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'Shameful shoe-boxes': Yorkshire's new homes smallest in RIBA survey


New homes in Yorkshire and Humber are the smallest in the country according to new research by the RIBA

The average three bedroom house was 13m² short of the recommended minimum size, based on space standards suggested in a benchmark report by the Greater London Authority (GLA), with a floor area of just 83m² – enough room for an extra double bedroom.

Nationally the research revealed that newly built three bedroom homes were 8m² smaller than the suggested 96m² ‘minimum’ - room for a single bed, bedside table, wardrobe, desk and chair.

Harry Rich, the RIBA’s chief Executive said: ‘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. 

He added: ‘There does not need to be any contradiction between building or refurbishing enough homes and making sure that they are of the highest quality.

The research, which looked at 3,418 three-bedroom homes in England, revealed that new homes in London were on average the largest with a comparatively impressive 119m² of floor space.

Meanwhile developer Crest Nicholson was the meanest of the housebuilders sampled when it came to floor sizes in its new three bedroom homes – on average just 84m² per home. However the Case for Space report found that equivalent houses built by Berkeley boasted 98m² of floor space (see full table below). 

The revelations came as the institute launched its HomeWise campaign aimed at informing homebuyers about ideal layouts and sizes as well as urging housebuilders and estate agents to include proper ‘indicative’  floor plans rather than just the number of rooms.

The institute has also launched an online calculator for homeseekers – The Nest Test – to find out the recommended floor area of any home.     

HousebuilderAverage size of 3 bedroom house
Galliford Try90m²
Taylor Wimpey88m²
Lovell Partnerships85m²
Crest Nicholson84m²


RegionAverage size of three bedroom home
East of England88m²
East Midlands87m²
North East89m²
North West84m²
South East96m²
South West87m²
West Midlands94m²
Yorkshire and the Humber83m²


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

· The floor area of the average new three bedroom home is only 92 per cent 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 88m², the average house is 8m², short of the recommended size (the benchmark for comparison is the London Plan space standards for a 2 storey, three bedroom home big enough for five people).

· The most common new three bedroom home is smaller still at 74m². At only 77 per cent of the recommended size it is missing 22m² and therefore the space equivalent to two double bedrooms and all their contents.

· The average single storey one bedroom home is 46m², which is 93 per cent (4m² 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.




Readers' comments (3)

  • Pedro Silmon

    It isn't only the inside living areas that are shrinking, the outside space allotted to new houses is also far less than in previous decades, when even if your house was a bit cramped you could at least have a wander around the garden.

    Pedro Silmon


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  • Paul McGrath

    The RIBA must believe wholeheartedly in the crudeness of minimum space standards in being so critical of (unimaginative) mass housebuilders.

    Surely the RIBA - if it believes in creative design - should be much more sophisticated in its response to the sledgehammer of minimum space standards.

    Much more work must be done on exactly how space is used in modern living and how this is applied to the cross section of the population.

    A mandatory one-size fits all approach is not the solution to housing choice. The RIBA should be commissioning far better research into space standards. Then any criticism of the mass housebuilders would have some serious weight.

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  • John Kellett

    There are many examples of clever use of minimal space with multi-functioning spaces, micro-flats, caravans and boats etc. However, none of them are 'comfortable' to live in. PassivHaus's 30M3 per person rule of thumb is a sensible one, particularly if one has guests or needs to store a pram. Oh yes, bring back Parker Morris, all is forgiven.
    It would be useful if the AJ could republish "Activities and Spaces" too, my copy is extremely dog-eared!

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