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 05-07 March 2019 / ExCeL, London

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02 Oct 2018

The Future Of… Housing Development

Ben Derbyshire, RIBA President

Our ‘The Future Of…’ blog series sets a clear challenge, to identify the biggest issues and opportunities facing the built environment through the eyes of our visitors. These industry leaders offer a unique insight into their respective sectors, highlighting the need for innovation and creativity to solve problems. In this blog, RIBA President, Ben Derbyshire explains how housebuilders can rise to this challenge:

The Preface of The London Suburb, by Andrew Saint, states that "At their best, London’s suburbs are a conscious exercise in romantic placemaking, embracing some of the finest and most evocative architecture of their times. The architectural originality of the early garden suburbs such as Bedford Park and Hampstead Garden Suburb have long been applauded as being amongst England’s finest contributions to the art of town planning.“

The RIBA is working with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government on the question of improving housing design quality.  There are of course two aspects to this; the developments that Government can control directly because they have a stake as land-owners or funders, and then all the rest – by far the greater proportion.

While things may be improving in some metropolitan areas - increasingly equipped with design standards, review panels and powers of Mayoral call-in - in most suburban and rural districts, there are few tools capable of influencing the speculative homebuilder.

In a seller’s market, and with a planning system almost completely devoid of the resources required at local level to create the masterplans and design codes, or to set up joint ventures capable of inculcating development with design values, the development control system is hopelessly ill-equipped to hold back the tide of poor-quality housebuilding.

So the endlessly undifferentiated carpet of standard product that everyone, including now the Prime Minister, abhors, is rolled out across the nation, more or less unchecked.  No use blaming the housebuilders for this.  Their job is to satisfy their shareholders.  If we want something else, we have to do something about it and this is where Futurebuild can play a vital role in creating a showcase for innovation.

When I visited James Brokenshire in Westminster recently, he endorsed the Government’s desire to see improved design quality. I took the opportunity to invite him to come with me  to visit some of the very high-quality housing schemes that have been designed by RIBA award winners, as it might be helpful if we were able to suggest to him what good looks like.

So we may have an opportunity at Futurebuild to articulate the characteristics of ‘place’ that might lead us to a more attractive alternative to the retail land model that enables an endless sequence of identically profitable transactions that drives the ‘box bashing’ model. If Government is in the mood for some interventionist disruptions of this seemingly inexorable process, we would need to specify what we want to see, how the public are to be involved with the process, and the planning and design standards to be met.

The RIBA will be publishing its housing policy paper shortly. 

To find out more about exhibiting in the Futurebuild Hubs click here. 
 

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