The first dedicated Tasmanian quarantine facility was opened at Creek Road, Hobart in 1906.
One of the longer-term changes associated with the control of tuberculosis in the late 19th and early 20th century was a series of modifications to housing and urban design to reduce the risk of airborne disease transmission.
The many sanitoriums across Tasmania built to manage tuberculosis were early forms of isolation/quarantine facilities with plenty of outdoor spaces for healthier breathing and living.
The Creek Road facility was quaintly named a 'Sanatorium Chalet' as initially it had a number of independent units before later including larger more hospital-like facilities.
Housing design changed to increase ventilation for example with windows that opened, air vents in each room and washable surfaces to reduce transmission.
Now the current conversation is shifting from eliminating COVID to living with COVID (and presumably future pandemics), there is a more serious conversation underway about where and how we need to adapt.
One area is housing design where new design features are already emerging spurred on by both the enforced isolation and the growing work-from-home trend.
One approach from a Scandinavian architect is to build 'buried studios', essentially an in-ground office below the backyard with a turf roof enabling 'travel' out of the house to the office each day.
Another trend is rethinking entrances to homes so that there is a transition space, where sanitisation can take place.
It's a new use for old foyers, mud rooms and ante rooms of private and public buildings. Something like the way foyer/reception spaces are now used in hotel quarantine to allow goods to be dropped off without exposure to residents.
Entrance and porch areas of homes are being extended and redesigned with creative lighting and heating/cooling as additional eating spaces connected to natural air.
Heating and cooling systems are being modified to enable greater air purification and filtration to reduce airborne transmission risks, from the outside of the home in, inside the home and from the inside out.
One of the acronyms we will be hearing a lot more about is HEPA filters - high efficiency particle absorbing - that can trap viruses.
Homes are being built with more partitions and sliding door features enabling multiple uses for the same space.
Furniture is being redesigned so the dining table converts to an office desk and then an artist's easel and table tennis table.
Sliding doors to the outside allow more access to fresh air and direct sunlight.
The garage converts to a virtual golf course, a tennis hitting wall and a movie theatre.
Homes are now being designed with more attention to the idea of 'zones', fixed and flexible, including the ability to isolate areas if needed, incorporating some self-sufficiency in terms of amenities.
Unsurprisingly part of the move away from city living is to have more open space both at home and in the surrounding community. This enables social distancing as well as a better overall lifestyle for many.
Until the 1960s most Tasmanian homes had both a larder and a backyard with fruit trees and a veggie patch. But with increasing density and other changes - such as supermarkets- the backyards and pantries disappeared. Now they are coming back as much as a lifestyle feature as the necessity they used to be.
Larders and pantries are coming back. Stocking up for lockdowns will become a way of life, creating a sense of household resilience and mitigating the now-engrained images of people fighting over toilet paper in the supermarket aisles.
There are also signs of more people seeking out gated communities where people of a like mind can quickly isolate from the outside world and collectively approach resilience and independence.
While historically gated communities were primarily associated with older people and religious sects they are now becoming mainstream. Indeed one of the main purposes of medieval castle walls and moats was to keep out disease.
Essentially these design features add up to safer and more adaptive living arrangements whereby there can be home-based 'lockdowns' at short notice without significant household disruption.
Again designed to minimise risk of transmission rather than eliminate it.
It also enables an alternative to the current crowded and inadequate quarantine arrangements by developing safer home isolation options.
While all this sounds fine it does have a stark socio-economic aspect as the more wealthy move quickly to retrofit and build new homes to adapt, leaving the more vulnerable even more vulnerable.
A spritely rethink of private, public and communal housing design is in order to make sure we can all live as safely and comfortably with COVID as we can.
Those places that can be first movers in creating safer, more resilient homes and communities alongside better work-life balance options will be the population drawcards of the future.
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