15th July, 2020.
2020 has proven to be a beast of a year and we are only now sitting at its half way mark. In light of the natural devastation wrought by the last record breaking bushfire season and the current COVID-19 health crisis, as well as the original pandemic of this decade – climate change – it has been suggested that there is a silver lining. That circumstance has resulted in a timely reprieve of the extreme stress the human race places on the earth. It begs the questions, what impact is social distancing having on the environment and, how can we sustain positive change in a post-pandemic world?
The answers are largely cemented in lifestyle models and our homes have a huge impact on these. Recent forced shifts in behaviour could be viewed as a contemporary Noah’s Ark. A massive upheaval to the status quo that will ultimately provide an opportunity for the world to reacclimatise. Since the grip of Coronavirus really took hold in early March 2020, the primary objective to save lives has resulted in a secondary outcome of environmental consequence. When we are all homebound we are practicing two key lifestyle changes required to drastically reduce our individual carbon footprints – we are getting in our cars less and we are jumping on airplanes less. The butterfly effect this has created means that, as of June 2020, we have seen the largest drop in greenhouse gas emissions in human history (4.6 percent). Sustaining this downwards trend largely comes down to the adoption of new ideologies in the design of our home environments that sustain this trend.
Nightingale 1.0. Image by Peter Clarke
In Australia, we are fortunate to have a largely temperate climate. Although many of us have been horrified by recent utilities bills while we remain at home, the emphasise on smart design and sustainable building methods has increased dramatically and we uniquely placed to take advantage of these. Suddenly our expectations on our homes have shifted from sanctuary to multi-use environments. Huge swathes of daytime hours are currently being spent in domestic environments that rely on natural light, cross-ventilation and acoustic considerations for supporting lifestyle changes. The ‘good design’ message that has consistently been linked to sustainable, economic and mental health implications, is suddenly coming into profound significance for so many of us. We are finally hearing the message social housing enterprises like The Commons, which incited the Nightingale approach, and many Certified B Corporation building initiatives have been heralding for so so long.
The Commons – Hobart
One Wilson Ave by Neometro and Milieu
The takeaway message is that the way we live is instrumental to the impact we have on our localised and global environments and that our homes are key. We need to support building methods that harness passive energy solutions and thoughtful design as well as the creation of communities. We need to maintain the momentum that has been created through crisis and future proof our way of life starting with our closest frontiers – the homes we live in.