When the President Who Must Not Be Named declared that the coronavirus will disappear one day like a miracle, everyone secretly (or not so secretly) hoped that he was right. But with the coronavirus seemingly here to stay for now, like an unwanted house guest that refuses to leave, new home designs and features have emerged to keep us safe and comfortable as we stay longer periods of time at home.
Here at Esta, we have identified the top three changes in home trends due to the pandemic.
1. Automation and Touchless Technology
Automation and touchless technologies have been gaining increasing popularity in recent years. However, the coronavirus pandemic has hastened its widespread adoption. Given the risk of spreading the virus through contaminated surfaces and the varying lengths of time that the virus survives on different surfaces, we have seen a change in people’s mentality. Before the pandemic, installing automated and touchless technologies around the house was seen as a luxury and was met with some resistance due to high switchover costs. With reports surfacing that the coronavirus can live in surfaces up to nine days, more people have started to see them as a necessity due to hygienic reasons, especially in shared spaces around the house.
While the first things that come to mind are touchless faucets and automatic soap dispensers, other common applications include motion-activated lighting, smart toilets and automatic doors and doorbells, decreasing contact with high touch surfaces at home. AI-powered virtual assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home or Apple Home Kit, enable homeowners and tenants to come up with an integrated approach toward automation. Omdia, a technology research and consulting firm, reports that sales for AI-powered devices in North America increased by 6% in the first quarter of this year, although it is uncertain how much of this increase can be attributed to the pandemic itself.
Beyond the immediate confines of our homes, emerging forms of touchless technologies may soon allow residents of multi-family dwellings to enter secure buildings through the use of Bluetooth signals from their mobile devices or via facial recognition devices, as well as use touchless elevator control panels.
Ireland-based market intelligence company, Research and Markets, predicts that the touchless sensing market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 16.9% from 2020 to 2027, increasing from USD$9.2 billion in 2020 to USD$27.6 billion in 2027.
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2. The Rise of Multifunctional Homes
BBC viewers may recall how Robert Kelly became a viral star after his children gatecrashed his live interview in 2017. While few of us would have imagined facing a similar predicament back then, hardly any of us have made it through remote work meetings without being interrupted by a colleague’s (or our own!) child at least once in this coronavirus-era workplace.
As we all adjust to this “new normal”, our home is no longer simply our sanctuary, but also functions as our office, school, gym, entertainment spots and more. The need to accommodate different people performing different functions throughout the day has placed a premium on creating quiet spaces, clearly defined spaces that can prevent cooking sounds from interrupting an important meeting or avoid treating your colleagues to your child’s free guitar concert. As such, open-concept homes may start to fade in popularity in favor of more traditional layouts. Separate rooms, quiet nooks around the house and mobile partitions with acoustic properties will become more in demand.
Changing needs have also put a premium on having a dedicated, fully functional home office or study area. While home offices used to be seen as a luxury, they are now seen as a must-have and will continue to be seen as such even after the quarantine as many workplaces contemplate a permanent switch to remote work arrangements. As a result, beyond a quiet place with seamless internet connections and video conferencing capabilities, home offices need to be comfortable, offering good temperature control, proper lighting and ergonomically-friendly furniture to enable workers to be equally productive working from home.
Aside from home offices, extended stays at home, combined with the increased risk of transmission in gyms and fitness studios, have led to the inclusion of the home gym as an important part of a multifunctional home. A study conducted by South Korean researchers traced 112 coronavirus cases to dance workout classes in 12 facilities. Strenuous workouts force people to breathe deeper and more rapidly, which means people expel more droplets into the air. It is therefore not surprising that sales for fitness equipment have boomed during the past few months as more people choose to workout at home. Studies have estimated that sales of fitness equipment increased by 170% during the coronavirus lockdown and an article by Global News even went as far as to call dumbbells the “new toilet paper”.
An implication of the rise of multifunctional homes is a growing demand for larger homes to accommodate a need for extra rooms to serve as home offices, gyms or entertainment rooms. Whether this translates into a long-term growth in the sales of single-family homes or a movement among families to move to suburban areas where real estate can be cheaper and more abundant remains to be seen. At the same time, sellers of commercial furniture and fitness equipment may need to reconsider their sales strategies, focusing less on selling to offices and professional gyms and more on appealing to individual customers.
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3. The Return of Mudrooms
Historically, mudrooms had their origins in rural settings where roads were often unpaved and mudrooms were set up to avoid tracking mud into the home. At first, mudrooms were small areas by the kitchen or at the back of the house, but eventually evolved into formalized, dedicated spaces in the 1980s.
With fears of bringing the virus into the house, a space to act as a buffer between outside germs and a sanitized indoor space will be helpful for people who would want to remove their gloves and masks, hang up their coats, change out of their shoes or even clothes, wash their hands or slather on sanitizer before entering the rest of the house. The space will also come in handy to store bags and packages temporarily before they are sanitized and brought inside. For single family homes, the modern-day mudroom would often sit in between the kitchen and the garage, but even for homes with a different layout, an organized entryway to separate the outside from the rest of home will increasingly become widespread.
Concerns over a second wave mean that mudrooms are here to stay for now and even after the end of the pandemic, habits acquired during the pandemic mean that many homes would continue to have mudrooms and organized entryways to avoid bringing pathogens into the home.
As we adjust to the new realities of the coronavirus pandemic, many of our old habits and lifestyles are upended. This requires new adjustments to how our homes are designed, organized and managed. Many of our new habits may be here to stay for a while, even after the pandemic ends, and will continue to shape how our homes look like in the foreseeable future.
At Esta, we are your partners in navigating your home-related challenges in these unprecedented times. Through our transparent picture messaging platform, you can get free job estimates for any changes you need to adapt your home to the “new normal”, helping to keep you and your loved ones safe and comfortable. For other interesting posts from Esta, visit our blog page for more.