Home Improvements - Scottish Universities Insight Institute

Place Identity Dwelling:
New Considerations in the Design and Procurement of Volume
Housebuilding in Scotland
Home Improvements
Professor Fiona McLachlan, University of Edinburgh
Social Housing Denny
E & F McLachlan Architects, 2011
Own work E & F McLachlan Architects – place, identity, social cohesion
SUBURBAN : South Gyle (1995-97)
• inward looking, social and physical focus
• increased density compared with surrounding VHB housing
• protective “defensible space”
• clarity in public/private thresholds
• inclusive – rented and shared ownership including first shared ownership wheelchair user
URBAN: Brownfield
Holyrood North (1996-2000)
• brick island
• hierarchy of urban spatial
thresholds public and semiprivate
• very high density
• low income
Whitburn, West Lothian (2007)
• urban role, defining the gateway, reinforcing the edge
• fronts and backs
• social cohesion, mixed development, wheelchair user, frail elderly,
Eigenhaard housing,
Michel de Klerk
The expression of the
entrance the entrance
threshold, shared space
Psychologically significant,
protection, privacy
What do all these have in common?
- Social housing
- Non-profit organisations
- Expectation of architect – led, traditionally procured
RURAL TOWN Denny (2011)
• innovative land release, informal terrace, socially integrated
Volume House Building
Design at the Heart of House Building 2007-8
The broad method, consisting of three phases was set by the terms of the
Scottish Executive’s Research Brief:
• an initial widespread email questionnaire
• followed by a series of semi-structured interviews with a sample of house
builders to investigate key issues in more depth, and
• a series of case studies developed in more detail from the second stage
findings to highlight good practice
Interview themes
definition of design quality
the integration of design into the development process
the influence/role of ‘one-off’ design
priorities in terms of design
positive and negative influences on design quality
good practice examples
Defining design quality
• the definition of design quality is a
complex mix of factors (internal design;
external building design; site layout and
urban design; buildability)
• developers believe customers’ interests do
not reflect what they believe designers (i.e.
architects) are predominantly interested in
concerning design
Developers comments:
“Quality as a place to live…..Design quality is the branding of the company…It is not
about architecture, but about a good quality product that is constantly
honed…Liveability and usability…..Ease of build versus cost of building…good
design is what sells….privacy, good spec, good amenity….design is wide ranging
- it is part of everyday activity…the balance between functionality and
cost….traditional or contemporary”
- Land acquired through competitive bids tends to need to be developed quickly
resulting in standardised products and reduced design time
- Land which has been ‘land banked’ offers more opportunity for architectural input
more likely to be used for ‘one-off’ or customised
- Cul de Sacs – often generated by random release of land parcels
- More recently increased emphasis on place-making and identity,
masterplanning and the design of infrastructure should help
- Developers need to reduce risk in planning process and
masterplanning can give more certainty
- Market – high, low, mid-range defines investment in ‘design’
- Profit margins higher at high end, more time invested in design, identity, image
- Cost of land therefore directly affects design time invested
- Lack of ‘Buildability’ is seen as the main issue in one-off architect designs
The location of new housing development is
critical, as is layout and design. We do not intend
to repeat the mistakes of the past with large,
single-tenure housing estates, poorly connected
to jobs and services or dependent on the private
car for those connections and designed in a way
that does not foster a sense of identity or
Good design is about more than just architecture
and the aesthetics of individual buildings. Some
of our finest conservation areas are not
necessarily defined by great individual buildings
but by the spaces they enclose.”
