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Architects, developers rethink designs in projects amid coronavirus

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Abuja

A new research released recently revealed that six in ten developers globally, including Nigeria have delayed projects in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which also has many builders rethinking their future projects.

Of those developers who’ve pressed pause, 44 per cent are rethinking the design in light of the health crisis, according to the report from global real estate firm, Knight Frank.

The survey included 160 developers across 22 locations, many of which are major gateway cities, such as New York and London, and underscores how the pandemic is already reshaping future housing supply.

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Developers said the pandemic has accelerated lifestyle and amenity trends that were already underway. For instance, some 38 per cent of respondents said they were more likely to consider bicycle facilities, according to the report, as city dwellers embrace healthier lifestyles and alternative modes of commuting.

The construction delays could exacerbate concerns about affordability and limited housing supply in certain markets, where development was already slowing.

The report read: “A pause for reflection amid a crisis is to be expected,” wrote Flora Harley, an associate in global residential research at Knight Frank. But the scale of the current hiatus is surprising and could prompt policymakers to consider incentives to spur development.”

According to the report, the pandemic has tuned more developers into the needs of domestic buyers, as the pandemic grounds jetsetters. They also see online tours as a permanent fixture in new development sales, with two-thirds of respondents, saying the sales process will be more geared toward virtual.

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In Nigeria, architects foresee the changes and are working towards making its adoption. “Design shapes human behaviour and the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we relate to our environment. Consequently, it would be true to say that covid-19 has changed the way architects approach design of spaces to cope with the realities of the living with the threat of covid-19 even after a vaccine would have been discovered,” according to Enyi Ben-Eboh, first Vice President, Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA).

“One of the major aftermaths of the COVID experience, Ben-Eboh said, “is the emergence of the Work From Home (WTF) phenomenon which has seen a lot of individuals now working remotely from the comfort of their homes. This therefore implies that dwelling designs will become more flexible and adaptable to accommodate the need for a home office.”

“A fall-out from this is that offices the way we now know them may become a thing of the past. They will become smaller and would need to be more flexible in design and functionality, thus implying a greater need for open-plan offices that are easily adaptable to changing office space realities. There would therefore be a shift away from large city offices as more people can conveniently work from home.

“Integration of private outdoor spaces such as micro backyards, roof-top gardens, balconies and porches amongst other into interior spaces, especially in residential developments would also become more trendy as this would reduce the tendency to feel confined indoors even in the event of a future lock-down.

“ Other design features would include the increased preference for an ante or transitional space where people can sanitise before entering the house.

“ In this part of the world, there would even be grater need for natural ventilation, lighting and energy conservation in the sizes and positioning of windows and openings to take maximum advantage of the elements as there is a relationship between the quality of the indoor environment and mental health. This is important as people now spend more time at home.”

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Comparing major developments globally with Nigeria, where developments with four floors or more are forecast to drop 60 per cent this year compared to 2019. New development of high-density housing would also slowed in countries. Ben-Eboh said, “on the contrary, I see them increasing, especially in the urban centres, where increasing land values make return on investment on a bungalow or single storey building may be unsustainable and unprofitable.

“ As a matter of fact, we should be gravitating towards medium to high rise buildings as we are already witnessing in parts of Lagos. It however requires a holistic approach from planning to infrastructural provisions so they do not degenerate into slums,” he said.

He explained, “The population concentration in Nigeria is skewed towards the urban centres and to meet the ever increasing demand for housing, we should seriously be looking at multi-level housing in well designed neighbourhoods, complete with all the necessary infrastructure and facilities.

“Due to our epileptic power supply, these buildings should not go beyond four floors, especially for the low income earners as anything above that would require a lift and constant power supply. In the rural areas where land is not normally an issue and where the economic power is low, bungalows and single storey dwelling units may still be a viable option.”

For the former president, Association of Consulting Architects of Nigeria (ACANigeria), Mr. Roti Delano, “construction of multi-storey commercial buildings may drop due to the positive impact of remote working, which business owners have seen to be more productive than on-site offices.

“However there will still be building of ‘ego’ multi-storey commercial buildings as well as residential apartments. Similarly, health facilities will also be developed which could be a multi-storey developments.

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“Property developers in Nigeria will have to reconsider scope and size and scale of their investments. The effects of the pandemic has shown the effectiveness of remote working, which means off-site working will reduce the need for large office spaces. Also the trend for open work plans may also reduce due to the need for social distancing.

“Development in the hospitality sector, particularly hotels will also slow down due to low patronage as video – conferencing through zoom and Microsoft meetings and other virtual platforms have become reliable, effective and cheaper means of having meetings, conferences and seminars. However developers may need to look at investing in conversion of warehouses to data centres to meet the growth in online shopping.”

He said the key aspects of design, which has to be considered include Heating, ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) design.

“The need to have air filters in commercial air conditioning which is a standard code requirements in health facilities design may become necessary in commercial and institutional designs.

“The need to have touch-free equipment in public buildings such as faucets, soap and paper towel dispensers will become a standard requirement. The space requirement standards per person to ensure social distancing will also have impact on design. Hand washing and sanitization will have to be incorporated into the design and not seen as an after thought.”

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