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A
Z
A Hong Kong perspective on a post COVID-19 society
现在
2020
list 文章列表

A Hong Kong perspective on a post COVID-19 society

Looking back over history, we can see how global events have changed the way society operates and even how design functions.

In Hong Kong, a major reference point came just 17 years ago, in 2003, with the SARS epidemic. After that, district-wide cleaning and environmental policies were drawn up to encourage community involvement and partnership in improving the city’s physical, social and economic environment. These have remained in place to this day; the streets, public transport and amenities are still kept scrupulously clean.

Fortunately, lessons have been learnt and implemented in the face of COVID-19, too, which will hopefully be the case for Western countries going forwards. Sanitisers appeared incredibly quickly, as did plastic covers for lift buttons, door handles and push plates, with all of these cleaned every hour.

What will be the effects of COVID-19? Here in Hong Kong, there have been protests and disruption in the lead up to and the wake of the pandemic, in both cases stemming from a desire to take control of the future of the city and its inhabitants. It is a unique landscape, both literally and figuratively. However, as we forecast what will come out of this period in terms of design reform and our adapted urban environment, I think there are strong similarities in how many cities and countries will move forward.

Air quality

While 2020 will be defined by COVID-19, 2019 should be remembered as the year the world woke up to climate change. To my mind, the two should be linked. We should come out of this pandemic with a renewed desire to integrate green, sustainable design into everything we’re doing.

Lockdowns have curtailed transport and industry around the world, and while this is has created difficult economic hurdles, it has also resulted in noticeably cleaner air in global cities like London and New York. In Jalandhar, Northern India, the drop in air pollution means residents can see the Himalayas for the first time in 30 years, while in Hong Kong we’ve been able leave the windows open at night! We might see people pressing governments worldwide to bring in stricter air pollution reduction measures in the long term. This pressure could increase in light of the apparent correlation between poor air quality and higher coronavirus mortality rates.

As one of the worst polluters, the construction industry could come under heavy scrutiny. To reduce its carbon footprint, the industry must look more closely at reuse, prefabrication, modular construction, material choices and intensive landscape greening. We might also see designers pressed to provide natural ventilation internally, as opposed to A/C systems that simply recirculate used air.

Flexibility in working and the built environment

Designers and developers are already thinking of how we can transform spaces quickly to respond to the challenges of COVID-19, and how wide they can branch out in terms of use. Adaptable reuse of spaces is key to a vibrant and sustainable urban environment. I think we’ll see more pop-ups, farmers’ markets, brand launches and other collaborative projects in the near future that bring together fields like food, dance and design to maximise the range of income.

In terms of the office, we now know that home working works, and this won’t go away. That means fewer bodies in offices day to day, requiring less space and using less energy. As part of this newfound flexibility, office workers will likely be able to stagger their hours so they’re not all commuting at the same time, a trend that could help reduce pollution greatly.

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Community and keeping it local

Life in lockdown has given many people a greater appreciation for all things local and community-based. While we’ve become used to seeking alternative options, supporting local traders could easily become the first choice, even though it has started from necessity.

Seeking out locally produced and sourced food and drink, along with local artists and craftspeople, benefits the environment greatly in terms of ecologically sustainable food production and reductions in shipping, air freight and packaging. There is also the obvious connection between supporting local business also improving local social and economic sustainability.

Hyperlocalism could easily trigger a new wave of creativity in the built environment. We’ll likely see more self-sustained, mixed-use architecture devised in collaboration with the local community, such as Hong Kong’s Tai Kwun, PMQ and The Mills, all of which encompass shopping, art, heritage and more.

I believe more people will opt for staycations, too, which presents a huge opportunity for developers willing to think outside the box. With the increase in home working causing work life and home life to blur more than ever, people will be looking for a change of scenery – a place where they might work while also benefitting from retail or spa amenities, perhaps, or somewhere to digitally detox from it all. Those developers that can offer a local, historic connection will be valued and appreciated even more by people taking the time to learn about their own area.

Healthy minds and bodies

During lockdown, people around the world have become acutely aware of the importance of keeping fit, and of the connection between a healthy body and a healthy mind. In Hong Kong, for example, more people are trekking in the hills and countryside rather than going shopping, since they want to keep a safe distance.

With the benefits of sunlight and fresh air reinforced, high-density home design will be strongly affected going forwards. We’ll see more holistic, nourishing residential projects that positively affect the mind, body and community. Many residential schemes have offered gyms and swimming pools, but now with outdoor spaces that encourage interaction with nature and reverse our focus on hermetic environments will become more prevalent.

In 20 years’ time, when we look back this period, it will be interesting to see the impact of COVID-19 on our built environment. I truly hope we take the opportunity to use it to benefit our planet, not just our productivity.