Static wage inflation, rising rents, stagnating house price growth, and a house building industry propped up by overseas buyers and help to buy along with an onslaught of legislation and taxation on private landlords are not helping us build enough homes to solve the housing crisis. So is volumetric planning the answer?
In the UK .minimum space standards look at the floor area, not the living space. The only way to avoid these .minimum space standards is to depart from the C3 use class which itself in the name itself (C3 - dwelling house) is stuck back in yesteryear and go for use class C1 - hotels, boarding houses, guesthouses. Ordinarily use class C1 is for hotels and the nonsense that you will find is that rather than develop a format that supports compact living or as the name of developer 'packaged living' so nicely describes. The buzz word co-living (where you build in mass and downsize the self-contained space whilst providing community space so people can live outside the home) seems here to stay, it is a solution that is accepted in leading European cities such as Amsterdam and in Asia with Korea and Japan being exemplars.
A developer wanting to provide an alternative modern way of living has to either face a sui genesis application where prospects of town planners getting their heads around it, or having precedents or planning guidance to follow mean a more drawn out application process than normal, or take the easy route and go for C1 which means paying vat on rent and risk potential criticism or planning enforcement if longer stayed proves that the C1 use is actually C3 in disguise.
Could the solution be to consider space in volumetric terms? Innovation and the availability of fixtures and fittings means that smaller spaces can be used so much more interestingly and creatively than ever before.
If for example the traditional 2.4m high unit was increased to 3.7m the init size could easily be reduced from the current space standards minimum of 28sqm to 20sqm. And surely a well designed galleried study over a kitchen and sleeping deck on top of part of the lounge is easier to keep tidy and inviting to visitors than a single studio flat with everything on view.
Author : Mary-Anne Bowring
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