More than 1,000 hours of coronavirus confinement measures have been sufficient to confirm the urgent need to improve housing conditions in Spain, especially in homes that are more than 10 years old.
Many homes in Spain lack adequate ventilation and natural light, compromising comfort and health. Balconies are rare in both old and new buildings and many interior apartments do not have views of the street. Added to this, several apartments are so small that there is little space to exercise or telework. But this is how millions of Spaniards live, whether they rent or own their home.
If we are going to spend more time at home, we will need new spaces
Architect Julio Touza
“Architects must imagine and build homes that prioritize natural light, ventilation and simple and comfortable movement, regardless of the type of home,” says architect Carlos Lamela.
For her part, Sonia Hernández-Montaño, health and architecture coordinator of the College of Architects of Catalonia, predicts that after the coronavirus crisis“We are going to assess the flexibility of distribution (of the space), natural light, views, cross ventilation capacity, acoustic factors and the existence of private outdoor areas.”
The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted a number of housing deficiencies and those who can, could consider moving once the lockdown, which has been in place since March 14, ends, especially if they have been renting substandard housing. This, in turn, will mean that many owners will have to work harder if they want to continue making profits. In the meantime, homeowners may want to rethink their homes as, according to Lamela, it is often a question of design rather than resources.
The closure has drawn particular attention to balconies, or the lack of them in regions like Madrid, which has been hardest hit by the pandemic. Owners who incorporated these spaces into an apartment to gain a few extra meters will now regret having done so, since the demand for homes with a balcony or garden has grown by 26% since the beginning of the quarantine, according to the real estate website Servihabitat.
“It is incomprehensible that balconies have been allowed to be closed in Madrid,” says Lamela. “It is not something that happens in any other city or country and it is a real cancer in our urban planning.” Balconies not only provide a small amount of outdoor space, but also protect building facades from sun and rain. According to architect Julio Touza, “The balcony will gain prominence in size and quality. One of the lessons we have learned is to value this ‘intermediate space’, this lung that is between the street and the apartment.”
Building regulations in Madrid make balconies an easy target for development. Consequently, they are often replaced or minimized, a practice that does not occur in the regions of Valencia or Catalonia, where developers are encouraged to incorporate them.
The whole issue of balconies and terraces is of great interest to architects, who hope that when the crisis is over, municipal ordinances will be reviewed to enhance “those breathing spaces” as José Antonio Tenorio, Chief Scientist of the Institute of Construction Sciences, calls them. Eduardo Torroja-CSIC.
The demand for homes with a balcony or garden has grown by 26% since the beginning of the quarantine, according to the real estate website Servihabitat
More difficult to remedy are the deficiencies of the interior floors whose windows generally face the interior patio of the building, which is why 7.9% of Spaniards spend their quarantine without even a view of the street. Of all the regional capitals of Spain, Madrid has the highest percentage of interior apartments (20.3%), followed by Bilbao and Cádiz, according to the Idealista real estate platform. “This should be addressed through urban rehabilitation policies,” says Tenorio.
The property of tomorrow will require flexible layouts, facilitating the easy addition or removal of a room, as well as the incorporation of new spaces that can be used for teleworking and leisure activitiesgiving rise to a culture that has emerged from the crisis and that is most likely here to stay.
“If we are going to spend more time at home, we will need new spaces,” says Touza, who proposes a return to the designs of the bourgeois houses of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Madrid’s Salamanca neighborhood or in Barcelona’s Eixample. , where there is usually a small library or office next to the living room. “We have to consider open, multipurpose and integrated spaces,” she says.
Multipurpose makes sense when work, entertainment and exercise will have a greater place in the home. Gonzalo Pardo, director of Gon Arquitectos on the Houzz platform, believes that the biggest change will be the inclusion of spaces designed specifically for teleworkingand rooms that can be reconfigured depending on the time of day.
This change in demand has already been anticipated by new housing developments that market apartments with terraces and office and coworking areas in the building for residents. “The experience of confinement will increase the size and use of common areas and improve neighborhood relations,” says Teresa Marzo, general business director of the developer Via Celere.
Another issue that the pandemic has highlighted is the importance of building with health conditions in mind. Only 2.3 million homes are built according to the Technical Building Code, which came into force in 2006 and promotes higher quality construction. According to Enrique Rovira-Beleta, director of the accessibility department at the UIC Barcelona School of Architecture, the rest of the homes lack natural light, adequate ventilation and adequate access. He believes that as the concept of housing changes, the regulations will be modified to ensure that the space in existing homes is better distributed, illuminated and ventilated. As? “Widening windows, making some of the bathroom walls semi-transparent, and widening hallways and doorways to allow wheelchair access,” he says.
Ventilation will be more important than ever, whether it is natural cross ventilation with opposing windows to allow breezes to come through the apartment or ventilation through a device to suck contaminated air from inside and replace it with filtered air from outside.
The next development about the cards is Automated access to avoid touch systems. such as enhanced facial and voice recognition for doors, handles and elevators. “It’s about using airport architecture, which is designed precisely according to hygiene criteria,” says Touza.
In the medium term, the use of antimicrobial materials could even be promoted. Pablo Muñoz, expert in healthy buildings and general director of the Espacios Evalore architecture studio, talks about photocatalytic paint and antimicrobial handles, furniture and countertops. “Plants help maintain an indoor relative humidity of between 40% and 60% which, according to some studies, helps reduce the transmission of the coronavirus,” he adds.
English version by Heather Galloway.