Housing Placemaking: What is the value of design?

The impact of housing and neighbourhood design quality on wellbeing is achieving increasing recognition (Klienert and Horton, 2016), but there is little evidence to back up these claims in a format that is useful to decision makers (Samuel et al., 2014). The UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE) is seeking to change this with a new strand of research on understanding and evidencing design value.

The need for standardised design guidance and consistent design control across local authorities has been recognised, for example, with a recent consultation document on ‘planning for the right homes in the right places’ (UK Gov, 2017) and, more broadly, in the academic literature on design governance and placemaking (e.g. Carmona 2016; 2017; White 2015).

Currently, decision makers suffer from an absence of coherent evidence to enable built environment professionals in the public and the private sector to make decisions about new housing and neighbourhoods on anything other than economic grounds (Fujiwara, 2014). This is not surprising when Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) – revisiting buildings and neighbourhoods to see how well they work – is extremely rare (Hay et al., 2017). It is also problematic considering the potential positive effects of good urban design on the everyday life of the citizens, which goes well beyond purely economic concerns.

We believe that we can contribute to our contemporary understanding of the role of design in place-making and housing practice by developing a shared working definition of design value. To do this we will consider the extant literature and produce of an evidence base for understanding the value of design. We also anticipate that producing such an evidence base might have the potential to contribute to the development of more consistent design control in policy and practice.

To this end, the research project will examine existing evidence on what is known about design value from an interdisciplinary perspective. We will, in particular, investigate:

  • existing definitions of design value,
  • different methodologies for defining design value,
  • the value of design in relation to housing and neighbourhoods, and
  • the contribution of good urban design to users’ experience of urban space.

The outcome of our research will be series of recommendations for further focused research on design value and its evaluation in practice, as well as the best format for presenting advice on design. This will be presented in the form of a written evidence review.

If you’d like to learn more about our aims and objectives, to be kept informed, or to engage with the project team, please email

Prof Flora Samuel (University of Reading), Dr James White (University of Glasgow), and Tom Kenny (RTPI) are Co-Investigators with CaCHE; Dr Bilge Serin is a Research Associate with CaCHE; Dr Chris Foye is a Knowledge Exchange Associate with CaCHE

Authors: Dr Bilge Serin, Dr James White, Tom Kenny, Prof Flora Samuel and Dr Chris Foye
Published: 22/03/18


Date: March 22, 2018 2:03 pm

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