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RIBA Homeowner Survey - Happiness Through Design: Executive Summary

What is the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on how people want to live and work in their homes? Read our summary of findings from our survey of UK homeowners.

07 October 2020

This summer the RIBA commissioned a survey of 1,500 homeowners, aged 24 to 64, from across the UK to investigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on how people want to live and work at home.

Home design and health and wellbeing

  • 70% of survey respondents agreed that the design of their current home has affected their mental wellbeing during the pandemic
  • spending more time in their current home has made people more stressed (11%) anxious (10%) and depressed (10%); they’ve found it harder to relax (9%) and it’s negatively impacted their productivity (6%)

The RIBA’s research sought to understand the mental and physical benefits of living in a better-designed home.

  • the findings highlight that 23% believe a better-designed home will directly increase their happiness; they'd be able to relax more (31%) and sleep better (17%)

Changing the design of the home

Insights also revealed that with working from home now the ‘new normal’ for many, 15% want to improve the design of their home to help them be more productive. And with families spending more time together at home, more than one in 10 (11%) believe making changes to the design of their home would help them to live more harmoniously with others in the house.

Eight out of 10 respondents (79%) identified one or more of the changes that they’d like to make to the design of their home after lockdown:

  • nearly a quarter of homeowners (23%) would reconfigure their existing spaces. A fifth want to create more space by extending their home
  • nearly one in 10 (9%) would change their open-plan design in favour of creating separate rooms. In contrast, 14% would like to make their home more open plan
  • 40% want more environmental-design features, including improving the amount of natural daylight, improving the energy-efficiency of their home, and improved sound-proofing between spaces
  • 8% would like more flexible living by having rooms that can easily be divided
  • 17% would create an office space so that they can more easily work from home
  • 7% would want to be able to accommodate an extended family including parents, grandparents and grown-up children
  • 12% need more personal space

Working with an architect

  • membership of a professional organisation is singled out by the greatest number of respondents (61%) as an important factor in selecting an architect
  • almost 50% of respondents think evidence that architects can add value to homes is important, much more so than the cost of their service, which was voted more critical by only 15%
  • one of the best ways for an architect to provide evidence is with good references: 48% of people thought this was the most important factor, with 43% stating that evidence of an architect's ability to listen and meet their individual needs was crucial in their selection of an architect
  • many want their architect to demonstrate their commitment to the environment - 27% want evidence that an architect will make their home more environmentally sustainable and 31% want to see the architect’s commitment to combating climate change

What do the survey results mean?

These survey results indicate that there is a great appetite amongst homeowners from across the UK to transform the design of their homes, so that they better support their new ways of living, as well as their mental health, happiness and family cohesion.

For homeowners considering changing the design of their home, whether that be building from scratch, adding an extension or adapting existing spaces, the RIBA’s recommendation is to engage the work of an RIBA Chartered Practice from the very outset. Find the right practice for you, using the RIBA Find an Architect Service.

For RIBA Chartered Architects and Practices we encourage you to reflect on these findings and use them to inform how you communicate with prospective clients. Read more insights into the survey results in this RIBA Journal article. We also encourage you to take a look at our Marketing Toolkit for practical tips and guidance to support you in generating new business.

Read the RIBA's full response to the survey findings, including commentary from the following spokespeople:

  • RIBA President, Alan Jones
  • Lecturer in Environmental Psychology at the University of Surrey, Dr Eleanor Ratcliffe
  • RIBA Chartered Architect, Head of Wellbeing at Assael Architecture and author of book, ‘Happy By Design’, Ben Channon
  • Kunle Barker, broadcaster and property developer

You can watch Eleanor and Ben discussing the research findings with Michael Holmes at the panel discussion Happiness Through Design, originally recorded for the 2020 Homebuilding and Renovating virtual show.

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