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Six living and working trends we should take into account

Waiting for the COVID 19- vaccine and then back to the old days?  Don’t even think about it!

Pieter Verfaillie, repurposing expert of bow architects, is firmly convinced: Covid-19 is a wake-up call that will forever change our way of life and our view on living and working. It is not the increased interest in gardens and terraces he thinks of in the first place, but rather the new consciousness: those who misbehave, sooner or later put themselves and others at risk. This awareness forces us to change our lifestyle into one that is more focused on sustainability, quality of life and togetherness. In six trends, he outlines how the COVID-19 pandemic acts together with climate change as an accelerator for the world of building and repurposing.

By Pieter Verfaillie

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led countries into lockdown, the economy to plunge and the healthcare sector to mobilize all its forces. The climate change appears to affect us less, but is at least as profound. Today, city planners, futurologists, investors and architects are trying to gain insight on the impact of both crises on tomorrow’s world.

That impact will be huge. It is crystal clear that the COVID-19 pandemic acts as an accelerator and will forever change our mobility and the way we live and work. Together with the climate crisis, sustainability also comes upfront in all aspects. Our way of travelling and our life/work balance change at an increasing speed. That's unseen in recent history. We will never go back to the way it’s been over the last few decades. But what should city planners, investors and repurposing architects bear in mind these days? Six unstoppable trends that can determine new ways of living, working, shopping, relaxing and travelling.

1. Get rid of anything that is no longer justified

Nothing is certain, except that our current welfare model is unsustainable. Flying around the globe, each person having his own car at the doorstep and a spacious open villa: today's young people are increasingly aware that it is impossible to continue putting together the same puzzle with the same pieces. Everything not sustainable has to go out because sooner or later, the bill of unsustainable and irresponsible behavior will be presented, to ourselves or others. Employers will only be able to retain employees if they pursue a planet-friendly policy. People will increasingly attach importance to healthy and CO2-neutral environments, that are also of high end quality and well-located. And last but not least, growth models that are not sustainable, high-quality and responsible will disappear.

2. Compact centres replace ribbon developments

Now that the trend of compact centres with restricted traffic and high-quality public spaces continues throughout Flanders, a second movement will take place. From ribbon development along brick roads to more attractive centres. The appeal of remote areas and living, working or retail space along connecting roads will greatly decrease in favor of a good mix of living, working, shopping and relaxation in the centres themselves. The COVID-19 pandemic teaches us to value qualitative open space and services on walking and cycling distance. The climate change forces us to reflect on our travelling time and our climate impact during long-distance travelling.     

3. Workplace becomes more attractive

Now our home is also becoming an office, the reverse movement continues:  the office becomes home. Read: nice, cosy, attractive and above all homely. Isn't it inconceivable that many office workers still spend their best hours of the day in boring, clean grey office spaces? A quantum leap in the attractiveness of office spaces can easily be financially compensated for by reduced need for surface area and the arrival of hip, regional hubs that are cheaper in rent and maintenance than the A-location of the headquarters. In short, the movement towards a workplace with a higher standard of quality and well-being has been initiated.  Workspaces will be set up to work efficiently on specific tasks - and the demands we place on them will coincide with it, at home and in the office.

4. Breakthrough of Building Information Modelling (BIM) and the upcoming proptech

The life of a building is no longer cut into pieces of ownership starting with the sale by the property developer who completely rescinds the building after it has been built. No, a digital twin via BI-Models preserves all relevant information from and about the building. No more searching where the pipes are, or looking for what concrete composition the floor slabs have. We will also know exactly what materials the building has been built from and how old each part is through material passports. At bow architects, we have been carrying out all projects with BIM-software since day one. This allows reuse of spaces and materials to be facilitated and realized much more easily.

In a world organized and driven by data, BIM's breakthrough fits into a major "Property Technology Evolution", proptech for short. Why choosing that specific place for that building with those specific materials? Proptech will give us the answer, based on all available knowledge and data. Proptech will be revolutionary and disruptive.

5. No longer one function, but countless possibilities

The massive repurposing of old factory buildings, heritage-worthy monasteries and warehouses serves as an inspiration for this trend. Solid building structures and adapted ergonomics are the prerequisite for a second, third, even one hundredth life of a building. No more empty shop premises: if there is no longer any need for commercial space, a solid building should be able to be easily converted into a restaurant, office or house. The proof? Architects - especially in the case of repurposing – today already propose to the builder to adjust the ceiling height to be more multifunctional than necessary for the first and by definition temporary use. Because with a ceiling of 3  to 4 meters height, many more future use functions remain possible than at 2.5 meters. Repurposing buildings will be necessary, because we want to make a high-quality and sustainable use of the space in the centres.

6. The ideal mix

Finally, during the lockdown, people folded back en masse on their surroundings. Imagine you live in an allotment without shops, bakery, ATM or sports fields. The COVID-19 pandemic reveals more than ever that quality life can only be achieved by finding all necessary functions nearby. In other words, our future centres will only be successful if their inhabitants can find whatever they need within the centre for living, working, shopping, relaxing, education, health care and so on.


The future will be more sustainable, with a higher quality of life and closer to home. The COVID-19 pandemic and the climate change have made change urgent, they work as accelerators. What trends do you think are accelerating due to the corona and climate crises? Let us know, we'd love to change thoughts ! Because the future, we like to present it with (a) bow.

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