The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is calling for the introduction of minimum space standards for all new homes in England and Wales – a crucial anomaly which sees England and Wales lagging behind the rest of the EU and even Japan. The proposal is a significant element of the RIBA's new housing policy, to be launched today (Wednesday 4 July 2007).
Entitled Better Homes and Neighbourhoods, the RIBA policy also raises concerns that the Government's aim to increase house construction to 200,000 per year is insufficient to meet recent demographic predictions, and that a combination of smarter regulation together with a streamlined planning system that recognises the importance of design quality is vital to future housing success.
The policy says the government should adopt a more flexible approach towards greenbelt land, and states that an attractive public realm should be an integral part of any housing development, with a focus on good landscape design and road and transport layout.
The Institute supports the government's aim of all homes being built to zero-carbon standards by 2016 but highlights the fact that only around 1% of the UK's housing stock is replaced each year and therefore it is vital to tackle the energy efficiency of existing homes through a comprehensive and targeted approach.
Finally, the RIBA recognises the need to improve engagement with housing by practising architects and those entering the profession, committing the Institute to working with other partners - policymakers, developers, fellow construction professionals and the public to achieve its aims.
Speaking about the policy, Jack Pringle, RIBA President, said:
"The RIBA is determined to do what it can to deliver better homes and neighbourhoods by encouraging high design standards. With this policy we're setting out a marker. For too long many architects have been disenfranchised from the housebuilding industry. That cannot continue. As a profession we have the necessary skills, knowledge and passion for producing great homes and neighbourhoods and it's important that the architectural profession takes a lead on housing.
"It's a disgrace, for example, that the average new home sold to people today is significantly smaller than that built in the 1920s. It can't be right for individuals, families or communities to live in matchboxes. We're way behind the rest of Europe – even densely populated Holland has better proportioned houses than are being built in the UK. So let's see minimum space standards for all new homes."
"We want to develop new and constructive partnerships with developers, other construction professions and policy-makers to avoid the mistakes of the past. We're back in the game and ready to do our bit to deliver great homes and places."
Better Homes and Neighbourhoods, the RIBA's housing policy, can be downloaded from www.architecture.com from 4 July 2007.