Home Improvements: Improving quality and value in the provision of volume house building through architectural knowledge exchange

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Architectural Studies

Abstract

This project will bring Volume House Builders (represented) by Taylor Wimpey, built environment academia (represented by academics on a North-South axis from Edinburgh, Sheffield and Kingston Universities) and SME architecture practice together on a shared research project - a framework for developing a series of 2-3 other embedded projects - the primary aim of which is improving VHB provision and knowledge exchange across partners. In doing so we will share good practice and model novel forms of engagement across an industry in critical need of innovation.

The built environment is perhaps the most ubiquitous example of the creative economy in modern Britain, yet is generally overlooked and undervalued in this context. The UK construction industry contributes around 10% of UK GDP. The work of the professions that drive it is therefore of vital importance to our society. Their expertise is reflected in a strong global reputation but the market is shrinking (RIBA Building Futures Report, p.39).

In 2007, the Labour government announced a target of building an extra three million homes in England by 2020 to help deal with the growing demand for houses. At the same time it set up the framework to be world class in the delivery of zero-carbon homes by 2016. According to the Calcutt Review of Housebuilding Delivery this would 'stretch' an industry (2007, p.7) not yet ready for these demands. The need for bulk delivery of sustainable housing remains the same, even after a change of government. Local authorities look to housing associations and private sector developers such as the VHBs to help them achieve these demands however the recent recession means that house builders are struggling more than ever to minimize their costs. This is likely to impact on design quality which, as CABE research has indicated was poor, even before the recession (CABE, Space in New Homes, What Residents Think, 2009 ). Our project focuses on improvements to the supply chain. The Calcutt Review has identified the need for VHBs to work with partners with the 'necessary expertise' to make this happen (2007, p.8). This is where architectural SME practice and academia come in.

There is a great deal of, largely unacknowledged, research potential in SMEs in the architectural creative industries, yet these practices are under threat - their traditional market is being taken over by large interdisciplinary conglomerates (RIBA, Building Futures Report, 2010, p.32).The project will provide the necessary support to allow these firms to deploy their creative energy in a wider industry context, to build on their research base and to develop new business models.

Academia has an important role to play in giving SME practices access to cutting edge research. Through the embedded research projects our departments will become a shared resource of both equipment and knowledge where practitioners and academics can exchange knowledge, similar to the MIT's model of 'Fablabs', at the same time providing opportunities for academic researchers to test their ideas in a real world setting.

There are three elements to the project:

- Knowledge Exchange through the Ideas Lab and the 2-3 embedded research projects that emerge from them disseminated through partner networks.
- Innovation resulting from the 2-3 embedded research projects developed by architectural SME practice and academia in partnership with Taylor Wimpey.
- Development of practice based research through the above activities and through the Housing Practice Research Review to be undertaken, in partnership with the RIBA, through which we will be able to identify the current state of practice based housing research. The report from this review will act as a platform for research in this area and as a framework for a Research Practice Guide, the focus of a series of CPD events.

These are the ingredients of a strategy to expand the reach of project and to change the face of VHB housing.

Planned Impact

In the long term (ten years) this pilot project, if developed into a larger centre, has the potential to bring about:

- Improvements to the quality of our built environment, bringing benefits to health, leisure and tourism and a reduction in crime.
- Improvement to the image of the housing industry in Britain, a recognition of its world leading capability in this area and its economic competitiveness at a global scale.
- Improvements to housing policy.
- Improvements in the effectiveness of engagement between VHBs and local authorities.
- New strategies to address education, skills shortages and employment within the housing industry.
- Inform good practice in the provision of new homes.


Much depends on the precise nature of the embedded projects, but our aim overall is to bring about the following benefits:

[1]Volume House Builders (VHBs)

- VHBs will be exposed to the low cost, low risk, potential of novel forms of engagement with architectural SMEs and academia
- The introduction of incremental innovations in VHB activity to refine the shared space of their developments, increase consumer choice and hence competitiveness.
- The introduction of new business models, moving away from the house as consumer item and investment towards house as long term lifestyle choice within a resilient community.
- The project is likely to provide VHBs with additional tools for community engagement.

