PRESS RELEASE: Diverse organisations back the first ever National Housing Design Audit

With the drive to deliver more homes across the country has come a loud call for those developments to be of a high standard of design in order to deliver high quality, liveable and sustainable environments for residents. Research has consistently shown that high quality design makes new residential developments more acceptable to local communities.

To measure this, the Place Alliance (UCL) and CPRE, with the support of Home Builders Federation, Urban Design Group, Civic Voice, Academy of Urbanism, Design Council, UK Green Building Council, and Institute for Highways and Transportation have joined forces to support the first ever national housing design audit. The work is also supported by professional input from Arup, JTP, Spawforths and URBED and a network of specially trained volunteers across the country.

Housing design audits represent systematic approaches to assess the design quality of the external residential environment. The new audit will assess at least 100 large-scale developments across England and will provide enough data for comparisons to be made between regions and different approaches to the delivery of new housing.

Using broadly the same methodology as earlier housing design audits conducted between 2004 and 2007 (see notes), the intention is to look back and see how the design of housing developments has changed over the last decade. It will also provide a baseline against which to measure progress on place-making in new housing development going forward.

The audit will be completed in the autumn and will feed into the work of the Government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission.

Sarah James, at Civic Voice said, said, "71% of members agree that, as a country, we need more housing, but that, overwhelmingly, it should not be at the cost of quality and 69% of members state that they would support more housing if it was of a higher quality. We are supporting this audit to get a greater understanding about recent developments, and then hopefully, with the findings, we can support civic societies and communities to make the case for higher quality housing".

UCL’s Professor Matthew Carmona, who is leading the research, said “We know much about the numbers of houses we are delivering nationally, but almost nothing about their quality. This housing design audit represents an ambitious attempt to address that gap and provide a baseline from which to make more informed judgements in the future about the standard of housing design that we should be expecting, both nationally and locally”.

Paul Miner, The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said, “We are pleased to be supporting the first ever national housing design audit. We need to build many more new homes but we should also expect future housing developments to meet high design standards, not just in terms of appearance but also in helping us to move towards a zero carbon economy. We are particularly delighted to see the strong cross-sector support that this important piece of work has received.

Notes for editors

The audit is being conducted by a team at the Bartlett School of Planning, UCL, led by Professor Matthew Carmona. The work is funded by the Place Alliance and Campaign to Protect Rural England.

The last design audits were conducted on a regional basis by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) before it was disbanded in 2011

The design quality of the external residential environment will be measured against seventeen topics:

  1. Community facilities - Does the development provide (or is it close to) community facilities, such as a school, parks, play areas, shops, pubs or cafés?
  2. Housing types - Is there a mix of housing types to meet varied local needs?
  3. Public transport - Does the development have easy access to public transport?
  4. Environmental impact - Does the development have a low environmental impact?
  5. The locality - Is the design specific to the scheme?
  6. Existing and new landscape - Does the scheme exploit existing landscape or topography and create a new bio-diverse landscape?
  7. Character of the development - Does the scheme feel like a place with a distinctive character?
  8. Street legibility - Do the buildings and layout make it easy to find your way around?
  9. Street definition - Are streets defined by a well-structured building layout?
  10. Highway design - Does the building layout take priority over the road, so that highways do not dominate?
  11. Car parking - Is the car parking well integrated and situated, so it supports the street scene?
  12. Pedestrian friendly - Are the streets pedestrian and cycle friendly?
  13. Connectivity within and with the surroundings developments - Does the street layout connect up internally and integrate with existing streets, paths and surrounding development?
  14. Safety and security - Are open spaces, play areas and streets overlooked and do they feel safe?
  15. Public, open and play spaces - Is public, open and play spaces well designed and does it have suitable management arrangements in place?
  16. Architectural quality - Do the buildings exhibit architectural quality?
  17. Storage and bins - Are storage spaces well designed and do they integrate well within the development?