Understanding the processes for designing and delivering new homes

Following the publication of the report, ‘A housing design audit for England’, led Professor Matthew Carmona from The Bartlett School of Planning, UCL and Chair of the Place Alliance, which surveys new housing schemes across the country, CaCHE Co-Investigator and theme lead, Professor Flora Samuel, highlights current CaCHE research which will provide a rich understanding of the processes involved in designing and delivering homes across the UK.

A housing design audit for England, led by Professor Matthew Carmona at UCL, has estimated that three-quarters of new housing development in England is of ‘mediocre’ or ‘poor’ design quality and that one in five should not have been refused planning permission. Findings like these show why we must have a clear and holistic understanding of the processes through which new housing is designed and delivered. This is the current goal of the Place team at the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE), which is currently finishing up in-depth fieldwork that directly addresses this question across all four of the nations in the UK.

Our research is exploring the pathways for delivering design value in new housing across the supply chain, from the land market and land use policy-making right through to completion. The research includes interviews with a whole host of different professionals and stakeholders who play a role in design. We view ‘Design Value’ as being about the creation of holistic value – homes, places and neighbourhoods that work together sustainably. As with the Housing Design Audit, the project focuses on ‘typical’ new build developments which are representative of the majority of housing being built in the UK.

However, where the audit focuses on the assessment of design outcomes, our research will provide a rich understanding of the material conditions, policy, people, and decisions that lead to those outcomes. Guided by in-depth case studies across the UK, we hope this will help us understand the structural barriers to good design as well as recommendations on how to facilitate better-designed homes and neighbourhoods.

Delivering Design Value has two parts:

  • A contextual review that draws from key informant interviews and a review of existing literature focusing on issues impacting upon the delivery of well-designed houses and neighbourhood (including the land assembly and procurement process as well as the oft-discussed planning process) which will guide the subsequent fieldwork.
  • Case studies of 5 local authorities, with two detailed case studies of housing developments in each. These will be based on (1) desk research of all relevant documents associated with the developments, and (2) in-depth interviews with people linked to the ‘golden thread’ of design value at every stage in the development as well as (3) a visual record of the projects as built.

It will identify the key points at which decisions about design are made in typical new build housing and what factors impact these decisions. Accordingly, we hope to be able to offer solutions to embedding design value which can have a broad impact in the current context and to identify fundamental barriers which require structural changes if appropriate.

The Delivering Design Value report will be published in July 2020.

If you would like to learn more about our work in this area, please get in touch.

Professor Flora Samuel is a Co-Investigator and Place theme lead for the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence.


Date: January 20, 2020 3:23 pm


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