[2] Taylor Wimpey
- Currently it is difficult to differentiate between the products of the VHBs. It is hoped that this project will enable Taylor Wimpey to develop the distinctiveness of its work based on the research excellence achieved through this project.
- The project will help Taylor Wimpey to improve its current offer and competitiveness.

[4] Architectural SMEs
- Survey the extent and type of housing research currently taking place within architectural SMEs.
- Provide support in developing new funding streams for research.
- Provide sophisticated and specialized skills through CPD activity and academic Fablab facilities to allow SMEs to deliver to the global market place.
- Ally SMEs with larger industry providers, exchanging design and research knowledge for business acumen and modeling novel forms of collaboration.

[5] RIBA
- The project will promote the value of architectural input in new settings.
- It will endorse the RIBA as the leader in architectural research as well education.
- The HRPR will provide a platform of evidence to the RIBA's claims to being a global leader in the field.
- The project will give direction for future developments in architectural education.

[6] Design for Homes
- The project will promote the value of good home design.
- The embedded projects will explore particular areas of concern voiced by Design for Homes during the Ideas Lab process.

[7] Local Councils
- The project will encourage VHBs to give greater consideration of the way that their developments can add to existing communities.
- The embedded projects may address issues of procurement and shared ownership of benefit to local councils who are under pressure to create new homes.
- The project will bring about improvements to design quality and the built environment.

[8] Housing Associations and Charities
- The good practice developed in the course of the project will be transferable to other housing providers.

[9] Home Owners and wider community
- Greater consumer choice achieved through incremental changes to VHB production.
- Improved use of community space within VHB developments is likely to be achieved through recommendations from embedded projects.
- Improved design quality achieved through embedded projects.
- More resilient VHB communities leading to stability in house prices.
- The embedded projects are likely to result in opportunities for greater community engagement and customisation of homes
- Greater cohesion between VHB developments and wider community.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We described with evidence the very limited knowledge economy in architectural practice in the UK. This narrative was augmented with learning from a series of embedded projects which also delivered knowledge on improving parking in housing developments, custom build housing (this influenced current governmental debates in this area) and the use of public realm in Volume House Builder estates.

We also developed a good system for supporting research in practice by utilising the skills of early career investigators.
Exploitation Route This project is being developed through my subsequent project and through the research activities of the project partners.

Flora Samuel, Nishat Awan, Carolyn Butterworth, Sophie Handler, Jo Lintonbon, AHRC Cultural Value of Architecture in Homes and Neighbourhoods Report (July 2014). AHRC website and www.culturalvalueofarchitecture.org

RIBA Home Improvements Report on Housing Research in Practice (publication October 2013) www.architecture.com/research ISBN 978-0-9576914-5-2

RIBA Practice Research Guide (publication October 2013) www.architecture.com/research

RIBA/SCHOSA Report on Architectural Research in Academia. www.architecture.com/research

See also the outputs of the Home Improvements Project:

Motivating Collective Custom Build www.collectivecustombuild.org

Parking Space www.spacetopark.org

Street Primer http://www.kingston.ac.uk/astreetprimer
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Creative Economy,Environment

URL http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/research/readwatchlisten/features/buildingacaseforresearch/
 
