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Preventing the 8 problems that plague new housing developments

Preventing the 8 problems that plague new housing developments

Urban design expert and BFL co-author Stefan Kruczkowski wrote an article in yesterday's Guardian on the eight problems that plague new housing developments. This post explains how the Building For Life criteria were designed to prevent those problems and create better neighbourhoods.

  • Problem 1 - Homes that all look the same

Section 5 of the Building For Life questions ascertain whether a new development has distinctive character and design quality. To achieve this, experts analyse, in depth, the materials, finishes, building styles and landscaping details proposed for use on a site, and compare how they look in the context of neighbouring structures and inspirational precedents. Housebuilders are encouraged to work with the site's individual topography and surroundings, and to divide larger developments into zones of distinctive character. As a result,  the new homes fit into their site and yet retain a distinctive sense of individuality.

  • Problem 2 - Bin blight

BFL assessors check where bins and recycling containers are stored on developments in Section 12, and compare their configuration and capacity to local authority policies and collection practices. There is nothing worse than overflowing garbage bins obstructing your home's driveway or garden.

  • Problem 3 - Houses all facing different directions

Sections 7 and 9 ensure that facades remain interesting with windows that actively and protectively overlook the streets and communal spaces, while Sections 1-3 ensure that the street network is legible and porous enough to maintain good connectivity to destinations within and beyond the neighbourhood. Often, this is best achieved through a grid rather than cul-de-sac layout.

  • Problem 4 - Roads that encourage speeding

Homebuilders are encouraged to create streetscapes that encourage safe vehicle speeds through prompts on the design of buildings, curtilages, pavements and the kerb in Section 9. As a result, streets become safer for children and the elderly, and friendlier places to greet neighbours, unload groceries, or walk pets.

  • Problem 5 - Streets that discourage walking and cycling

BFL criteria in sections 1, 3, 5, 8 and 9 ensure that developments have multiple entrances, paths and through routes, and encourage quality planting and landscaping, path lighting, way-finding and street furniture. Keeping distances short and routes inviting encourages an active lifestyle and keeps amenities feeling close at hand.

  • Problem 6 - Neglected communal gardens

We ask who manages communal spaces, and ensure that they are well positioned within the development and usable by most people without creating nuisance. Additional questions on boundary treatments between public and private spaces ensure that residents can feel a sense of ownership and security in such places and therefore remain willing to invest time and attention into nurturing and looking after them.

  • Problem 7 - Inappropriate car parking

Research shows that 63% of neighbours in England have fought over car parking. Section 10 verifies the appropriateness of the development's parking ratio, including visitor and second car provisions.  A common problem is caused by replicating the Poundbury model of rear parking courts but forgetting that Poundbury also used highway widths of 7.1m to enable residents and visitors to parallel park neatly in front of homes, while letting vehicles of almost any size to pass without any issue. Few new-builds have highways this wide and those that use narrow 4.5m or 5.1m treatments invariably force people to park two wheels on the pavement to avoid blocking the carriageway. BFL also seeks better landscaping treatment of parking spaces to prevent cars from dominating the street scene.

  • Problem 8 - Soulless streets without trees or flowers

BFL analyses landscape plans to ensure existing vegetation is retained or sensitively treated, and that new growth softens the hardscaping and produces feasibly maintainable spaces full of character.

Without due consideration, these problems decrease a home and community's liveability as well as its long-term sustainability, market value and ease of maintenance. However, the Building For Life accreditation process creates a supportive consultation framework to enable potential issues to be resolved at the early stages of development planning, and a straightforward indicator of residential quality and happiness. As a result, Built For Life certified developments can avoid these 8 problems, and instead retain all the signs of a good place to live. 

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