Dezeen Magazine

RIBA report highlights "shameful shoe box homes"

Dezeen Wire:
the Royal Institute of British Architects has released a report stating that house builders are failing to meet minimum space requirements for new homes. The Case for Space report claims that customers are not being provided with necessary information about the size of space they are purchasing. The report is part of the RIBA's HomeWise campaign that demands better information from estate agents and house builders and provides an online resource for house buyers.

See coverage of the report on the BBC, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian.

Here is some more information from the RIBA:

Shameful shoe box homes: new research reveals how thousands of brand new houses are failing to provide the space families need

Business leader Sir John Banham to lead major new inquiry into British homes as the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) launches HomeWise campaign

The average new three bedroom home currently being built by the UK’s top house builders is around 8% smaller than the basic recommended minimum size, leaving thousands of people across the country short-changed. This squeeze on size is depriving thousands of families the space needed for children to do homework, adults to work from home, guests to stay and for members of the household to relax together. The findings feature in Case for Space, new research revealed today by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

The RIBA’s Case for Space report, based on 80 sites across England, exclusively reveals:

  • The floor area of the average new three bedroom home is only 92% of the recommended minimum size – therefore missing the space equivalent to a single bedroom which could comfortably accommodate a single bed, bedside table, wardrobe, desk and chair. With a floor area of 88 square metres, the average house is 8 sqm short of the recommended size (the benchmark for comparison is the London Plan space standards for a 2 storey, 3 bedroom home big enough for 5 people).
  • The most common new three bedroom home is smaller still at 74 square metres. At only 77% of the recommended size it is missing 22 square metres and therefore the space equivalent to two double bedrooms and all their contents.
  • The average single storey one bedroom home is 46 square metres, which is 93% (4 sqm short) of the recommended minimum size – missing out on space equivalent to a single bed, a bedside table and a dressing table with a stool.

The RIBA Case for Space report exposes the lack of transparency existing around the size of UK homes – details are simply not recorded or publicly available. Home buyers repeatedly fail to get detailed information about properties for sale or rent, and are rarely given the overall floor area; consumers can therefore be left confused about the actual amount of space they are purchasing.

The figures exposing the lack of choice and information available to home buyers, have been released today at the launch of a new national housing campaign and inquiry led by the RIBA.

  • The Future Homes Commission, a national inquiry chaired by business leader Sir John Banham will engage with people in their front rooms, town centres and online, to build a comprehensive picture about what people want and need from their homes.

The RIBA’s HomeWise campaign calls for:

  • Consumers to be HomeWise and demand better information from estate agents and house builders so they can choose the most ideal layout, size and design of their new home
  • House builders, providers and estate agents to include the floor area of properties in their marketing material and indicative floor plans with furniture as well as the number of bedrooms
  • Energy performance certificates - including floor area  - to be provided up-front rather than only after contracts have been signed, which is too frequently the case
  • The Government to work with the house building industry to produce an industry-wide voluntary agreement to ensure house builders publish data about the size and quality of new homes.

The HomeWise website also launched today at features a series of online resources to help people to ask the right questions when choosing a home. The resources include The Nest Test – an easy-to-use online calculator that helps home seekers to find out what the floor area of their home should be according to the recommended standards.

Speaking today, Harry Rich, RIBA Chief Executive said:

“Our homes should be places that enhance our lives and well-being.  However, as our new research confirms, thousands of cramped houses - shameful shoe box homes - are being churned out all over the country, depriving households of the space they need to live comfortably and cohesively.

“At a time when the Government, housebuilding industry, economists and housebuyers and renters are concerned about whether we are building enough new homes in the UK, it might seem odd to suggest that the focus should move to thinking about the quality of those homes. And yet this is the very time to do so. In a rush to build quickly and cheaply we risk storing up unnecessary problems for the future. There does not need to be any contradiction between building or refurbishing enough homes and making sure that they are of the highest quality.

“It seems clear that people have too little influence on the design, quality and size of homes available to them. The RIBA’s Homewise Campaign will engage households, architects, builders and policy-makers in a conversation about how to deliver homes to meet or exceed the real needs of our population in the 21st century.  This report is the beginning of the conversation. We hope to ask the right questions and we look forward to working in partnership with consumers, housebuilders, government and many others as we seek the answers.”

Sir John Banham, Chair of the Future Homes Commission said:

“We want to find out from people what they think about their homes and communities where new homes are being built as well as garner intelligence and research from industry about the housing market before making some recommendations about what might happen next.

“It seems clear to me from my recent work in Cornwall, from industry and when looking at local government that there are some fundamental issues that need to be addressed to ensure we have more of the right kind of affordable homes in villages, towns and cities right across Britain. I am convinced that there is no necessary conflict between addressing the current housing crisis effectively and protecting the countryside. But new thinking and financing approaches will be needed, which I hope and expect the Future Homes Commission will be able to provide.”

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said:

“In London we want to see new developments that enrich the capital's architectural vernacular and that will be admired and cherished for decades to come. This is why, despite challenging economic times, we have successfully introduced clear guidance to improve the design standards of new developments to ensure that homes have the space people need to lead happy, fulfilling lives. It is vital that we build more homes to boost the economy, but as RIBA's campaign rightly points out, we must not compromise on quality and design to do so.”


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