Description The project had two elements. The overall project was a report on the state of research in the profession. This impacted on research policy at the Royal Institute of British Architects contributing to a recent strategic motion to put research and innovation at the forefront of the institution. The second part of the project was a call which resulted in three practitioner/academic collaborations. The call and the process had impact in driving research in practice up the agenda of SME practices. The embedded projects themselves each had their own impact. Particularly successful were Parking Space and Motivating Collective Custom Build which had Parliamentary Launches attended by the Minister for Housing and the Secretary of State for Planning respectively. The Minister for housing gave his endorsement to Parking Space, the web site of which is widely used by local authorities and developers. Ash Sakula who were a collaborating practice on Motivating Collective Custom Build were commissioned to design a custom build system by Igloo Carillion https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/carillion-igloo-unveils-designs-for-pioneering-custom-build-scheme/8673238.article Sam Brown the Research Assistant for Motivating Collective Custom Build became a research at the National Custom and Self Build Association where he continues to use his expertise. http://www.nacsba.org.uk/news/author/sam-brown/ Collective Custom Build established networks that led to further work on www.customandselfbuildtoolkit.org, led by NaCSBA with DCLG and funded by the Nationwide Foundation which in turn has led to the establishment of the Right To Build Task Force, again funded by Nationwide Foundation (and by DCLG). That work went to the highest level of government, and all springing from the experiences and insights gained on Collective Custom Build. Brown has presented the project - and shown the film, mentioning its funders - at about 10 events including London, Bristol, Birmingham. The research has also usefully informed study trips that he has organised in practice with community groups, consultants and developers.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Construction,Creative Economy,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description ESRC UK Collaborative Housing Evidence Centre
Amount
Funding ID ES/P008852/1 
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2017 
End 07/2022
 
Description Newton Institutional Links Philippines
Amount £119,667 (GBP)
Funding ID 332241573 
Organisation Newton Fund 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2018 
End 03/2020
 
Description Research Grant http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/newsevents/news/2-2m-awarded-to-tackle-anti-microbial-resistance/
Amount
Funding ID AH/R002053/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2017 
End 11/2018
 
Description Ash Sakula 
Organisation Ash Sakula
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We collaborated with them on Motivating Collective Custom Build
Collaborator Contribution They brought extensive architectural skills to the production of the MCCB embedded project.
Impact In particular the Collective Custom Build website, report and film.
Start Year 2012
 
Description CACHE UK Centre for Collaborative Housing Evidence 
Organisation University of Glasgow
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Samuel is a Co-I, leading the work strand on housing quality and the humanities strand, in this very large consortium project (£6,070,00) with some 30 Co-Is http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk/projects?ref=ES%2FP008852%2F1
Collaborator Contribution Some of the partners were signatories in support of CACHE at the bidding stage and will be involved in its development.
Impact CACHE is in its first year but is responsible for a rolling programme of events and outputs. It is multidisciplinary spanning mainly across economics, planning, sociology, architecture. Particular events that are linked to CEKE Home Improvements include a cross university symposium on housing and cities at the University of Reading in December 2017. I have also presented CACHE in multiple fora including Research Users in Social Housing, Haringay Council.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Design for Homes 
Organisation Design for Homes
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Our outputs were generated to fulfill gaps in knowledge identified by Design for homes
Collaborator Contribution Design For Homes contributed at all stages, in particular in the organisation of the Parliamentary Launches
Impact All outputs, in particular the Space to Park website
Start Year 2012
 
Description Eco-social surveying: Mapping social assets, green infrastructure and the connections between them in rapidly changing cities (Newton Funded) 
Organisation University of Santo Tomas
PI Contribution I am PI on this project which is conducted (with separate funding) in parallel with UST. I lead the project with a project Research Assistant.
Collaborator Contribution Contributors to the project include the Academy of Urbanism and the urban planning practice Barton Wilmore. We will work with UST to develop methods for mapping social value and its relationship to green infrastructure.
Impact None as yet.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Home Improvements 
Organisation RIBA - Royal Institute of British Architects
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Learned Society 
PI Contribution We worked together consistently throughout the project.
Collaborator Contribution The RIBA provided venues, graphic assistance, digital advice and advice on our reports.
Impact All the Home Improvements outputs, in particular the RIBA Home Improvements Report on Research in Housing Practice
Start Year 2012
 