Firm Foundations, 2007 p 13
Forward by Nicola Sturgeon
Evolving Scottish housing policy
Designing Places
PAN 83 Masterplanning
Designing Streets
Creating Places Scottish Planning Policy - 2014
Literature Review - Evolving Scottish Guidance and Planning Policy 2010-2014
Variation and standardisation in design
• standard house types are normal and repetition is seen as providing better quality
in terms of liveability, usability, and build quality through trial, testing and
• bespoke or ‘one-off’ design tend to be solutions for specific sites, to suit
topography, planning briefs
• bespoke designs may not provide better build quality but usually better urban
Image credits: http://donald-tnytciglargeprint.blogspot.com/2007/12/120107.html, Mactaggart & Mickell
Cutting the cloth
Constructing the analogy
Developers made reference to external
“jackets” used on standard internal layouts to
suit specific sites, regional materials, planning
requirements, and markets favouring
‘contemporary’ or ‘traditional’
Image credits: www.henrypoole.com
Mactaggart & Mickel “Raasay Rural” apartment
As dressed by Roan Rutherford of Wren Rutherford Austin-Smith:Lord
at the Drum, Bo’ness
In suburban attire
In rural attire
Mactaggart & Mickel “Staffa” house
Houses as product
• Marketing of private housing is dominated by constructed lifestyles
• Customers shop on-line for products by name
• There is little sense of lifetime homes, housebuilders want their customers to buy another
product to suit the change in lifestyle
• In some cases the designer label is clearly part of the decision, the company design ethos
being strongly promoted
…Bronte, Shakespeare, Hardy
…Forth, Fyne, Jura, Keilder
…Gigha, Raasay, Isla, Tarbert
Domestic space marketed through use and
“….plenty of room for your
morning Pilates..”
MacTaggart & Mickel Aidan’s Brae, Glasgow
Architects : George Reynolds and Roan Rutherford,
Wren Rutherford Austin Smith Lord
Image credits: McCarthy & Stone, The Chap, Ford, Lotus, Mitsubishi, Multimap
Academic output –
RIBA Journal of Architecture
Vol 15, No 2, 2010
Jenkins P and McLachlan F
Authority and Identity
Architects value:
• individual creativity
• a sense of design identity/ethos
• a direct response to context,
connectivity and a sense of place
• architects’ copyright tends to
be forfeited to the developer who
can then modify and adopt as a
standard company product
AHRC : Home Improvements KE Project 2012-14
• Housing Practice Research Report
• Research Practice Guide
• Final report - Knowledge Exchange in the Creative Economy
• Call for notes of interest from architectural practices -October 2012
(36 responses, 9 invited to submit bid)
• Ideas Lab – Sheffield December 2012 (3 out of the 9 selected for funding)
• Research in Commercial Practice Symposium, October 4, 2013 - University
of Sheffield, Arts Tower
• Space to Park Parliamentary Launch, February 12, 2014, Portcullis House
• Home Improvements exhibition at the AHRC Creative Economy Showcase,
March 12, 2014 - King's Palace, London
Home Improvements main website :
• Home Improvements Research Report
in Practice
• Research in Practice
(led by Sheffield University with RIBA)
Recommendation 1: further research
There are many diverse areas of housing
that require immediate research. We
identify two broad areas that require
significant research:
a) Long-term Building Performance
Evaluations (BPE) that will help to develop
a body of knowledge concerning how
buildings perform socially, economically
and environmentally. This would provide
architects with a strong evidence base of
successful outcomes.
b) A better understanding of housing
delivery mechanisms, including
procurement, will provide pathways to
enabling greater
innovation in housing.
Home Improvements :
Final Research Report 2014
PDF available to download
Three ‘embedded’ KE projects:
• Ash Sakula / Sheffield University – Collective Custom Build
• URBED / University of Edinburgh – Parking Space
• Satellite / Kingston University – Public Realm : A Street Primer
Home Improvements main website :
Space to Park – Final published report
Westminster Launch February 2014
Website : http://www.spacetopark.org
• ’Home Improvements’ encouraged collaborative research to bridge the gaps
between academia, practice and industrial partners
• The ‘ideas Lab’ event was highly successful as a means of promoting dialogue,
particularly as the outcome was financial support for research
• KE projects are time-consuming particularly in the early stages before clear
dialogue is established, greater lead-in time would have been of benefit
• There is a wealth of knowledge embedded in practice which is often not
considered as research and which tends to be isolated from access to funding
Research in practice occupies a grey area between research and consultancy.