Live, Work and Play Communities

#HolisticCommunities #LeavingThePlanetBetter

Associate Ivana Stanisic shares her thoughts on live, work and play communities:

For many of us, the pandemic blurred the lines between office and home. Our homes and neighbourhoods now need to accommodate working as well as living and our workplaces should offer good levels of comfort to support a healthy lifestyle.

Through our masterplanning work at TateHindle, creating new neighbourhoods and communities, we have a unique viewpoint of the changes taking place in homes and workplaces. We’ve observed a crucial third element in the work-life balance conundrum – the community surrounding our homes. By changing the perspective and considering the quality of life and wellbeing first, it can provide us with an additional option of not having to choose between office and home.

A recent report by Smart Growth Analytics (commissioned by Summix) examines the data behind the new trends:

· Pre-pandemic, homeworking (qualified as three days or more) was undertaken by 14.2% of workers, and has now settled (in 2021) at 31%. This equates to 5.3 million additional people working from home in the post-pandemic period. Between 2022 and 2050, this number is predicted to rise further to 35-40%.

· Creative/knowledge industries are most likely to adopt hybrid or tribrid working patterns. They make up 24% of all UK industry and 68% of all tradable industries. Seven million people work in creative/knowledge-based industries in the UK.

· A new (non-Covid!) variant has also appeared – tribrid working. Where people split their time between home, office, and a third place that resembles the workplace but is closer to home - e.g local coworking space.

This data confirms what we already knew – that people are working from home in much larger numbers post-Covid, resulting in a more complex ecosystem for the working week. This complexity offers flexibility and opportunity, however not all homes have a suitable workspace.

At home, at work, and in the community, our design work can facilitate the evolving needs of our communities and ensure the places we design today are flexible, relevant and resilient.

Homes working harder
To accommodate the shift in working patterns, more space is needed at home, but this is not available to all. It’s therefore vital to ensure that the homes we design today are flexible enough to cater for a variety of living and working patterns. Open-plan living is now moving towards flexible-plan living.

My experience
On moving to the UK, I was pleasantly surprised to see Georgian and Victorian houses surviving and thriving in modern life. Their efficient, flexible design - with a minimum of four rooms (two up, two down) of good proportions and adaptable use, makes them resilient to changing living patterns. One of the reasons this style of home continues to be one of the most loved housing typologies! Window placements enable spaces to be divided into smaller rooms if needed. Plus the position of the staircase allows for vertical conversion into more than one home.

It’s always puzzled me that the homes we build today don’t follow this same simple pattern – making them more resilient to change by allowing people to adapt their homes. At Great Kneighton in Cambridge, TateHindle took this approach to future-proofing by using partitions rather than walls within apartments of the Aura building, enabling users to shape their own spaces. We are also planning homeworking spaces as standard when designing new homes.

Working communities
Another key element of the post-pandemic work/life transition is the ‘suburban renaissance’. We’re seeing our communities changing already. With people spending more time at home and having more time available, they’re using nearby businesses more, including local coworking hubs. “Meanwhile” spaces are thriving too and they are a great way to test this new demand and grow new facilities in the neighbourhood.

What if we could design working communities from the outset? The current hybrid approach to work and home presents compromises on both fronts; but maybe there’s a solution.

The much maligned 15-minute community is far more than just a series of roads prioritising pedestrians and cyclists. The ultimate goal is to enable people to live, work and play in the same area so that they can achieve all their daily needs within a 15-minute walk or cycle. This is where masterplanning comes in. A means to fix the root cause of many
of our working woes, the commute.

Commuting for an hour each way is not a concept that has been with us forever. It’s a product of globalisation, advances in transportation and a desire for suburban housing in cleaner places outside of cities with larger gardens. Alongside developments in transport, low density suburbs have materialised, incentivising people to move further and further away from their place of work. We’re now in a situation where people might want or need to return to the office, but the commute is time consuming, costly and tiring. The assumption is that is how it will
always be.

For example, when we see Dutch and Danish communities, filled with people of all ages and abilities cycling leisurely through their town, we view this as a cultural phenomenon. This is partly true, but the 15-minute community is also an intrinsic part of the culture. What appears to be a leisurely cycle ride is just that, but it’s also their journey to work. People are at ease as their homes and workplaces are often within easy reach on bike.

The 15-minute community is supported by denser residential areas. Within these cultures, occupants are familiar with raising families in large apartments rather than houses, which allows the community to support many more facilities than a typical UK suburban development. The ultimate goal is not to tell people that they can not drive in a neighbourhood, the goal is that they do not have to.

We are starting to see a shift in the UK, some large and medium companies are opening satellite outposts outside of their city hubs. This may be driven by employee aspirations to live in walkable, cycleable and affordable communities.

With the 15-minute community comes a whole host of other benefits. Street-life becomes animated with spaces for children to play and the elderly to rest, for al fresco dining, and for places to dwell and interact with our neighbours. This also paves the way for supporting local economies and making the levelling up aspiration actually happen.

My appreciation for the 15-minute community comes also from personal experience. My husband and I have decided to stay living in an apartment with our toddler rather than move to a house, so that we can maintain the 15-minute lifestyle that we enjoy so much.

While TateHindle practises hybrid working, my proximity to the office means I choose to come in most days! The flexibility to work from home on occasion is a great benefit to family life. But what really enhances our work/life balance is our pleasant and easy 15-20 minute commute – which allow us to spend more time together as a family, feel well-rested and more at ease. Not to mention saving a significant amount of money and carbon in the process.

Through our masterplanning work at TateHindle, where we strive to create sustainable communities, we have the opportunity to design in working spaces into our new neighbourhoods to ensure they enable people to live, work and play within an easy distance. Speaking from experience, not only is this style of living good for the planet, it is also a happy place to be.