In April 2021, houzen’s Sustainability Lead, Eashita Saxena, has conducted an interiew with Mei-Yee Man Oram, an expert in inclusive design. Making properties more “green” and sustainable means also making sure they are fit for any tenant – hence making a property “inclusive” might sometimes require some surprising improvements. Here’s a short summary of our interview with Mei-Yee.
Q- What’s your incusive design journey been like so far?
A: I studied Arts and history and architecture at the university. The thing which was of particular interest was the social aspect of architecture and how architecture can integrate people,connect people- help enhancing their relationships. That was of particular interest, which is why after graduating, the role of inclusive designer in the industry- 1of the key thing is really pulling it back, user centered considerations to know about who we are designing for, thinking about, not only thinking about current populations but thinking about how the demographics are going to change that we should be taking into consideration as well to make sure who we are designing for, what we are designing is suitable for people from different generations as well and throughout the lifetime of the building. Recognising the fact that within every community we have got such diversity of different age groups, different gender identities, different cultures, different races, different access requirements from physical perspective, from sensory perspective as well, just trying to think perhaps making sure we think about all of those requirements, making sure that’s captured within any stakeholder engagement that we adopt as well to make sure that the design and proposals are really reflecting the people that we are representing.
What would you say the role of a community advisor is?
A: Within WELL advisory, I joined community advisory, with bringing the expertise of inclusive design, my role has essentially been to look at the work WELL building has been doing in relation to new features relation to updating existing materials ( guidance, documents, collaterals) very much with inclusive design lens, see how we can expand further and how to maximize the opportunities and initiatives to encourage people within the built environment to encourage them to do good things.
What do you think about social value? How do you see it from the perspective of existing housing stock in the UK?
A: From the inclusive design side of things, integral to what we do as a team, everything that we are doing, advising clients and design teams with the objective of improving things, society as a whole, medium audience within the building and also future opportunities that might lead to as well. From a design perspective, I am very focused on inclusive design. That’s probably the biggest area where on a day to day basis and that’s where the biggest impact is. As a firm generally we get involved with other things as well which include reaching out and working with local communities to see how schemes can benefit on a wider scale, outreach programs to local communities, schools to provide education, to offer opportunities and to get people involved and encourage them to get into the profession as well in the engineering profession- a wide range of initiatives that happen across the firm.
In terms of housing, what measures can be taken to enhance social value and create a better environment to live?
A: In relation to housing what comes first to my mind is when looking at now, there is a big gap in terms of what is currently been provided and what is required, if we look at social housing as an example, still gaps that currently in place that need to be addressed, if we look toward the future, some things are emerging such as population is aging, correlation between aging and disability, future projection that are emerging, we really need to start thinking about it and access if the current housing stock is suitable for those future generations? There’s a lot of talk at the moment about the balance, during the pandemic, there’s a lot of people that are working from home at the moment, so going forward, whether those patterns are likely to become much more normal, day to day? Again how we have been designing residential housing whether that needs to change to reflect the work patterns as well. There’s been discussions about 15-20 minute neighbourhoods and how that can be designed on a much more broader scale to reflect some of those behaviour changes that people might be expecting going forward.
Do you see any emerging trends in the industry?
A: Pandemic and its impact on the industry, huge impact from inclusive design perspective as well. People are much more aware and willing to spend time how they can be better in the inclusion and diversity sphere as a result of pandemic. Going forward, I am hopeful, positive changes building more flexibility to accommodate those changes in terms of how people use the space? Being more considerate about the diversity of people and how that can be balanced within a single building or single area and having much more flexibility in terms on how spaces are used generally is going to be a big thing. Again the pandemic has proven people can work remotely and they don’t have to be in office so going forward this will affect how the future of office and homes is going to look like has to reflect that.
houzen is an online trading platform for “highly rentable homes”. It allows users to buy properties exceptionally fast – 98% of the property buying process is done online, using automation and AI, boosting the speed of the process. houzen takes care of the end to end property lifecycle: recommends properties, generates reports, offers live video viewings and assistance with mortgage and admin of the buying process, all the way to selling it.
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