Research

A balcony, a sauna and green spaces support well-being amidst Covid-19

Katja Maununaho and the research team are interested in how residential spaces and environments have enabled or hindered adaptation to the changes during the corona pandemic.
The Sustainable Housing Design research group ASUTUT is studying the building stock of YH Kodit to find out how the existing living environment can meet the changing needs of society and dwellers. The Covid-19 pandemic has showed how our home life can change quickly even in unpredictable ways. As part of the project, dwellers’ experiences of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic were examined. A total of 1,315 residents of YH Kodit responded to the survey.

The collected dataset reveals how residents’ everyday practices have clustered in their homes during social restrictions last year. 57% of the respondents stated that they spend more time at home. The most common increased activities at home were cooking (44% of the responses), physical exercise (30%) and (online) shopping (25%). Increase in working from home was reported in 24% of the responses, while 46% indicated that working from home had remained the same, and 11% indicated a decrease in working from home. The respondents’ life situation also had an effect on the experienced changes.

Our research interest particularly focused on whether residents felt that their apartments had met the changing needs. We asked if the residents had wished that something were different in their apartment during the year. Nearly three quarters of the respondents stated they had wished for changes often (26%) or occasionally (48%). Only 25% stated they had never during the year wished for changes in the apartment. The most common wish was for more storage space (29% of the responses). The increased time spent in the apartments seemed to also relate to better soundproofing wishes (27% of the responses), followed by the wish for a larger apartment (25% of the responses). Despite the highly exceptional times, 59% of the respondents stated that these wishes would also be desirable in normal times without a pandemic.

With the increased staying at home, home decoration and furniture seem to have gained new importance. Many respondents shared changes they had done in their home, whether to accommodate rooms for working from home, or for purposes of improving visual aspects and the general comfort of the apartment. Residents also told of their experiences concerning apartment size. For some residents, the small size of their apartment had caused difficulties, whereas others reported their comfort due to spacious rooms, sufficiently large apartments, or access to natural light. Balconies and saunas were specifically highlighted as factors that had helped residents to cope with the coronavirus restrictions.

At the neighbourhood level the restrictions had clearly affected the possibilities for using various shared spaces and services. At the same time, outdoor sports and recreational time spent in gardens and in urban nature seemed to have increased. Interestingly, 27% of the respondents stated they had discovered places in their neighbourhoods that they had not noticed before. The residents also highlighted the importance of local services and the desire for more diverse opportunities for physical exercise in close proximity of the neighbourhood.

As a result of the rapid and large-scale changes brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, people have paid more attention to the facilities, spatial solutions and services in their living environment,” says researcher Katja Maununaho.

The review of the survey responses will continue, and the results will also be utilised in the analysis of the existing residential environments and dwellings.

More information: YH Asuntosäätiö: Asuminen muutoksessa website

Researchers: Sofie Pelsmakers, Katja Maununaho, Tapio Kaasalainen, Sini Saarimaa, Elina Luotonen and Jyrki Tarpio.

The Sustainable Housing Design research group: www.sustainablehousingdesign.com

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