And we pivot…

COVID-19 has changed the way we live, work and socialise. As building designers, we are responsible for rethinking spaces to adapt to evolving needs as they respond to factors such as changing technologies and the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes in both residential and commercial design settings are already being implemented, so how are building designers responding to our changing needs?

Residential Covid design changes

Home schooling? Working from home?  All members of the household have had to pivot to a new way of doing’ the everyday’.   We adapt to the ‘new normal’.

Long periods of lockdown in Melbourne stretched the novelty of skipping traffic in favour of working in pyjamas.   Separating functions of work & home life within a single space required both physical & mental separation.

Home studios, garage conversions, and small additions can be efficient, economic and space saving solutions.  All require a building permit, and in some instances require a planning permit, depending on the zoning of your site. Design Plan Document can help you navigate this process.

Maybe you have no room to go up or out, a building designer can also help you look at your existing space and find that separation of home and work/study through design techniques that may include defining a transitional space, zoning functions, or emphasising thresholds.

Outdoor spaces are a big part of the COVID-19 design response.  That covered verandah you’ve been thinking of for ages, suddenly became as imperative as home schooling went on (and on!)  Like other spaces in our home, outdoor spaces need to be flexible & adaptable and provide a reprieve from that  ‘four wall’ feeling.

Consideration to our home’s ventilation and natural air circulation is also an aspect of COVID design think.  Does your window design and placement provide optimum air circulation?  Natural light and ventilation have always been desired design outcomes, ‘lockdown’, provided an opportunity to see just how this amenity improved our psychological response to our building environments.

Commercial Covid design changes


COVID-19 has changed the way communal areas are being used. They function both as their intended purpose and also to provide a secondary safety measure for the public, enabling the space to be incorporated into the primary space to permit social distancing.   Examples of this include waiting rooms, meeting rooms and classrooms.  In addition to the number of people allowed per m2  according to NCC requirements, the changing number of people allowed per m2 according to the government’s COVID guidelines must also be considered.  Building designers can reconsider these spaces to make them more flexible and adaptable so that the design can change, and businesses can respond to changing trading conditions. Parklettes, are a good example of this, as are concessions on footpath trading and other council initiatives to help local businesses recover.

Change of Use

The pandemic has forced workplaces to incorporate more flexibility and trust with their workforce working from home.  The trade-off is off course a dampened demand for commercial tenancies. Many landowners have used this time of prolonged vacancy to upgrade their properties or convert them to a attract a more thriving industry.

More unstable employment conditions brought about through both the pandemic and technological changes such as online trading and virtual meetings, have seen a reduction in retail and office usage and an increase in training-oriented facilities.  Government incentives to get people to upskill, or learn new skills,  supports this rise in demand for change of use to Class 9b buildings.  This seems to be despite a lack of overseas students.

The change of use triggers an upgrade to the buildings fire, access and sanitary requirements at minimum, to meet the NCC (Volume 1) redefined classification of the building.   And of course, the functional flow of the buildings!  Commercial change of use requires a planning permit & building permit. As building designers, we can guide you through both permit processes, providing the required documentation and advice along the way.

Into the future…

COVID-19 has changed the way we live and work. Whether it be a home office, outdoor space, commercial space or change of use, each are responses to COVID-19.  Building designers are adapting to the changes by rethinking design and what it means as our needs change.