Inside Housing – Commentary – Families in houses built since 2010 have had a worse lockdown experience. This should be a concern for policy makers

The construction of an external structure was the most likely

During the lockdown, some families met the new demands by building an outdoor structure. They were the most likely (27.5%) to live in a house after 2010 and not in any other type of house built before 2010 (17-21%). Outdoor structures were used by families to improve well-being through additional storage space that allowed them to tidy up or find space for exercise and play. While the effect of clutter and exercise on well-being has long been known, we also know that play is essential to the well-being of children and the whole family.

Children’s play was most affected

Gambling is associated with better mental health, particularly free play activities (cave building and messy play) and outdoor play. According to 47% of those surveyed, the lockdown made playing at home more difficult. But the negative impact of the lockdown on child play was significantly higher in post-2010 households than in older ones. It may be no coincidence that children’s play has been hit hardest in homes where connecting with nature has been highlighted as a challenge during lockdown.

The interior environment was the biggest challenge

The quality of lighting, ventilation and heating was lowest in homes after 2010. Problems with insufficient natural light or glare were more common in homes built after 2010 (21%) than in homes built before 2010 (12-14%). Families in post-2010 households were also most likely to find the lack of outside connections challenging.

This could indicate a reduction in environmental comfort in newer homes associated with smaller windows. Because there are no requirements for specific daylight levels in new build, last year’s government consultation on Future Building Standards supported reducing solar gain through the use of smaller windows.

Politicians need to pay attention to building codes that regulate aspects of dwelling design that are relevant to outdoor connectivity and indoor quality, such as: B. the window area. While the relationship between outdoor connection, indoor environment and well-being has been established, it is possible that current operational carbon concerns are at odds with well-being.

The survey suggests that although dwelling size matters, the negative impact on well-being of inadequate indoor climate and outdoor connectivity should not be overlooked by housing policy. This supports the recent trend of designing residential buildings by emphasizing quality of design rather than just size.

dr Sandra Costa Santos, Lecturer, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, University of Dundee

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