How Different Families Stay at Home During a Pandemic
By: Samantha Lisay, Architect and Designer, Build Change Philippines
It was March 12th, 2020 that the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Three days later, on March 15th, the whole of Metro Manila was placed in community quarantine, which basically means we have to stay home to be safe from the virus. Many people that live part-time in Manila for work went home to their provinces to spend the quarantine with their families.
It has now been sixty days since the announcement of the quarantine. I am with my family, in a two-bedroom, two-story row house inside a subdivision. Compared to most, I consider myself and my family lucky. Not one of the luckiest, but lucky indeed.
Looking through social media, I’ve noticed that different people and families have their own ways of coping with the required quarantine. There are a lot of different factors, but as an architect, I’d like to share my observations, based on what kinds of houses they live in.
Families Living in Big Houses
These are families that live on lots of at least 1,000 square meters (just shy of 11,000 square feet) and above, or enough to have a backyard. Activities inside a big house are pretty much endless, given the availability of space, and there is plenty of room for fitness, arts, or entertainment. The private outdoor area serves as an extension of the house. In times like these, people living in these kinds of houses turn to family bonding, and in some instances, helping others in need.
Social distancing is not a problem in this household, as everyone has the luxury of space. Often these are well-off families, who can whether the storm of the pandemic longer than others.
Families Living in Apartments, Condominiums, or Townhouses
For families living in condominiums, apartments, and houses such as ours, the walls of the house confine our activities during this quarantine. Each area or room inside the house, though not as big as in the large houses, is still very functional. One can read a book, work from home, exercise, or sit around all day. There is always a longing to go outside, so some families who have access to a balcony or a rooftop use it to their advantage.
Depending on the number of family members, social distancing may or may not be a problem. Being in the middle class, these families rely mostly on income through their employment or business, which can be done mostly at home.
Families Living in the Slums
These are the families of daily wage earners and informal sector workers, where the house is one of the least of their daily concerns. Now in quarantine, the families living in these kinds of houses are confined indoors in very little space. Unlike the other types, spaces within these houses have to serve multiple purposes. They also sometimes suffer from lack of proper ventilation, and even lack of natural light.
These conditions result in overcrowding inside the house, or uncomfortable indoor experiences. Most of the people violating quarantine come from these families, as they need to earn an income and some would perhaps rather work or stay outside than stay inside an uncomfortable house. These people are also among the most vulnerable, as they are unsafe from the virus both INSIDE and OUTSIDE of the house.
Imagining Safe Homes for All…
In the midst of this pandemic, I keep thinking about how our houses should be our sanctuary — the place where we feel the safest from crises and disasters. For the first time, we are all introduced to this kind of slow-moving disaster, where we are required to isolate ourselves and where we are mindful of the space we take up. In my observation, different families cope differently, based on their social status and the kind of house they live in. Many are considered lucky, having recreational options inside the house. But not everyone can afford these large, traditional houses. In fact, many families have to risk their lives going outside just because they don’t feel safe and comfortable at home. In my role at Build Change, I envision safer homes that will survive typhoons and earthquakes that are also safer for every day, pandemic or not. Homes where you can relax and be comfortable should be everyone’s right, especially during times like these.