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Coronavirus Could Alter Home Design Permanently

Builders envision changes geared to thwart disease and make future quarantines easier

Hand washing - touchless faucet

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Touchless faucets could become a common item in new homes.

Even after the COVID-19 pandemic passes, it may have a lasting effect on new home design, as builders envision adding features and altering floor plans in an effort to protect residents against future disease outbreaks. That could be good news for older Americans with higher vulnerability to illness as they shop for homes in the future.

Some changes may come in response to how stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns have affected homeowners’ preferences. Research by online real estate marketplace Zillow, for example, suggests that builders may move away from the open floor plans that have been popular until now, and include more separate rooms and doors to provide privacy and quiet spaces for working from home in the event of future quarantines.

Zillow, the real estate database company, cited a recent survey of 2,065 U.S. adults conducted by Harris Poll, which showed that 27 percent of Americans would consider moving to a home with more rooms as a result of having been compelled to spend more time at home.

"Floor plans with new homes should show more flexibility and options to convert spaces,” Jennifer Pyatt, director of sales for Pyatt Builders and Finecraft, a home builder based in Carmel, Indiana, explained via email.

New ways to stay germ free

Zillow design expert Kerrie Kelly predicts that pathogen-controlling smart-home features like touchless faucets and self-cleaning toilets will become increasingly popular. She also envisions technological innovations like biometric-sensor-equipped bathroom floors and mirrors that help residents track body temperatures and other vital signs.

In an email, Kelly also described how kitchens can be made more disease-resistant through the use of quartz countertops, which have antimicrobial properties. “Quartz is completely nonporous, so sealing and resealing is not necessary,” she said.

Future homes also may include more elaborate mudrooms off garages, so that residents can wash their hands and remove their shoes before they enter the living space, to reduce the risk of contamination.

A recent Realtor.com article also predicted that sophisticated HVAC systems, which would allow homes to be temporarily sealed off from the outside world, may become more common.

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