HAPPI Working from Home? Designing ‘work ready’ housing

Jeremy Porteus blog 2020
Jeremy Porteus
Chief Executive, Housing Learning Improvement Network

Last month as COVID-19 was taking a hold, I was invited by work home expert and emeritus reader in architecture, Dr Frances Holliss, to join her and award-winning architect, Sarah Wigglesworth MBE, in an online Cass Research Seminar hosted by London Metropolitan University.  

Entitled ‘Delight in Home Based Work’, I was asked to reflect on homeworking from an age-friendly perspective. This gave me an opportunity to consider how the HAPPI can be adapted to accommodate a growing number of people of all ages working from home. However, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, while home-working practicalities are useful, the way we manage and use our home space will feel all the more essential when cooped up at home and not able to leave at will.

This blog sets out some of my thinking and provides an outline of how ten years since the original HAPPI report, the 10 ‘care ready’ HAPPI design principles can be recalibrated to incorporate ‘work ready’ adjustments to accommodate a growing number of people in later life who want or will be working from home or may require live in care and support, such as personal assistant, now or in future, to meet their changing lifestyles.

While working from home was not of concern in the very first HAPPI report, ‘Housing our Ageing Population, Panel for Innovation' (HAPPI 1), its panel of distinguished architects, building and housing experts identified ten key design elements that can characterise attractive and successful housing for an ageing population (see the table below). 

Research by the Centre for Ageing Better reveals that one in three workers are over 50.  And ONS figures show that by 2030, almost two-thirds of employment growth will be by workers over 65 (746,000 out of nearly 1.2 million). Not only do we need age-friendly housing, we need age-friendly workplaces, including at home. 55% of people of people over 50 expressed an interest in flexible working patterns, including working from home.

However, this is not just about an ageing workforce. 230,000 disabled people are working from home and many women (one in five) are carers. It is therefore important for architects, interior designers and those working to build new or improve or adapt existing homes, to consider how the HAPPI design principles can be added to, adjusted or adapted to meet a growth in home working for all ages (see the original 10 'care ready' principles and the new 'work ready ones listed below)

And a word for Occupational Therapists, they too play a crucial role in ensuring that someone’s home is as safe and accessible as possible. Working closely with householders, their work often involves identifying specialist equipment, and/or making recommendations for the design of bespoke home adaptations to aid independent living. For example, for this eligible under the government’s Access to Work scheme and/or a Disabled Facilities Grant.

HAPPI ‘care ready’ design principles

  1. Generous internal space standards   
  2. Plenty of natural light in the home and circulation spaces
  3. Balconies and outdoor space, avoiding internal corridors and single-aspect flats
  4. Adaptability and ‘care aware’ design which is ready for emerging telecare and tele-healthcare technologies
  5. Circulation spaces that encourage interaction and avoid an ‘institutional feel’ 
  6. Shared facilities and community ‘hubs’ where these are lacking in the neighbourhood
  7. Plants, trees, and the natural environment
  8. High levels of energy efficiency, with good ventilation and avoid overheating by capturing and storing as energy
  9. Extra storage for belongings and bicycles
  10. Shared external areas such as ‘home zones’ that give priority to pedestrians

HAPPI  ‘work ready’ design features

  1. Generous internal space standards to allow for homeworking or live in carer/personal assistant, as well as need for space to exercise and for drying laundry is vital.   
  2. Plenty of natural light with varied views and vistas can be energising but also foster wellness, especially if you are spending the whole day behind a screen; eyes are under massive strain during COVID-19. Also add task lighting where needed e.g. for desks spaces. And consider noise/sound insulation i.e. ability to close space off or between flats, and consider acoustic levels i.e. circadian principles
  3. Accessible private balconies, access to outdoor space at ground floor or shed e.g. for office, meeting space or storage. Dual aspect design aids cross-ventilation to combat stale air and ‘cabin-fever’. 
  4. Adaptability and technology enabled ‘care aware’ design with decent and reliable domestic WiFi is essential to facilitate remote working. Also, accessible height of sockets/desk plugs, adjustable furniture & fittings ie chairs, handles etc
  5. The front door threshold designed for receiving deliveries for infection control and to quarantine delivered items. And circulation free of trip hazards so that you can get around comfortably navigate for those with disability equipment, mobility aids, wheelchairs or frames, or a carer/personal assistant. Circulation that is designed to both separate and join spaces so that it can accommodate more than one home worker or other members of the household.
  6. if living in purpose-built retirement or extra care housing, access to multi-use communal facilities or community ‘hubs' for co-working space, meeting areas, shops, gyms etc, with reliable WiFi
  7. Connect with nature in the home and out i.e. air quality in the home, aromas, easy access to manage, access to green space, gardening/allotment natural landscape with resting and sitting places
  8. Create comfortable working environment with affordable warmth, ease of control and energy efficient for use of equipment
  9. Extra storage for other personal belongings i.e. accessible office equipment, aids etc
  10. Proximity to accessible parking or public and other forms of transport.

Read an updated version of Jeremy’s blog 6 months into Covid-19 (30 Sept 2020), here.


I am grateful to Dr Matthew Barac, co-author of the first HAPPI report and Research Leader at Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture & Design, London Metropolitan University, for his helpful recommendations and additions. He also suggested a good coffee machine! 

The Cass Research Seminar series is open to all. For details see: www.cassculture.org (opens new window)

Further reading/useful websites

If you would like to contribute a guest blog on your experiences of adapting your home and/or share information on further design considerations on working from home, email us at: info@housinglin.org.uk

With thanks to the following contributors for their follow up guest blogs for the Housing LIN on this evolving theme of ‘work ready’ HAPPI design/living:

And also check out the MoorArch #m0003 design competition (opens new window) ISO[NATION] on Home Office. Deadline for submissions is 24 May 2020.


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