Housing space standards have always been an issue of debate here in the UK. Ever since the Parker Morris standards disappeared and conservative government made public its dim view on housing development, Britain’s homes seem to be getting smaller and crampier. If you want to know what Parker Morris standard is, check out our post at http://www.designofhomes.co.uk/024-more-on-parker-morris-standards.html
The recent National space standards don’t seem to be helping the matter. The NDSS has been obscured by its complexity and its reluctance to exercise regulations on local authorities. One key instance of this is the exact definition of minimum space for different rooms such a single bedrooms, double rooms etc. These vary largely across the different counties and provinces.
Additionally, the government has publicly prioritized building more houses over space standards. The key concern is price and affordability. Increasing the size of homes increases its price and therefore prices it out of reach of the common man. This has been the key reasoning behind the lack of prioritization of a common national standard
With many homeowners and tenants facing space constraints, the issue of housing design naturally comes up. With space constraint constant being pointed out, there is an argument that it is all just perception. The ones who complain just don’t make efficient use of their space. While there may be a small element of fairness to this argument, it is largely incorrect.
As much as you can exploit the availability of space, there is a limit to it. The UK has the smallest houses in all of Western Europe. I personally believe that along with a bulletproof national space standard, there should be a minimum threshold for design standard too. While the homeowner should not his or her flexibility to design the house as he deems fit, having a basic design standard will ensure that realtors and builders don’t exploit the excess demand for housing.
Design standards can include things such as a minimum number of toilets per inhabitants in a house, kitchen size and proximity to other rooms, effective exhaust systems, ventilation etc. The NDSS does include a lot of details, but those are either confusing or improperly implemented.
In short, this is not about freedom of expression or lack thereof. This is about creating a system that doesn’t allow realtors to play the price game and build properties with very little in the form of constraints.
Modern housing in the UK isn’t really considered among the finest in Europe, to put it gently. When we picture housing developments, we picture cramped houses, narrow streets and bland architecture. It is quite surprising for a country whose Victorian style architecture is considered one of the most elegant architecture by the rest of the world.
The ever expanding population, increase in subletting and conversion of areas such as attics into makeshift rooms to aid the increased need for accommodation all contribute to this cause. However there have been some exceptions in this regard. We look at a few housing projects that were recently acclaimed.
Claredale street, Tower Hamlets, East London
Claredale street in East London is probably not the first name that you think of when you think of a futuristic and technological neighborhood. And yet, it was awarded the Richard Feilden Award at the HCA Housing Design awards in 2010. This area underwent an urban redesign to bring in concepts such as a mini-neighborhood with urban courtyards, high-efficiency gas boilers and a unique brick layout that conveyed a perception of handicraft. Furthermore, all roofs in the area are fitted with solar panels!
Darbishire Place, Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets
Tower Hamlets was at it again, mainly thanks to the consistent involvement of the Tower Hamlets London Borough Council, this time with Darbishire place. The same concepts of urban courtyards, open corners, pedestrian friendly streets and solar panels was utilized here too. The project received the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) award in 2015.
Matlock, Derbyshire, was the winner of the 2015 housing design awards. It was quite a surprising choice as the neighborhood was built on what used to be a hotel carpark. It underwent a complete makeover with buildings built with steel structures and supporting Birchover gritstone, a material that has long-lasting properties. Check out the copper-clad penthouses, which are exquisite!
Great Kneighton, Cambridge
This is our favorite of the four. Certain buildings in Great Kneighton long almost hipster-style. The architectural style doesn’t really seem to follow any traditional styles. What catches the eye is the saw-tooth shape of houses and the use of black weatherboarding. The only catch is that the majority of the houses in the newly refurbished area is perhaps beyond the reach of the average home buyer.
With such housing projects leading the trend, we foresee a bright future for housing development in the UK. All we need is a strong supportive legislation to increase spending and better the quality of life.
Public housing is always a tedious matter. While the aim of all governments should be to make public housing affordable for their respective citizens, there is also the matter of quality of living. As global population is surging on and on, and with land resources limited, it is vital that the issue of public housing is modified and perfected from time to time.
In the UK, the Parker Morris standards came into effect in 1961 with the intention of defining minimum standard for housing space when it comes to public housing. Multiple categories were addressed by the Parker Morris committee, such as minimum square meter space requirements for different sizes of households, minimum toilet and plumbing standards, kitchen space, temperature control and ventilation. They were initially a set of recommendations and later made mandatory in 1967.
