COMMENT | Architects must create more living space

PrideRoad Lisa RaynesThe average three-bedroom new build house is now only slightly bigger than a Metrolink tram carriage and UK families are feeling the squeeze, writes Lisa Raynes of Pride Road Architects.

Space, and the lack of it, is an issue that is rapidly moving up the UK’s economic and housing agenda.

The government needs to create more space in the form of new homes – 250,000 every year. With only 190,000 built in 2016, we’re already falling behind a target of one million by 2020.

The recent Housing White Paper, announced in early February, declared that the housing market is “broken”. The housing crisis resolutely remains.

Addressing the House of Commons, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said: “There’s no one single magic bullet that can fix the problem. Rather, we need action on many fronts simultaneously.” And here is where the residential extension can do its bit.

By embracing their potential, architects can deliver beauty, brains and budget-busting builds to help give our nation what it needs: living space.

Property advisor JLL recently predicted that house prices in the North West will rise by 18.1% in the next five years. In Manchester that rockets to 28.2%. As high demand and low supply continue to be an issue – the city needs 3,300 new homes each year – the prospect of moving is becoming less appealing.

Homeowners looking for an alternative can create a “new” home by extending and remodelling. As well as adding extra rooms and value, they can easily incorporate smart tech, sustainable materials and more natural light.

At Pride Road, we focus exclusively on designing domestic projects. We’ve worked with many space-stretched clients who choose to extend rather than move. “We’ll never have to move again” is the reaction we work for – an endorsement that we’ve helped create a home with plenty of space.

Economically, the sense in extending is even stronger. Research carried out by Nationwide in 2016 showed that an extension can add 22% to the value of a home, an average of £42,700.

Environmentally, the land is typically brownfield or privately owned Green Belt and architecturally, extensions are finally beginning to hit the limelight. An extension to the House of Trace, an end terrace in south London, made the long list of the RIBA’s House of the Year in 2016 among a bevy of new builds.

Creating living space from the footprint of an existing plot is often easier with an older home, as the majority have the luxury of surrounding space on which to extend.

The RIBA’s Future Housing Design Trends survey in 2015 revealed that 55% of respondents within the architecture industry say extensions are getting bigger. Demand for accessible and adaptable design is also increasing to tackle the issue of an ageing population. Extensions to much-loved family properties can allow the older generation to move in with relatives or vice versa.

New builds can fall into the shoebox category, with smaller gardens, shared parking and no garages. Potential to extend these properties in the future is more limited and will demand even more creative thinking.

According to RIBA research, the average size of a three-bedroom new build house is now 957 sq ft. This figure drops to 940 sq ft in the North West, 61 sq ft less than the government’s optional guidelines. The Housing White Paper says that they will “review” these space standards but there’s no promise of new regulations.

Even if these hundreds of thousands of new homes are built, will the nation want to live in them? Are we looking at a future housing crisis of a different sort? How will the UK population fit their lives and personalities into these identikit homes?

New builds also use up that precious commodity: land. Developers are now being encouraged to avoid low density schemes where land availability is limited, building upwards rather than outwards. Again, extensions solve this problem by cancelling out the need to land-hunt a scarce brownfield site.

We need to spread the word that extending is a cost-effective and viable option for homeowners and we need to keep producing imaginative, functional designs to transform the UK’s housing stock.

If joining the residential revolution appeals to you, Pride Road is establishing a network of sole practitioner practices across the North of England.Pride Road Logo

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