Housing Space Use in the Pandemic and After: The Case for New Design Guidance
UK homes need to be bigger to accommodate home-based work. This is the conclusion of research carried out by the Workhome Project’s Frances Holliss in collaboration with London Metropolitan University’s Matthew Barac and Research Assistants Nicola Blake and Marianna Janowicz.
‘Inadequate housing reduces opportunities for working class home-based work’
Covid-19 has shone a spotlight on UK housing injustice. Those lucky to have enough space have long accommodated their home-based work through under-occupation – working in a spare bedroom, a disused garage, an under-used dining room, a studio or home office at the bottom of the garden. In May 2020, the UK Office for National Statistics found most middle-class workers to be safely working full time from home in contrast to only one in five working-class workers, resulting in disproportionate illness and death in deprived groups, including communities of colour. Inadequate housing reduces opportunities for working class home-based work, and this is one of the factors driving this inequality. UK housing is the smallest in western Europe; it is increasingly built tight-fit to minimum space standards, with no provision for the demands of home-based work.
In this project a secondary analysis of more than 100 case studies of homeworkers, including knowledge workers, craftworkers, service-workers, micro-retailers and creative practitioners amongst others, generated a series of twelve homeworking scenarios. These, beautifully drawn from data collected between 2003-2020, provide quantitative evidence of the spatial needs of homeworking. Funded by the UK Research and Innovation Strategic Priorities Fund, 2020-21, and undertaken with leading sector architects from Levitt Bernstein, Pollard Thomas Edwards, Mae Architects and Karakusevic Carson, this project addresses the urgent need, highlighted by the mainstreaming of home-based work during the pandemic, to amend or supplement UK Nationally Described Space Standards to reflect working from home - and for all new and converted homes to be built with adequate provision. It aims to be both a catalyst for policy debate and a basis for further research.