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Architects and house builders should design houses their customers want

Chris Turnbull

Architects and house builders should design houses their customers want

The ongoing debate about the lack of available, affordable housing continues with the Royal Institute of British Architects claiming that new houses are‘shameful shoebox homes’ because the average size is 8% smaller than the recommended minimum .  Predictably, the House Builders Federation has responded by saying that larger homes would be even more unaffordable for buyers whilst the Campaign to Protect Rural England and like-minded groups insist that new house building on green field sites needs to be minimised.

And all the while the need for new housing stock – caused by social changes such as high levels of divorce, single parenthood, ageing population  the migration of people to the south east and the media’s perennial favourite target, immigration – continues to rise and be unmet.

But I don’t see as the number and size of new houses being mutually exclusive aims if architects and house builders actually design the houses people today want to buy.

Yes, most of us would love to have more room and views that look out over open countryside (or whatever other view floats your boat!) but given the cost of land and the need to maximise the number of dwellings needed to be built for the developers to make a return, I don’t see this changing much soon.

Where I think all parties would be better turning their attention to is optimising the design of key living areas when homes are being built.

In our job we go into homes of all ages, sizes and designs every day of the week.  And it’s clear that some of the design features that have been incorporated over the years don’t meet the requirements of the way people want to live today.  Informal living –with the kitchen at the heart of the concept – means many families don’t want separate dining rooms for example.  And it’s truly surprising how much extra space the opening up or removal of a dividing wall – which didn’t really need to be built in the first place – can bring to a home.

As we contend in our previous blog Size really doesn’t matter there’s probably no other room in the house that needs to incorporate so many essential items as the kitchen – think cooker, ‘fridge, sink and washing up area – and quite often in a tiny space.  But if we as kitchen designers can do an effective job at optimising the space and be able to include the labour saving devices clients need, surely similar principles can be applied to other areas of the home meaning that the total size of internal living area becomes less of an issue.

If we’re serious about tackling the issue of a lack of housing, the inevitable impact on people’s quality of life and the wider, longer-term social implications caused by people not having a decent home to live in, would it not be a better idea for the Government and those stakeholders mentioned above (and others with a vested interest) to start looking at ways of resolving the problem within the space we have available rather than each throwing in their two’pennorth with no go-forward at all?

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