning will continue with first-hand observation of people’s reactions to it.”