What can we learn about resilient design for manufactured housing communities?

Principal | Landscape Architect & Land Planner

There’s a reason why change is the only constant, more so in the given context.

As people make adjustments in their lifestyle to comply with the present times, there’s an increased pressure on the Manufactured Housing (MH) community to make lives easier for homeowners. However, all that won’t happen overnight.

But have you wondered how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the basis of architecture, i.e., resilient designing? What can people expect from their future homes? So, here I am, to answer all that and more.

What is “resilience” in architecture?

For the unversed, resilience in architecture correlates to the intentional design of buildings, landscapes, and communities that make them capable of withstanding disasters-both natural and artificial. Beyond that, resilient design focuses on countering the long-term effects of environmental changes, like sea-level rise, increasing heat waves, regional drought, etc.

Principles of resilient design

As you may have already guessed, ensuring resilient design isn’t a one-step process. We should keep various things in mind, right from the inception to implementation. In the following sections, I have discussed some key principles that more or less lay down a rock-solid foundation for ensuring resilient design:

1. Incorporating elements during pre-development

Architects usually begin by listing down the strategies that will enhance the structure's capacity to operate in the face of extreme crisis. This initial stage aims to cover all the potential threats, disaster events, and subsequent recovery, including mitigation.

2. Enhancing value

Resilience intervention should add value to the building operations in terms of a financial recovery, like seeking underwriting services. Plus, minimizing harm to individuals and communities is a concern.

3. Balancing first-costs and long-term value

Resilience policies should strike the right balance between the structure's preliminary costs and its long-term value. We can then utilize the resulting co-benefits for both sustainability and mitigation purposes.

4. Pursuing an ecological approach

Integrated, multi-scale and interdisciplinary ecological approaches are often beneficial for problem-solving in resilience architecture.

5. Communicating effectively

Finally, none of the steps above will yield fruitful results without extensive communication amongst building owners, users, authorities, and communities.

Role of adaptation in resilient design

Since current practices may not be effective against future problems, adaptation becomes a vital component of resilient designs. Simply put, buildings should be able to withstand the changing environmental and social conditions without compromising utility. And at this point, I can’t think of a better example than the COVID-19 pandemic to throw the spotlight on adaptability.

As strict lockdown and social distancing measures continue to be in place, homeowners have found it challenging to sustain their daily lifestyle. From utilizing coffee and dining tables for work or academic purposes to making room for relaxation within the “confinement”, the new norms haven’t made life easy.
Hence, it's not a surprise that the MH industry has actively addressed these issues with new home designs, which cater to the work-from-home scenario. So, let me walk you through some of the architectural trends that are all set to dominate the MH industry.

1. Flexible workspaces and adjustable surfaces

It’s a no brainer that remote working and education has emphasized the need for separate/private workspaces more than ever. But as with most one-room apartments, the space limitation doesn't provide much scope for that. Thus, modern workspaces should be able to adapt to the varied needs of the users.

For instance, the built-in furniture in residential units should include height-adjustable surfaces — a common characteristic in most American offices. Similarly, a tabletop should have space for adults to share a workspace with playing or eating toddlers, including sufficient storage space underneath.

2. Hidden workspaces

Most telecommuters will agree with me that it’s challenging to “mentally log out” from the 9-to-5 shift. And as one’s personal space overlaps with the professional space, the task has become nearly impossible.

A survey in the architecture firm HKS Inc. revealed that most of the employees working from home since March aren’t satisfied with the level of separation between their private and professional space.

Again, the dissatisfaction is particularly high for apartment owners. Increased separation can be possible with the option of workstations that can be concealed by movable panels. Hiding workspaces post-work hours can positively affect people’s mental well-being, by giving them the feeling of returning home after work.

3. Better outdoor spaces

So far, developers mostly considered outdoor spaces like balconies or patios as just a means to provide outdoor access. But with a constant stay at home regulations, their configuration and detailing have also gained renewed importance. I bet many of my readers still remember the viral video from Italy of people playing music from their balconies!

Depending on what homeowners want, the conventional structures are making way to keep up with their requirements. Cantilevered balconies and decks, and traditional ones with adjustable rail heights, promote greater visual connection among neighbors. As an aside, operable screens will take the versatility factor to the next level.

4. Outdoor community spaces

Common areas within the community can provide opportunities for exercise and relaxation from walking trails to community or dog parks. Moreover, outdoor gathering spaces like pavilions can offer safer opportunities for social gatherings. What's critical to stress here is how outdoors can reduce stress and improve mood and wellness — something everyone can benefit from these days. A focus on outdoor amenities will be a significant component of future MH community designs.

Not only that but more features like workout zones, fireplaces, etc., can be brought into space according to the intended use. Besides, common public areas like parks, plazas or pavilions offer ample scope for social gatherings while maintaining social distancing practices.

Summing it up

With research on changing lifestyles during this pandemic, the MH community is constantly evolving designs that best suit the prevailing situation. Consequently, the resilient design for future homes will have adaptability as its cornerstone.

Although this may make modern homes architecturally complex, the outcome should take into consideration user-convenience. Likewise, outdoor spaces for safe interaction are bound to become critical factors in property purchase decisions.

3150 Livernois Road,
Unit 136
Troy, Michigan
Toll: 844-669-6234

289 Garry Street,
Unit 300
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3C 1H9
Toll: 844-669-6234

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