Homes in a Covid era and considerations for Romney House in Lockleaze

Homes in a Covid era and considerations for Romney House in Lockleaze

By Eve Murzyn – Senior Associate at HTA Design

Over the course of 2020 and now 2021, due to the ongoing global pandemic we have spent more time at home than ever before. The government advice has been ‘Stay at Home’ and we have collectively changed our lifestyles immeasurably to do, at home, what we would have previously done in the wider community. Reflecting on our changing perception of home in relation to the proposed new neighbourhood at the Romney House site in Lockleaze, allows us to consider how housing is already adapting and may change further in the post Covid era.

Our reliance on our homes has been endless over the past 11 months, with households adapting to meet the changing demands of the restrictive nature of life in a pandemic. Homes have been offices, schools, playgrounds, leisure spaces and restaurants. For some a place of safety and sanctuary, but for others more like a prison. The quality of the home environment has always been important and the Covid pandemic has highlighted the need to ensure the basic quality of housing for all. Beyond the basic needs of housing, we also need to aspire for more and deliver more.

The new homes being designed at the former Romney House site in Bristol were partially designed prior to the pandemic but also amended to respond to the changing needs during the past year. Below are some considerations that formed part of the initial design and reflect on the changing context of homes in the current and future post-Covid era.

Affordable Housing – There is a need for homes to not only be affordable to rent and own, but also to run. Our increased time spent at home has meant increased running costs for many households. New homes should achieve a ‘fabric first’ approach with better insulation and less air-permeability therefore reducing the required energy input into homes. Creating rooms that are well lit by natural light from large windows also reduces the need to have artificial lighting on, lowering the energy demand of a home. This approach has always been incorporated into the design at Romney House.

Adaptable Homes – Spaces within our homes have had to adapt and change to the needs of the occupier. Bedrooms becoming home offices, kitchen tables becoming classrooms and living rooms becoming workout spaces. It is important to consider the future reworking of homes to create more space and the reworking of usages over time. During the past year many people in the UK have either taken on home improvement projects themselves or invested in altering or extending their existing home. We have had to carve out areas in our home to work multi-functionally. The future adaptability of houses at Romney House has been considered and all homes meet the minimum Nationally Described Space Standards.

Private Amenity Spaces – Whether it is a terrace, balcony, garden, deck or veranda. The private outdoor space of a home has been invaluable in allowing the occupier to spend time outdoors but connected to the homes. During the warmer months in the UK they can become a precious amenity and the value of an outdoor space has been highlighted even more so over the past year. All the homes at Romney House have a private amenity space connected to the home as part of Bristol’s Urban Living planning policy.

Home Working and Home Schooling – The change from working and learning at home has meant a greater reliance on the technology available in the home. Whether there has been access to IT equipment and the availability of speedy and reliable broadband, has been the difference between managing or struggling to work or study at home. Ensuring that new neighbourhoods have the adequate infrastructure built into the network is becoming more important and futureproofing the system to allow for increased demand as necessary. As a result of the pandemic the location for a home office has been included in the housing designs for Romney House.

Mental and Physical Health – The negative impact of lockdowns and isolation on both mental and physical health has been highlighted during the pandemic. The role of housing and the environment which you inhabit can impact your level of mental wellbeing. A spacious, bright home with views of nature has a positive impact on our mental health and the opposite is also true. As part of Romney House the central design has been focused around creating a new community park which runs through the heart of the development. Providing a range of landscape amenities for play, exercise, ecology, nature, community spaces and food growing, intended to benefit both the new neighbourhood and the wider Lockleaze and Cheswick Park communities.

Walkable Neighbourhoods – Staying at home this year has meant ‘staying local’. The daily outing during lockdown to buy necessities or access local community facilities has been vital. Shorter local trips have increased this year and the importance of walkable neighbourhoods has never been more relevant. Due to the location of Romney House new homes will be within walkable distance to the amenities surrounding Gainsborough Square to the south and to The Square in Cheswick Park to the north.

Although we are not over the remaining hurdles of the Covid pandemic and the long-lasting impact upon our perception of ‘home’ is yet to be seen. What is clear however, is the need for homes to be multi-functional and of high quality regardless of tenure with the thread of community and nature at the core of new neighbourhoods.


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