Even today, the Parker Morris standard remains one of the best internal space related standard internationally. It took into account all key criteria that affects quality of life and household safety, whilst not trampling on individual freedom and flexibility to design their own houses. Beyond benchmarks for minimum space requirements, the standard did not feel the need to add more regulation to housing construction and design.
However, as spending increased over the years and public housing expenditure shot up, the government in 1980 decided to remove the mandatory clause on the regulation. Fast forwarding to today, we see the visible effects of the lack of an adequate replacement to the standard. Apartments are increasingly smaller and people have a clear lack of space. London, especially, is full of cramped apartments not suitable for living.
While the UK has an equally able regulation in the NDSS today, there are certain constraints with it. The NDSS is unnecessarily complicated and bureaucratic as it address too many issues and delivers little. Under the NDSS, local authorities have do de feasibility studies and create a wider framework to solve a very visible and obvious problem. It is also optional rather than mandatory for local authorities.
Let’s face it. No system is perfect. Regulations are always a reactionary measure and never proactive, and as a result don’t address all problems and sometimes introduce complications. The Parker Morris standard was one of the regulations that was designed such that it included very few unnecessary constraints and solved the key need at the time. It would be wise to revisit it.
Architecture has been a sign of wealth, progress and prosperity. The world has seen many great architects over the years. Names as Buckminster Fuller, Antoni Gaudi and Frank Lloyd Wright are cherished even today, and their works remain a symbol of the ages. Great architectural masterpieces have survived the ravages of time and every bloody wars.
These jewels of architecture have a lot of lessons to teach us. In this post we look at two inspiring architects, Andrea Palladio and Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, or as he was commonly known, Le Corbusier. These two figures are remembered for two entirely different styles of architecture.
Palladio is the face of Venetian architecture. He symbolizes the old Roman-Greek style buildings and palaces. The Palladian architecture has some key commonalities, such as the organization of space and geometric balance. Whether you look at his Villa Rotonda or the San Giorgio Maggiore, all parts of the structure have a perfect geometric ratio with all other parts.
Interior designers so often talk about the importance of meticulous planning of space, and Palladio has a lot to teach us on that regard. While both the Rotonda and the San Giorgio Maggiore were entirely different places, the former a luxurious villa for the wealthy built to showcase luxury and power, and the latter a cathedral built as a haven of tranquility and meditation, the attention to mathematics has not been ignored.
Le Corbusier meanwhile pioneered the Modern architectural movement. His main works included the Notre Dame du Haut and the La Maison Blanche. Le Corbusier was a man dedicated to creatively and uniqueness. He was responsible for two of today’s architectural commonalities – Walls that are free from their function of providing structural support and flat roofs. Furthermore, he pioneered the placement of unusual structures such as planes and boats within his works.
There are many more lessons to be learnt from these two geniuses on how they approached their works. While their principles and concepts may not be applicable to all, their sustained legacy has ensured that their concepts have been applied to many modern structures.
I live in Clerkenwell, one of the suburbs of London. Amongst the many civil issues we face at my parts, noise is one of the more pressing ones. We have a lot of young families in our neighborhood and the sight of children shouting and screaming is quite normal. More importantly, the walls in houses are quite thin and don’t do a good job of blocking noise.
This is an issue that many people face. Especially when it comes to apartments in crowded metropolitan cities, walls are very badly soundproofed and life gets difficult. A lot of properties in such areas, especially in the UK and in part of Europe, are older properties with walls that are unable to properly absorb the sound waves.
It is important at first to understand the mechanics of sound. Sound is a wave that travels through solid objects much faster (15 times to be specific) than through air. In this regard, it is different to light. The way to effectively stop noise pollution is not a one-step process. It involves multiple precautions, some of which we have listed in this post.
Avoid wall-mounted entertainment systems
Televisions or your Apple TV look better when mounted on a wall. That’s true. However that is one of the main reasons of excessive noise. If your bedroom is adjoint to a wall-mounted TV, you are going to have a rough sleep. As the noise source is directly joined to the wall, the sound waves travel much faster through the solid wall.
Use absorbing materials
Sound absorbers or dampeners are a great way to reduce noise pollution as they stop the passage of sound waves. Basically they are rubbery materials or vinyl that have excellent physical properties when dealing with sound.
This can be done in multiple ways. You can either buy such doors and replace your existing ones, or try weather-stripping your doors. Weather stripping uses an insulating kit to soundproof your door. Ensure also that you have hinged doors as opposed to sliding, as they close better.