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Pandemic could upend open-plan home design

November 24, 2020

Photo courtesy CHBA-BC

Open floor plans have been a go-to new home design for some years but they could be among the victims of pandemic-induced changes in home trends according to experts, who also see a rise in touchless technology and bronze and copper surfaces if the virus threat continues.
Open floor plans have two problems when people are faced with lockdowns and working from home, as many have for the past nine months or so: the potential for disease transmission in an open environment and the need for work-at-homers to have a quiet space to answer calls and complete other chores.
“Just as the Spanish flu gave us the vanity room, which originated as a hand-washing basin immediately inside the front entry of a home, COVID-19 will influence innovation in home design,” said Chris Marlin, president of Lennar International, one of the largest U.S. home builders, in a recent report to the World Economic Forum’s COVID Action Platform.
Lennar said a revival of a separate den, or pocket doors or screens to differentiate interior space could be seen as modifications to open floor plans. He added that in larger new homes, split HVAC systems could become popular to better control air circulation. “Such mini-HVAC systems with no duct work have become very affordable,” Lennar said.
The pandemic has increased consumer interest in buying new homes rather than resales, according to Lennar, so home builders should be aware of how design changes could help with making their product more appealing to COVID-19-conscious consumers.
Such subtle changes include using copper, brass and bronze for doorknobs and bathroom and kitchen cabinet handles—these metals have naturally antimicrobial properties and don’t need to be constantly wiped or sprayed to reduce the potential of contagion
Builders could also provide, at least as an upgrade option, touch-free technology such as smart thermostats, no-hand faucets, automated lights and voice-controlled smart devices to limit touch spots in a new home.
Multi-purpose room designs are also a trend. This could include a basement morphing into a part-time gym, a bedroom with a built-in desk and storage for working from home, and larger kitchen islands that allow for a multitude of tasks by various residents at the same time.
The pandemic has also caused a shift in the use of outdoor space, with a growth in the popularity of heated and screened decks and porches, and a movement toward re-purposing passive lawns into vegetable gardens, sources tell Home BUILDER.
Since mid-March 2020, many people are spending more time at home than ever before, and builders should place a priority on making space at home as interesting, flexible, comfortable and safe as possible.

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