Elie Mrad, Head of Architecture and Design at Arada on COVID-19’s impact on how developers will approach building communities of the future.

Developers, like every other business in every other sector across the world, are today thinking hard about what the post-COVID-19 world will look like. Will the way that people live, work, and play change dramatically? It’s hard to know for sure, but as architects and planners, it is critical that we are able to look ahead, predict which trends are likely to transpire and apply these insights into building communities of the future.

Open Spaces

Quality of the public realm has always been a vital issue for urban planners and this is likely to assume even greater importance post-COVID-19. Future communities must be designed with public health and wellness in mind. Access to green spaces is already an established necessity for physical and mental health. At Arada, this is requirement is the focal point of our Aljada megaproject in the heart of New Sharjah. At 24 million square feet in size, there is plenty of scope here to ensure that residents, workers, and visitors to the community can benefit from ‘green time’. The open greens are designed such that every resident has access to lush green space within just a few yards of their front door.

Social Distancing

Will social distancing become part and parcel of our daily lives after this pandemic is over? The use of contactless smart technology was already gaining plenty of currency prior to this crisis, and its adoption will continue on an upward trajectory. Smart technology, both at the home level and city level will be a critical factor in building communities of the future. We are gearing up to meet future expectations. For example, the smart tech that we are implementing at Aljada will allow residents to open their front doors to receive deliveries, without having to be physically present.

We have always thought about how spaces can be activated socially and now we have to think more about how distance can be factored into that. The design of our student housing complex Nest explores how the built environments of the future could support physical distancing whilst still nurturing our social needs. For example, having balconies face each will encourage interaction between students and keep them safe.

Indoor Wellness

As a result of COVID-19, the impact that life indoors can have on the emotional and physiological well-being of the user should guide developers towards remastering their approach to their projects. At a time when the home has never been important, our belief is that future residents will prioritise their health more than they have done in the past. Air quality, natural light, and space can all be key considerations. For the developer, this could mean an honesty check on the building materials being used, the quality of construction, how effective the MEP systems are, and of course, how design decisions can have a positive impact - larger windows, rooftop terraces, more balconies, and courtyards, for example.

While the economic and social cost of COVID-19 is still being assessed, it is important that we as developers adopt a proactive approach whilst building communities of the future, that the decisions we make now can mitigate and withstand the fallout of future epidemics as much as possible.


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