RIBA: Pandemic Drives Demand for UK Home Transformations

Batelease Farm by New British Design, RIBA South West Award winner 2019
Batelease Farm by New British Design, Image by: George Fielding

New research commissioned by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) reveals the significant impact of the coronavirus pandemic on how people want to live and work at home.

UK homeowners are increasingly demanding environmentally efficient properties that better support their new ways of living, as well as their mental health, happiness and family cohesion.

The RIBA’s research exclusively reveals that the majority of homeowners (70% of survey respondents) believe the design of their home has affected their mental wellbeing during the pandemic.

Spending more time in their home has made people more stressed (11%), anxious (10%) and depressed (10%); they’ve found it harder to relax (9%) and it’s negatively impacted their productivity (6%). 

The RIBA’s research sought to understand the mental and physical benefits of living in a better-designed home.  The findings highlight that 23% believe a better-designed home will increase their happiness; they’d be able to relax more (31%) and sleep better (17%).

Insights also revealed that with working from home now the ‘new normal’ for many, 15% want to improve the design of their home to help them be more productive. And with families spending more time together at home, more than one in 10 (11%) believe making changes to the design of their home would help them to live more harmoniously with others in the house.

Environmental Psychologist and Lecturer at University of Surrey, Eleanor Ratcliffe comments: “For many of us our home is our favourite place and an important part of our identity.  Over recent months our homes have had to become the workplace, school, and gym, and yet still be a place to relax and recover from all the everyday stresses and strains – impacting entire households. The RIBA’s research demonstrates that many people realise that their home in its current form does not cater for all these different uses and users. A home design that reflects who you are – your values, needs, and interests – can make people feel good about themselves. A home that meets one’s needs because it is appropriately designed can also make people feel more in control, and that is especially relevant when life feels uncertain.”

Eight out of 10 respondents (79%) identified one or more of the changes that they’d now like to make to the design of their home after lockdown, these include:

  • Nearly a quarter of homeowners (23%) would reconfigure their existing spaces.  A fifth want to create more space by extending their home.
  • Nearly one in 10 (9%) would change their open-plan design in favour of creating separate rooms. In contrast, 14% would like to make their home more open plan.
  • 40% want more environmental-design features, including improving the amount of natural daylight, improving the energy-efficiency of their home and improved sound-proofing between spaces.
  • 8% would like more flexible living eg rooms that can easily be divided.
  • 17% would create an office space to support working from home.
  • 7% want to be able to accommodate an extended family including parents, grandparents and grown-up children.
  • 12% need more personal space.

The survey also sought to understand the homeowners existing perceptions of architects and what they would prioritise when choosing an architect to work with.

  • Membership of a professional organisation is singled out by the greatest number of homeowners (61%) as an important factor in selecting an architect. 
  • Almost 50% think evidence that architects can add value to homes is important, much more so than the cost of their service, which was voted more critical by only 15%. 
  • One of the best ways for an architect to provide evidence is with good references: 48% of people thought this was the most important factor. With 43% stating that evidence of an architects’ ability to listen and meet their individual needs was crucial in their selection of an architect.
  • Many want their architect to demonstrate their commitment to the environment – 27% want evidence that an architect will make their home more environmentally sustainable and 31% want to see the architect’s commitment to combatting climate change

RIBA President Alan Jones said: “It’s clear that amongst its many other impacts, COVID-19 will affect how and where we choose to live and work for years to come. For many of us, our homes are our sanctuaries, and now our workplaces too. This new RIBA research clearly shows that, having spent much more time at home, many people realise they must adapt and improve their living spaces. The findings provide an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of good spatial, functional and sustainable design and its direct impact on our physical and mental wellbeing – all part of the value brought to a home and its owner by engaging a RIBA Chartered Architect.”


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