Description Information Design and Architecture in Persuasive Pharmacy Space: combating Anti-Microbial Resistance (IDAPPS) 
Organisation University of Reading
Department School of Pharmacy Reading
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This project led by the Typography department at the University of Reading utilises the innovation competition methodology developed for the Home Improvements project. I lead on this part of the project.
Collaborator Contribution The project has a wide group of collaborators from . We have collectively developed the brief for the innovation competitions which are intended to foster new cross disciplinary collaboration
Impact Outcomes include the brief for the project which was developed as as the result of a briefing workshop. Disciplines include pharmacy, information science, typography and neuroscience as well as the pharmacy chain Day Lewis
Start Year 2017
 
Description Radian 
Organisation Radian Group
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We helped Radian to understand the potential of architectural research in this context.
Collaborator Contribution Jonathan Rickard from Radian Housing attended our Ideas Lab and facilitated the work of the team.
Impact All Home Improvements outputs
Start Year 2012
 
Description Satellite Architects 
Organisation Satellite Architects
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We helped them to see the potential of research in practice and gave them new industry contacts
Collaborator Contribution They helped us with the preparation of the Street Primer
Impact Main contribution was the Street Primer
Start Year 2012
 
Description Taylor Wimpey 
Organisation Taylor Wimpey
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Nick Rogers of Taylor Wimpey was an active collaborator in our Ideas Lab, in assessing proposals and in faciltating the work of the Street Primer group.
Collaborator Contribution We supplied Taylor Wimpey with the Street Primer doc to act as design guidance for their team
Impact Street Primer and other Home Improvements docs
Start Year 2013
 
Description Taylor Wimpey 
Organisation Taylor Wimpey
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Nick Rogers of Taylor Wimpey was an active collaborator in our Ideas Lab, in assessing proposals and in faciltating the work of the Street Primer group.
Collaborator Contribution We supplied Taylor Wimpey with the Street Primer doc to act as design guidance for their team
Impact Street Primer and other Home Improvements docs
Start Year 2013
 
Description Urbed 
Organisation Urbed Urbanism Environment Design
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We facilitated industry contacts, parliamentary launch and research.
Collaborator Contribution They brought their analytical design skills to the production of Space to Park.
Impact Mainly the Space to Park report and website.
Start Year 2013
 
Description AHRC Creative Exchange 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact We were funded by the AHRC to put on an exhibition stand on Home Improvements and to do a workshop on facilitating practice based research.

Together, at the workshop, we developed a strapline for Architectural Practice Research: Make Space for Ideas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Collective Custom Build Berlin Fieldtrip 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 23 Architects and industry experts went to Berlin to see examples of good practice. This event was organised by Ash Sakula Architects

Participants developed in awareness of the potential of Self Build.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Conference Presentation Edinburgh - Sustainable Health Scotland 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Presentation on housing quality and the importance of Post Occupancy Evaluation for ascertaining what works.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Haringary Housing Scrutiny Project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Invited to present evidence to Haringey Council as they developed policy for the development of Public Rented Housing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Home Improvments at Housing Studies Association Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Talk and discussion

Developing new collaborations
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Homes and Communities Agency Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and was followed up by a consultation exercise providing some important data for the project.

The data generated fed into the project report. I was also asked to provide information on the project for DCMS.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Parliamentary Launch: Collective Custom Build 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact Approximately 100 industry experts and parliamentarians, including Nick Boles Planning Minister, attended a panel presentation on promoting self build with speakers including experts from the UK and Europe.

The Planning Minister expressed an interest in this area. One of the Peers in attendance offered to set up a debate in the House of Lords.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Parliamentary Launch: Space to Park 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact Parliamentary Launch of one of our embedded projects 'Space to Park' held at Portcullis House, Westminster Chaired by Lord Carlille with contribution by Housing Minister Kris Hopkins and attended by ministers and industry experts.

Housing Minister Kris Hopkins described the 'Space to Park' report as 'a really important document' saying that the advice should be used in planning decisions by councils.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014
 
Description Research Users in Social Housing presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presented the CACHE Housing Evidence Centre to RUSH to encourage their involvement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017