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October 11, 2021

Housing Lessons From an Airport

Last week I was in Washington DC for the Best in American Living Awards judging. For many in the group, it was their first time in over 18 months getting on an airplane. There were a couple of “Oops” moments as the group of formerly experienced travelers had their rooky moments.

  • Oops – my TSA enrollment had expired
  • Oops – I forgot to take my shoes off
  • Oops – I forgot I had a bottle of water in my bag.

Feeling a bit claustrophobic in my hotel room, I got to the airport super early. It gave me a chance to walk around and make observations about not only the airport facility but also the people who use it. Here are my observations and lessons learned that can be applied to our housing design.

Pet Relief Areas

Yep. DCA has a pet relief area in the airport. Are enough dogs traveling to justify this? The answer must be yes. It’s not like you can take your dog outside and return to your gate quickly. Okay, with our advanced security, there is nothing “quick” about an airport.

The lesson is that pets have grown in number and in status to warrant changes to our built environment. These changes include pet grooming areas in high rise buildings, pet relief areas so pet owners don’t have to hit the street in their pajamas with their dogs, and dog parks in our apartment complexes. Are you doing enough in your houses for pet owners?


Charging electronic devices

A few years back, it was not uncommon to see folks sitting on the floor next to an outlet to charge their phones. Of course, those outlets were located for vacuuming and not for cell phone charging. Fast forward to today and most airports have added charging stations for our phones. But is it enough? The family of four next to me had multiple devices; husband and wife each had cell phone, headphones and a tablet – maybe even a laptop. And both their kids had tablets and headphones. Each needed to be fully charged prior to boarding the plane. One USB outlet per person just isn’t enough anymore.

The lesson in our houses is you just can’t have enough places to charge your devices. I like outlets at nightstand height on both sides of each bed. Make it a quad outlet and include two USB ports.

And don’t forget that during the pandemic, the most coveted outlet in the house was the one at the kitchen island. Why not include several on the underside of the island – just like at the airport.

Comfort over Decorum

Airlines used to have a dress code for their passengers. Okay – that was in the sixties, and we are so far removed from that. Today, it is not uncommon to see travelers in their pajamas and slippers in the airport. I get the need for comfortable shoes that are easily removed to go thru security – even yoga pants – but fuzzy slippers? Do you know how much dust and crud the fuzzy is picking up?

The lesson in our houses is we strive for comfort in our every day lives. It is why there is so much focus on the casual lifestyle living over formal rooms. Fortunately, clever builders and designers can deliver comfortable, causal lifestyle living without sacrificing decorum. Kind of a cake and eat it too moment.



Of course, airports are just one place where we can learn and see trends that can be applied to the residential market. I would love to hear your thoughts on other airport or built environment trends I missed. If nothing else, I hope this blog has changed the way to observe the people and place that is our airport. Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight.

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This post was written by Housing Design Matters