Laboratory for Design and Machine Learning

Laboratory for Design and Machine Learning

Housing Standardisation: The Architecture of Regulations and Design Standards

Year 2022-2024

Team Prof Sam Jacoby (Primary Investigator), Dr Alvaro Arancibia (Co-Investigator)

Funder UK Arts and Humanities Research Council

This project will develop a much-needed integrated architectural design research and historical analysis of housing design with the aim of addressing a paucity of housing research in architecture examining the impact of design governance – in particular the influence of housing regulations and design standards – on typical and standardised housing design outcomes. This will create new knowledge on how the interaction of spatial, social, and technical reasoning determines housing design and defines design value and housing quality while taking into consideration the quantifiable and empirical evidence but also the social norms and socio-economic imaginations these are based on. The study is framed by a historical comparison of design governance and housing design in England from the Building Act of 1774 – the first major, consolidated Act of Parliament to standardise housing and its quality – until today and a parallel international comparison of the range of approaches currently in use. Both are necessary to fully understand and analyse the contextual determinants of housing design standardisation and the architecture produced by regulations and design standards. 

To achieve these aims, the main project objectives are to:

1) Identify the historical and current key housing regulations and standards in England – often arising in relation to significant changes in housing policy aims and focus – and analyse how these are influenced by major external political, economic, and social factors such as national events, changing social welfare and public health agendas, or housing commodification.

2) Examine how differences in design governance are underpinned by spatial, technical, and social reasoning and related to research in architecture and the social sciences, analyse underlying drivers such as transforming social norms, technological advances, environmental change, or housing market conditions, and classify related evidence-based approaches to design and assessment of design quality and design value.

3) Analyse how standardised housing design outcomes are informed by typological preferences evident in housing policy and design governance as well as the role of architects in this, using typical case studies of design controls such as standard plans, space standards, design codes, design guidelines, design performance standards, and functional requirements or usability specifications.

4) Compare the different architectural design responses and dwelling plans to the forms and processes of housing standardisation implied by housing regulations and standards as well as social norms, especially in the context of subsidised housing.

5) To compare Objectives 1-4 that focus on England to current typical housing design models in Chile, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and China – which represent the most common design controls in use internationally within different design governance, housing market, and subsidised housing contexts – in order to determine if and what lessons can be learned from them for housing in England. This will:

   5a) Evaluate how housing design outcomes and approaches to regulations and standards are politically, economically, geographically, environmentally, and socially contextual, and which approaches could be adopted in England to better meet changing housing needs.

   5b) Clarify the significant variations in how regulations and standards are determined, assessed, and enforced, and compare this to the differences or similarities in typical design outcomes and design strategies adopted to identify alternative housing models with a potential of improving housing quality and delivery in England.

The changing design of rooms in two-storey houses and maisonettes since the Victorian period.