There are a number of good things coming out of this housing led downturn. One of the most interesting for me is the fact that in most cases land values have fallen to an extent so as to make wholesale demolition and a complete rebuild uneconomic. I have been banging on for years about how the housebuilding and RSL industries on the whole are working on a level way below what we need if we are going to create liveable places that never require wasteful regeneration funding again. The CABE National Housing Audit painted a depressing picture of the quality of our new build and it beggars belief that when we have so many great examples of liveable new build developments on the near continent, and a rich history ourselves of creating great places that stand the test of time, that today Britain continues to built slums of the future.
The well meaning Code for Sustainable Homes is in many cases leading to a tick box mentality, boxes that are easier to tick by building new little “identikit boxes”. But whilst mankind has progressed by being able to talk about and measure its carbon footprint, there is much more to sustainability than CHP, solar panels, and great insulation.
Designers are naturally at the forefront of sustainable thinking and our mantra is to “Take the F out of Refuse”. But coming from a thrifty family where bits of soap bars were melted to make new bar, where newspapers were always used to protect the strawberry plants from frost and every jar and plastic was reused it didn’t take becoming a designer to learn the sense of reusing things.
The same principle of “re-use” should be the first port of call for the housing industry looking to create better homes. From a carbon footprint angle, it’s got to make sense to measure the wastefulness of knocking down and rebuilding. From a liveability point of view the space standards that pre 70’s homes often afforded its residents are a real plus.
It may not be “sexy” for many architects to re-model and “re imagine” tired old housing estates but the British design industry is revered worldwide as being at the forefront of sustainable thinking, one in 5 people taking a degree in the UK are on a creative industries degree and our creative industries are the second biggest driver of the UK economy.
At HemingwayDesign the three most stimulating projects for our design team revolve around being creative with developments that until recently would have been flattened. What is more the residents on the whole are equally enthusiastic about taking the F out of Refuse.
There can be no excuse for not being sustainably creative with retrofitting and refurbishment our existing housing stock.