Wednesday23 August 2017

RIBA launches housing space standards campaign

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The RIBA has launched a major campaign against what it calls the inadequate size of Britain’s volume housing.

It is hoping to engage the public in a national conversation at the same time as lobbying government and house builders to improve standards.

It is taking a three-pronged approach: launching a HomeWise website aimed at the public; establishing a national inquiry – the Future Homes Commission, chaired by former CBI director general John Banham – to build a comprehensive picture of what people want and need from their homes; and publishing exclusive research on the size of Britain’s new homes.

The report, Case for Space, says that the average new three-bedroom home is around 8% smaller than the minimum size recommended in the London Plan, while the most common design is smaller still at 74sq m. This is 77% of the recommended size – effectively missing two double bedrooms.

RIBA chief executive Harry Rich said: “Our homes should be places that enhance our lives and well-being. However, as our new research confirms, thousands of cramped houses – shameful shoe box homes – are being churned out all over the country, depriving households of the space they need to live comfortably and cohesively.

“In a rush to build quickly and cheaply we risk storing up unnecessary problems for the future.”

The report also exposes the lack of transparency existing around the size of UK homes as details are simply not publicly available, added Rich.

The HomeWise campaign, backed by London mayor Boris Johnson, calls for an industry-wide agreement to provide information about the floor size of new homes – not just the number of bedrooms.

The campaign website www.behomewise.co.uk features online resources for consumers.


Readers' comments (24)

  • This is a welcome move from the RIBA, who should promote good standards and best practice. Unfortunateley, many of the RIBA's members and chartered practices derive a great deal of income from getting these 'shameful shoeboxes' through planning.

    So will they name and shame chartered practices who have helped deliver these shameful homes, or remain open to charges of hypocrasy?

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  • zecks_marquise

    name and shame? laura! where are you when we need you?

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  • james francis

    Barry Reid.

    How can you stand on a soapbox and attack people who are trying to do their best in difficult times? I live in a developer shoebox but only because I am employed and can afford the rent. A witch-hunt at this juncture would be pointless and vindictive.

    It is better to have people who care try to make the best of the demands of (some) developers than the cowboys out there who really don't give a damm or are so undereducated and/or unqualified they cannot see their errors.

    If you feel it would be better for architects not to do this work I hope you will take responsibility for the dross in house design teams of those developers who churn out the low standard housing stock. (Noting of course there are developers who are providing a much higher standard in size and design and should also not be lumped into one easy to blame pool)

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    We already have the standards we need: Parker Morris. Maybe the RIBA doesn't know about Parker Morris. All PM needs is an update.

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  • Lobbying government and house builders to improve standards is not the answer. What we need is to educate the general public and let them dictate what they want. Developers will only respond to demand.

    What we need is common sense not more red tape which is what we will get from government.

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  • The problem with shoeboxes and shoes is when the shop is empty there is NO choice, and if you need new shoes you're are stuck ! Unfortunatelly architects do not decide the size of shoeboxes and it is time RIBA addresses this issue and the overall debate of quality/cost. RIBA should have its own standards and maybe this could influence what gets built.

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  • I heard the interview this morning on the Today Programme with Harry Rich and Andrew Whittaker from the Home Builders' Federation, where they discussed this. Whilst agreeing with Harry Rich, I thought there wasn't enough notice taken about the comment Andrew Whittaker made about Planning red tape. I my experience working with small private developers who are keen to supply affordable, decent homes, we come up time and again against Planners who whittle away at the size of a prospective design until you might as well just present them with a shed.

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  • @James Francis, read my comment again.

    I've worked in the sector and god knows been involved in developments for most of the major housebuilders in my time. It should be pretty clear that I'm not attacking the practices who work on developer residential schemes, but the RIBA.

    The issue is that RIBA need to think a bit harder how they pick a fight like this. The world is not very architect freindly at the moment and it would be very easy for a journalist with even a little knowlege to highlight the obvious inconsistency in the RIBA starting a major political campaign against what is bread and butter work for many RIBA chartered practices.

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  • The only, only, way you'll get more space into new housing, is to create a lot more supply. You can regulate for bigger space, but you won't get it if it is uneconomic to build - and that is what affordable housing tax has done to space - made it more expensive for developers to create living space, so the bits they can sell they have to build for less, or make the flats smaller. Land needs to be more plentiful and cheaper before any new standards will generate better space. The RIBA is not getting to the meat of the argument. We all want bigger homes, but better design can't deliver them in the circumstances we have at the moment. The RIBA needs to team up with the housebuilders and developers to get the argument sorted.

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  • Never too late. There are lots of damages done to Housing Industry in the recent years. I welcome this move from RIBA. I hope this will not be just a statement to seek attention and nothing being achieved in the end.

    HCA guide, HQI standard, Parker Morris guide, NHF guide, English Partnership guide, SDS Standard, John Calcutt Report, BFL......and all whole load of other standards are there. But none of these are compulsory to private housing development. At least Social housing have to follow the minimum standard floor area in order to secure funding.

    It is totaly unfair to blame Architect's for the shoeboxes size houses. That show ....'u dont know what is happening and what ur talking about'..
    All Architect want to create the best enviroment to live, work and enjoy......but its developer decide wheather ur bedroom have en-suite or room for chester-drawer,cots,tv sitting area and etc.

    if RIBA can reach a decision on a comfortable minimum housing size standard, that will be a great achievement.

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