Developers, like every other business in every other sector across the world, are today thinking hard about what the world will look like after the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have passed.
Will the way that people live change dramatically? It’s hard to know for sure, but as architects and planners, it is critical that we are able to look ahead, predict which trends are likely to transpire, and build these trends into the communities of the future.
“There are plenty of theories about how master plans and building designs might change as a result of this pandemic,” says Elie Mrad, Head of Architecture and Design, Arada. “The good news, if I can put it like that, is that these are trends that for the most part the industry is already working towards”.
THE OPEN SPACE
Quality of the public realm has always been a vital issue for urban planners and this is likely to assume even greater importance post-COVID-19.
Future communities must be designed with public health and wellness in mind, and access to green space is well known to be important for physical and mental health.
The Aljada megaproject in the heart of New Sharjah stands at 24 million square feet in size. There is plenty of scope here to ensure that residents, workers and visitors to the community can benefit from what is known as ‘green time’. Two parks that run the length of Aljada together 4.4 kilometres in total, and all homes are designed in such a way that every resident has access to lush green space within just a few yards of their front door.
Will physical distancing become part and parcel of our daily lives after this pandemic is over? The use of contactless smart technology was already gaining plenty of currency prior to this crisis, and its profile is only going to keep growing.
Smart technology at both a home level and a city level is here to stay. There is potentially much we can learn from our friends at Bee’ah, whose new HQ is already a world leader in contactless technology, allowing employees and visitors to use their mobile phones to access lifts, and facial recognition software to open doors to various parts of the building.
We have always thought about spaces can be activated socially, and now we have to think more about how distance can be factored into that. People can interact in a number of different ways, which is a concept we are already exploring at our student housing complex Nest.
Here, the notion of having balconies face each other is designed to encourage interaction between students on different levels, which is of course effective in a post-COVID-19 world as well.
All developers should be thinking about wellness within the home or the office that people will ultimately inhabit. At a time when the place you call home has never been important, our belief is that future residents in our projects will perhaps prioritise their health more than they have done in the past.
What does that mean? It could mean double-checking that the building materials that we are using can be cleaned even more safely and effectively. It could mean looking at more efficient ventilation systems. And it could also mean larger windows, rooftop terraces, more balconies and courtyards.
While the economic and social cost of COVID-19 is still being counted, this is the time that the designers, developers and end users come together to really ascertain, what we want our environment to look, feel and function as. Understanding those parameters, prioritising those elements that are critical and in need of urgent attention will allow the industry to move forward in an educated manner and build communities that are more resilient.