The Covid pandemic has seen unprecedented numbers of us working or learning at home, but very few new homes are designed with this in mind.
Larger, 4-bed houses often feature a ground floor ‘bonus room’ that is often labelled ‘Study’, but such provision is not often considered in smaller units. In a competition submission last year we imagined a two-bed starter-home (see below) with a ‘closet’ accessed off the dining area or master bedroom that could be used for adults home-working, or kids’ homework, then closed off at the end of the day. The house was wide enough that a simple extension could provide a larger work-room or additional bedroom, allowing the original work closet to be converted into a second bathroom.
Thinking about how a house can flex and adapt to the changing needs of its occupants was also the underlying principle of the ‘Lifetime Homes’ standard, originally devised by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, but now largely superceded by Section M4(2) of the Building Regulations. A key requirement of M4(2) is that the ground floor WC, mandatory in all new homes, is large enough and pre-plumbed to be converted into a wet-room shower. This creates the potential for an older resident to stay in the dwelling, living on the ground floor, well after the stairs become too challenging. M4(2) is not mandatory on new dwellings but we feel it should be, and we always explain its advantages to new residential clients.
With a bit of thought, and little extra expense, we can make new homes much more adaptable for their owners changing needs – for homeworking, and permanent or temporary disability. Get in touch if you’d like us to help you future-proof your next housing project.
Below left: A two-bed home with a home-work ‘closet’ off the dining area (highlighted in pink)
Below right: The same unit extended to provide a full-sized home office (or third bedroom)
Bottom left to right: The home-work closet accessed from the dining area; alternative access from the master bedroom; the closet used for homework (or games!); the closet converted to a second bathroom.
Matt Wood, March 2021 / Matt Wood is Head of Housing at Hudson Architects.