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Designed for a pandemic

All of a sudden, everything around us has to be or already is ‘Covid-compliant’ -- work stations, malls, pubs/bars, even washrooms.

Published: 15th April 2021 09:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th April 2021 09:27 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

HYDERABAD:  The pandemic is threatening to turn endemic and the changes it has made to our lives are here to stay. It has made us take a closer look at what we eat, redefined leisure and is now deciding the designs of our homes and offices. All of a sudden, everything around us has to be or already is ‘Covid-compliant’ -- work stations, malls, pubs/bars, even washrooms.

Homebuyers, who once lived happily in a 2BHK, are now looking for a three- or four-bedroom house, that too outside the city, away from the crowd and chaos. Residents want to tweak the design of their homes to make space for a kitchen garden, so that they can avoid a trip to the cramped supermart for veggies. Office towers and sprawling commercial complexes are being reduced to satellite offices to accommodate only 50-100 people at a time.

All this means newer challenges and a lot of brainstorming for architects in Hyderabad. “Architecture is a slowly evolving field. It’ll take some time for long-term changes, caused by the pandemic, to actually impact it. But we are seeing new trends when it comes to clients’ demands and preferences, thanks to Covid,” says Shankar Narayan, who owns Shankar Narayan Architects in Trimulgherry. 

We capture the shift in people’s choices by speaking to some architects in the city. Also, if you plan to buy or build a house, read on. This piece attempts to bring you up to date with the current trends in the sector.

A home away from home 
What will anyone give to get out of the mess that Covid has thrown at us? Anything! This is exactly what’s happening; people are willing to go the distance, literally. Unlike earlier, when homebuyers preferred to stay close to their workplace or kids’ school, they now want to get out of the densely populated city and settle in a much greener and spacious locality. “WFH is the new normal and people are wary of chilling in public spaces. Basically, their dependability on the city has reduced. They want to live in a cleaner environment and larger space where they can grow a kitchen or terrace garden,” says Ramakrishna Shenoy, a principal architect at aRKa.de sign studio in Jubilee Hills.

Work den doubles up as isolation room
With offices shut and employees made to work long hours from the ‘comfort’ of their home, many want a separate room as their workstation. How long can one sit on their bed hunched over their laptop. Also, don’t forget about the kids’ online classes. “So, instead of going for a 2BHK, many want an extra room or even a three or four BHK, which they can convert into a multi-purpose room. We have developers coming to us with this demand,” says Srinivas Murthy, who has his office -- SMG Design Inc -- on Banjara Hills Road No. 14. 

Let there be light, air
The pandemic has made people aware about the importance of being in a cutoff space, says Narayan. “They want ventilated spaces with constant flow of fresh air and low occupancy. This is a challenge for us, especially when we are dealing with air-conditioned environments. We need to come up with a design that fits the bill; a design which ensures that air and light enter every nook and cranny of the house,” he says. Speaking of air-conditioned spaces, Murthy stresses the need to relook at designs which dictate air flow. “Hospitals use special filters in their ACs, which take in more fresh air than the usual ACs. These help in reducing the spread of germs in the air,” he says. Are you thinking that we’ve gone tangent? Not yet. Such appliances can work best if placed appropriately -- for example, such an AC should ideally be installed where there is constant supply of fresh air. This is where architecture comes in. Voila!

Redefining office spaces
Social distancing is the new way of life, and you may think it is bound to make offices bigger and spacious. No, this ain’t happening. Firstly, WFH is here to stay. Secondly, swanky towers and sprawling commercial complexes will soon be reduced to satellite offices. “Satellite offices are smaller spaces which can accommodate 50-100 people who need to meet once in two days for meetings. These might be the next big thing in the future,” says Narayan. Also, the demand for meeting rooms and common shared areas has gone down. “For instance, of a 10,000 sft office space, 3,000 sft used to get used up by meeting rooms. This will change now. We also have to rethink designs for receptions and lobbies so that people do not crowd these areas,” says Murthy. 

One-way washrooms
Washrooms are another area where contact is high. Architects say this can be addressed by widening the corridors leading to washrooms -- people can queue up in these corridors while only a fixed number are allowed to use the restroom at a time. “We are working on a design for an industry and are planning for one-way washrooms. Here, people will enter from one door and exit from another, so there’s no chance of them crossing paths. Also, we plan to space wash basins and urinals, keeping in mind the pandemic,” says Narayan. 

Entertainment gets personal
Is it too early to say, “Gone are the days of theatres?” These humongous air-conditioned spaces can prove to be havens for the novel Coronavirus. The pandemic is beginning to alter the design of entertainment hubs. “Theatres will shrink. Very soon, we will have bubble theatres, wherein a group of friends or a family can book the entire area and watch a movie,” says Narayan.

Usher in the age of ‘Covid-compliant’ homes and offices. Sounds bizarre? It’s the new reality and it’s here to stay. Architects in Hyderabad speak to Express about how the pandemic is forcing them to rethink designs to suit the new normal of social distancing and work from home

Himabindu Reddy himabindugopinath@newindianexpress.com @himureddy


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