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Space standards adopted in radical shake-up for homes


The long-awaited national space standards, dubbed the ‘biggest change in housing standards in a generation’, have been given the go-ahead

The space standards which are intended to streamline technical requirements into a single housing standard, as championed by The AJ’s More Homes Better Homes Campaign, were given Royal Assent on Friday (27 March).

The introduction of the first national space standard will see the rest of the UK adopting similar standards to those already in place in London.

The new rules apply to every new home, from one-off houses to the entire private-rental sector, and enforce a minimum size dependant on the number of bedrooms and occupants (see table below).

The standards are similar to those recommended by the expert ‘challenge panel’ headed up by PRP Architects’ Andy von Bradsky, and have not changed since the draft gross internal areas were released after a public consultation in October last year despite initial concerns that the standards could still be too small.

Requirements contained within the standards

Minimum gross internal floor areas:

  Minimum area (m2)
Number of bedroomsNumber of peopleOne-storey dwellingsTwo-storey dwellingsThree-storey dwellings
  • Two-bedroom homes must have at least one double bedroom
  • Single bedrooms should have a minimum floor area of 7.5m2
  • A double bedroom should have minimum floor area of 11.5m2
  • Areas with less than 1.5m headroom will not be counted in the gross internal area unless used solely for storage
  • Minimum floor to ceiling height is 2.3m

The government has also failed to make changes to a ‘loophole’ which would allow local councils to opt-out of the standards. The requirements can only be applied where there is a local plan in place and where the viability of the development would not be compromised by adopting the standards. This optional element initially prompted concern that the changes would not be taken up.

Communities minister Stephen Williams, said: ‘Under the old system of housing standards, builders faced a confusing and contradictory mass of measures.

‘The coalition government is introducing a simple, easy to understand set of requirements. These will help housebuilders and councils to work together to build more of the high quality and sustainable homes for people right across the country.’

Communities secretary Eric Pickles, added: ‘This rationalises the many differing existing standards into a simpler, streamlined system which will reduce burdens and help bring forward much needed new homes.’


Readers' comments (20)

  • Chris Roche

    A fantastic achievement - congratulations and well done to all those involved in bringing about this much needed change.
    Chris Roche / 11.04

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  • These standards are nearly identical to the Scottish buildings standards that were in force during the sixties and seventies

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  • This is the worst concept ever. What architects should be promoting is good design not minimum space standards. Any good architect should be capable of designing a 35sqm dwelling for 2 people. What is the point of 50sqm? Houses and apartments are already too expensive and dwellings are sold by the sq.ft. 50sqm / 540 sqft at £800 (current average Balham / Highbury prices) is £432,000. Anyone can make a 1 bed flat with 50sqm work, with clever design this can easily be reduced to 35 sqm by just eliminating a corridor. This would bring prices down to £301,000. Why should we be FORCED by these space standards to pay an additional £131,000 for a corridor? In addition mortgage companies typically charge 4x the purchase amount meaning the corridor you have been FORCED to purchase will have cost you £524,000 over 25 years. Lets promote good design, Alec Issigonis radically changed car design with the Mini and architects should be doing the same. We have limited space and resources and the minimum space standards are a step backwards towards the gas guzzling American V8 cars, not forwards.

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  • 'The government has also failed to make changes to a ‘loophole’ which would allow local councils to opt-out of the standards.'

    So I suspect no real change at all then. How many Local Authorities will actually enforce these optional standards in place of their own existing requirements or against arguments that they make schemes unviable?

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  • Q1 will the new space standards to enhance flexibility in the plans of house builders? I doubt it, probably lead to even more utterly boring developments..
    Q2 what we need is less housebuilding and more apartments. Apartments are arguably better at employing flexibility, so that over time the buildings can accommodate more people.
    Q3 Apartments can be built taller - say 5 stories - and have a roof terrace for the benefit of the occupants of the flats.
    etc etc etc.

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  • 1. Are we to understand that there will be no stndards required for Flats?
    2. Are the providers of the standards not aware of the benefit of apartments in respect numbers of people housed?
    3. And of the consequent reduction in road traffic and and health of the occupants?
    4. And that the flats/apartments can well be built to 5 stories which will allow of flexibiliy in the layout of apartments.
    5 and that the roofs will become gardens for the pleasure of all the apartment dwellers. Simon Norris RIBA

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  • Imagine if we combine good design with plenty of space.
    I doubt there are many who buy a car the size of a mini that don't then move to something bigger, unless they already have something bigger and its a second car. Nobody I know has ever happily reduced the size of their car.

    Small houses and apartments (and cars) are generally ok for certain situations and periods of peoples lives, but generally, most people want a house, with a bit of private garden, and plenty of space.

    I have lived in houses and apartments and for quality of life and contentment the house wins every time. As indeed I suspect it does for most people. Perhaps as Architects we should be mindful of our past of telling other people how they should live their lives. It is not our place to do so.

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  • Industry Professional

    Well written Ian.
    Not one respondent refers to children in their response. Whilst internal space standards are important so is private (and public) outside space for growing playing children. Apartments / flats are not places for growing children either for themselves, their parents or their neighbours.
    Will the 7.5sqm standard stop estate agents from referring to large cupboards as bedrooms ?

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  • These standards are very welcome for dwellings designed for permanent, long term occupation. But this one size fits all approach does not address the needs of those who are looking for something different - for shorter or flexible occupation terms or for a way to transition into long term housing.

    The UK needs to diversify the design and supply of housing types and develop products that are better suited to specific lifestyles, demographics or occupation timescales e.g. early working career or downsize housing that is location and shared amenities, not just size, sensitive.

    This new type of housing will be smaller, smarter and more community focused. It will be for those that do not require, or cannot afford, the familiar solutions that will come out of these new space standards.

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  • The viability loophole renders this pretty much ineffective; all medium/high density development will be unviable if the land is purchased on the basis of current non-standards, as land value is always calculated as a fraction of the gross development value. Large developers will already have years' worth of land banks, the development of which will be unviable for this reason. This means, for the first 5 years or so of the regulation being in place, a precedent will be set of non-compliance. Councils will become fatigued (if they've even adopted the policy), and newer developments will easily argue unviability.

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