Report on size of new homes could have devastating impact on housing development
RIBA’s Gerald Ratner moment - its “Case for Space” report slating the country’s housebuilders and their ‘shameful shoebox homes’ - could have a devastating impact upon housing development.
Somebody’s been reading their management books and come up with the light bulb moment that if you want to make something happen, then make somebody uncomfortable - but they’ve lost sight of the fact that the housing construction sector is facing unprecedented challenges right now, and just about everybody involved is doing everything in their power to meet those challenges.
The question is why are we criticising our own? The report could have taken a much more supportive approach, providing solutions and answers rather than problems and impossible-to-answer questions about future market trends.
If we’re spending 20% of our time debating the issue, then we’re being 20% less efficient - and we all know that given time is money, we have nothing like the luxury of a 20% margin to play with.
This could go down as RIBA’s ‘Gerald Ratner moment’ - he called the products in his own jewellery chain ‘crap’. The reality is that house size is the wrong area of focus. If a house is deemed to be too small then we all have a choice not to buy it and to look for a bigger one - it’s called ‘the market’.
RIBA’s energy, and members’ fee payments, could be better spent re-establishing architects’ reputation in the industry rather than alienating powerful industry people.
They should be spending their time working with the housebuilders to establish a position for architects to add value, and influence the process with the housebuilders rather than confronting them. The fact is the desperate need for new housing stock in this country can only be delivered by a collaborative approach and by housebuilders.
The right way to add value and improve our stock in the industry is not to moan about the housebuilders, but to point to and look at ways in which good design can make the best use of space
The real issue is that homes are not sold on a square footage basis, they are sold according to numbers of bedrooms. A larger three-bed house will sell for no more than a smaller one, so there is no real incentive for developers to build bigger. The bigger one may sell faster, but value and revenue are based on sale price, not necessarily speed of sale.
The right way to add value and improve our stock in the industry is not to moan about the housebuilders, but to point to and look at ways in which good design can make the best use of space, rather than focus on how much space is created.
For instance, look at yacht design as an example - we and others are developing incredibly space-efficient home designs based on yacht interior design.
Well-designed homes have carefully considered integrated storage, efficient plans minimising circulation or corridor space - and maximising useable space for furniture and various room layouts, with well-positioned and proportioned windows orientated well to maximise natural light and views.
That’s what’s known as a constructive solution, and it’s what we should all be focussing upon.
Mark Leeson is a director at McBains Cooper property and construction consultancy