Originally published in Sourceable, by Andrew Heaton, 28 August 2020. Image by Taylor Brammer, supplied by Crown Group.

The design of houses and apartment complexes needs to change after COVID in order to deliver greater wellbeing and restorative experiences as well as to improve the function of homes in which multiple occupants live, leaders in the development industry say.

As COVID has forced Australians to spend more time at home, property leaders say that the design of dwellings will need to evolve in order to provide greater living experiences.

Iwan Sunito, Chairman and Group CEO of luxury apartment developer Crown Group, says the pandemic has highlighted the need for homes to encourage a sense of calm, relaxation and productivity.

“Many people are spending more time working from home, studying from home, home-schooling their children and exercising and recreating,” he said. “People who live in well-designed homes that offer plenty of living and working space, access to gardens and fresh air, as well as facilities such as play areas, fitness facilities and music rooms, have been far better able to adjust to this new lifestyle …,” Sunito said.

Image: Ant Zikas, supplied by Crown Group

“…The pandemic must force a rethink of house and apartment design so that all residents are able to feel secure, relaxed and socially connected when they are at home. This ultimately will lead to better physical and mental health around the world. The hotel industry puts a great focus on wellness; the residential industry needs to too.

“It’s not just about sustainable buildings but a sustainable lifestyle.”

According to Sunito, a critical step involves bringing natural elements such as greenery, water, natural light and fresh air into buildings – a concept known as biophilic design.

As an example, he says, can be seen through Crown’s recent Waterfall development nearby Sydney’s Waterloo.

Features of this complex include balconies in each apartment, corridors that are open to the elements to let in fresh air, outdoor space for residents to relax including 2600sqm of tropical gardens with more than 7000 plants in the vertical green walls, Australia’s tallest constructed waterfall at 22m high which creates soothing water sounds, a cantilevered gym, a 25m lap pool and jacuzzi and a music room and function room offer spaces to relax or practise a skill.

“Nature can also be good for our cognitive functions – a walk in a forest for example can help our emotional regulation and memory functions.”

Urbis Director of City Strategy and Place Michael Stott said COVID will alter housing choices in several ways.

Image: Ant Zikas, supplied by Crown Group

“(As well,) It’s widely accepted that, even in small doses, green spaces – whether parks, playgrounds or residential greenery – are essential for our well-being and mental health,” he said.

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve all seen the value and joy public spaces around the country have brought people, even while physically distanced. There is also growing recognition of the crucial role green spaces play in urban areas, particularly in high density areas where residents don’t have direct access to open space.

“What we don’t want is for people to perceive that their only ability to access green space is to escape the city. With limited opportunities to include further green spaces in the densest of Australia’s cities any opportunity to increase it should become a priority.”

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