“Housebuilders need to address their shocking standard of design”, says George Clarke

British architect and TV presenter George Clarke talks about his opinion on housebuilders’ design in his column on WhatHouse? online.

I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that since a very young age I’ve been obsessed by the design and construction of Britain’s homes. As an architect I obviously love to see one-off iconic homes, similar to those featured in programmes like Restoration Man and Grand Designs that are unique self-build projects for a very specific family.

But, I’m more interested in the way our mass-housing estates are designed and built. Why? Because Britain needs to build a staggering number of new homes to meet the current demand and frankly the standard of design of most new-build housing estates is shocking. The way the estates are master-planned are incredibly poor where the car dominates in a swathe of tarmac and block paving, places for children to play safely are virtually non-existent and landscaping is slashed to a minimum.

Then there’s the lack of any new shops or new pubs within these new developments so they feel dead. And when it comes to the houses themselves I find it very hard to even describe them as being ‘designed’. Damning criticism I know, but it’s true.

Poor-quality, standard house plans are simply being regurgitated by some of the major housebuilders from one site to the next. When you analyse the plans to see if the spaces actually work you can see that the internal spaces just don’t work properly. The rooms are often very inefficient and badly planned to the point where I sometimes wonder if the ‘design team’ have at any point attempted to place furniture on the CAD plans to see if the rooms functioned the way they should.

Style is obviously a big part of the ‘design’ argument, but to be honest when it comes to good housing I’m really not that interested in style. I actually get bored of the battle of the styles when people argue for or against ‘modern’ homes or ‘traditional’ homes. An appropriate style obviously depends on where the homes are being built and style is very much a matter of personal taste.

It is very difficult to cater for everyone’s personal taste and to keep everyone happy when building a mass housing estate. I really don’t care if a house is traditional or modern, as long as it is good, well-designed, comfortable and functional where you can see that a good designer has been sensitive to the large-scale decisions, such as master-planning of the external spaces, all the way down to the small-scale decisions such as sensible furniture layouts, good storage and all of the electrical points being in the right place. It really isn’t rocket science!

With the high standard of design talent we have in this country our housing stock should be so much better than the sea of bland noddy-box housing that is currently being built in towns and in rural areas.

Also, the argument that good design costs more money and the country can’t afford it at the moment is frankly rubbish. We were building the same poor-quality housing estates during the building boom of the noughties so how can that be an excuse?

Good design needn’t cost the earth, it just needs a talented and creative design team who can make spaces work even with the most challenging budget and it is time the house building industry raised its game.

 

Original article can be viewed at: http://www.whathouse.co.uk/news/george-clarke-column-002-poor-housing-design-469#.UoysyNK-2Sr

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