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The Future of Housebuilding – New Exhibition

With the UK in the midst of a housing crisis, the future of housebuilding has inspired debates and talks, and is one of the key issues to be addressed in the general election. Now it is even the subject of a Royal Academy of Arts exhibition that challenges old assumptions and presents profound new ideas on the subject of housing.

Entitled ‘Four Visions for the Future of Housing’, the exhibition will run until May 17, 2015 at Burlington House in London. Four different architects / firms proposed provocative and intriguing ideas for solving the housing crisis.

Mæ Architects: 117,000 new houses were built in the UK in 2014, most of them completed by one of the top ten housebuilding companies. But nearly double that amount is needed. My House 2015, the solution created by Alex Ely’s Mæ Architects, demonstrates that custom builders can play an important role in combating the housing shortage. In Europe an average of 45% of new houses are custom-built: if the UK goes the same route, this type of customer-driven production could make a difference.

Dallas Pierce Quintero: In a layout entitled Rooftop Living, Dallas Pierce Quintero depicted not one but nine options that represent the various stages of housing aspiration. Some will appeal to people who value low cost and flexibility, while others will suit those concerned more with security and stability.

5th Studio: In The future of Harwich, 5th Studio suggested a model similar to the one in Holland, where the state enables housing development by obtaining land, parcelling up sites for developers, and in general sharing costs, profits, and risks. This approach could put forgotten tracts of land throughout the UK to good use.

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Sarah Wigglesworth Architects: Working with the DWELL project at the University of Sheffield, Sarah Wigglesworth Architects created Simple Smart House to examine ways that older people might be enticed to ‘down-size’ from larger homes to apartment buildings with access to balconies and / or roof terraces, making their former dwelling sites available for property development.

Beyond the exhibit hall, the potential solutions continue to be presented and proposed. Heijmans, a Dutch construction company, manufactures temporary two-storey dwellings that can be built in a day, solving the dual problem of good rental houses and desolate-looking vacant lots. More recently, straw homes have become commercially available, which can reduce building costs and encourage more properties to be built.

If they engage in constructive dialogue, the general public and policy-makers can resolve where and how the growing demand for new homes is better met. Emerging technologies and exhibitions such as ‘Four Visions for the Future of Housing’ will stimulate the discussions that the UK needs to find the best solutions.


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