What will the Design & Construction of Homes Look Like Post Pandemic?

I recently participated in a virtual ADU Summit where I was asked how Covid-19 has changed the design and construction of ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units). Most of the key components affecting ADU projects are the same I’ve seen across all my single-family residential projects.


The most important factor to stress is that the processes, codes, systems and designs have all changed due to the pandemic and that these will not revert to the same as they were pre-pandemic.


Processes, codes, systems and designs are all changed forever.


This is not a bad thing. All the changes are to protect the health, safety and welfare of all members of our community. And some of these changes are long overdue anyway.


The driving forces behind design changes started with individuals, now spending 24 hours a day in their homes, began to realize how inadequate their homes are to their welfare when they are home all the time. They now needed a place to work, to teach their kids, to exercise, to entertain and required additional storage for cleaning supplies and food in order to limit their trips out of their home.


Their homes also may have become more crowded with college age dependents moving back home or removing elder family members from long-term care facilities. They needed more space or to improve the efficiency of the space they have.



The pandemic also brought to light to the public the problems with current air handling systems. In all residential construction, the AEC industry is starting to design homes with improved fresh outdoor air flow in mechanical systems. Residential whole house UV air purifiers, HEPA and/or MERV 16 filters are being specified more often.


Improving natural lighting and having more operable windows and skylights speak to public awareness of the need for fresh air and sunlight. There is also a greater desire for self-sufficiency which has led to more requests for solar power with battery backup. And almost all my clients are now more conscious of choosing interior finishes that are easier to clean and sanitize.


Getting permits has changed since municipal offices are closed to the public. Nearly all now have the entire process of plan approval occurring digitally. I haven’t printed a set of plans on paper in nearly a year. As the municipalities have become more efficient and comfortable with online plan review, I don’t think that will change once offices can reopen. Expect online submissions and reviews to continue as an option post pandemic.


Construction practices have also seen some big changes at the jobsite starting with social distancing protocols and temperature checks. Those protocols are likely to remain in effect until 80% of the population has been vaccinated. Even though those two will likely go away post pandemic, some things you can continue to expect are hand washing or hand sanitizing stations that will protect worker health on the construction site.


Architects’ practices have also changed, too. Prior to the pandemic, most design professionals did not have experience working with clients or their staff remotely. Some were still drawing on paper and not using computers. Shocking, right?


My firm has been a virtual architectural practice with all remote workers since 2008, and since 2018 I have been training architects how to run their practice remotely. As you can imagine, I’ve been doing a lot of training since the pandemic started helping firms to stay open and run efficiently while we shelter in place. After a year of doing this remotely, nearly all design firms have decided at least to continue some sort of hybrid model of practice: part remote, part in office. So, expect to continue some aspect of video conferencing with design teams post pandemic.


So the top 8 things to expect to continue once the pandemic is over:


1. Working with your design team will be flexible with remote or in person options

2. Design strategies to improve natural light and increase operable windows and skylights

3. Mechanical systems to bring in and purify fresh air

4. Spaces with greater flexibility of uses to provide for exercise, work, school, and entertainment

5. Online permitting and plan review to continue

6. Solar panels and battery backup systems

7. Easier to clean surfaces and finishes

8. Improved protocols during construction to protect workers’ health (from virus, germs, bacteria)


ADU Summit 2021: Adapting post-Covid: ADU Regulations & Processes https://youtu.be/LAnWiSsrxIw