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The Housing Standards Review - Space

Space.  Often a hot topic for new build homes could get a bit hotter. Current space standards in the UK are varied split mainly between London and the rest of the UK, with additional regional requirements being enforced by Local Planning Authorities. We have the Homes and Community Agency’s Housing Quality Indicators (HQIs) which measure unit size and unit layout. But if you’re building in London the Greater London Authority favours higher standards than those set out in the HQIs. This is all based against the argument that England has some of the smallest housing in Europe; countered by the fact that many bedrooms in England aren't used making the floor space per occupant higher than the study suggests.

So do we need national space standards in England for new build housing? Well the Consultation suggests that the Government believes that the industry is performing relatively well in this case and the preference is for transparent space labelling scheme to enable the market to self-regulate  is the best way forward –  homes will be built and sold if they meet the market demand.

The Government also recognises that there are instances where the market cannot regulate and that local communities and neighbourhoods should be able to set out what housing they want and what size they should be. It’s here that the Consultation floats the idea of space standards for discussion, on that basis these standards could be adopted by Local Authorities where justifiable.

The proposed Space standards come in a three tier system, which would be intrinsically linked to Accessibility standards proposed in chapter 1.

Level 1 Space Standard: a basic space standard that allows homeowners to use the minimal amount of furniture necessary. This standard allows the requirements of the Level 1 Accessibility Standard to be met.

Level 2 Space Standard: Same space for furniture and fittings as Level 1, but increased circulation and activity space in the dwelling. Also allows for the additional space implications required by the Level 2 Accessibility Standard.

Level 3 Space Standard: Allows for additional space above level 1 and 2, to charge and store a wheelchair, install a home lift, enlarge the kitchen and bathroom and provide the extra activity space required to meet Level 3 of the accessibility standard.

The consultation makes it clear that the Space standard cannot be applied independently of the accessibility Standard, and that Level 3 can only be applied where Wheelchair accessible housing is needed.

There’s lots of detail in the proposed Space standards, so it’s worth looking over the Technical Standards Document that accompany the Consultation to fully understand what’s required. To give you a feel though, here are the minimum internal floor area requirements for two storey house:

So a two bed dwelling with 3 bed spaces would need to have a total internal floor area of 68 square meters. There are many houses being built currently that would not meet this standard. So this raises many questions:

- Using smaller units to boost housing density may not be possible in the future.

- Increased build costs for larger units.

- Increased site wide CO2 emissions from the use of larger units.

- Will local markets tolerate higher priced larger units or will there be a positive response to more spacious dwellings?

So what do you think? Have a look at the Technical Standards and have your say on the consultation:

Next week we’ll be looking at Part 3 – Security. If you would like to catch up then please see our previous blog on Accessibility.

Jon Ponting

Author: Jon Ponting

This article was published by Jon Ponting on 20.09.2013.