- Single aspect flats
- Outside space, little or none
- Sunlight, no direct
- Ventilation, poor or inadequate
- Kitchen, lack of separate
- Ceiling height, low
- Storage, inadequate
- Internal rooms, bathroom and kitchen as
- Ensuites, gratuitous
- Velux vs Dormer
- Noise, lifts and stairs proximity
- Doors, direction of opening
Single aspect dwellings -> Single aspect flats
They are little better than back to back houses which were made illegal in the Housing Act of 1909. It’s true that you can ventilate them if you leave the entrance door
open, but it would be preferable to open windows on opposite sides of the dwelling to create a through draught.
No private amenity space be it balcony, terrace or garden. The same applies to many tower block flats and other types of city flat. The difference is I think, and it’s an important one, that those flats are often large and dual aspect. Their residents are not seeking outside space as an escape from poor quality dwellings. The unfortunate residents of a small and poorly lit single aspect apartment most certainly are.
A notable feature of Cook’s Camden is that many of these estates were built with outside space included. As a result of the terracing of so many (Branch Hill / Alexandra Road / Dartmouth Park Road) a balcony is provided for every flat.
Sunlight -> lack of -> Academy Central – Assael / Taylor Wimpey
North facing single aspect flats such as those
at Academy Central in Longbridge Road, Barking receive next to no direct sunlight whatsoever. Sunlight is recognised as an essential ingredient of a healthy existence both physically and mentally, look at the suicide rates and alcoholism in Scandinavian countries.Yet here as one example we have Assael and Taylor Wimpey putting people in little boxes off corridors in a former college without taking the trouble to ensure that one side of the dwelling faces the sun.
Ventilation -> lack of -> Alfa Laval
A single aspect dwelling without forced ventilation is likely to suffer from food smells and to be unhygienic. There is a growing trend to build multi-storey single aspect dwellings that only face one way, they have no back door, the air will not change by way of a through draught.
This is bad for the building and bad for the people inside. We as a society are allowing houses to be built that may well come to be regarded as a hazard to public health but these can be stopped if only the planners will stop passing them for building.
6/5/2011: This from Inside Housing >Room to breathe<
Overheating in single aspect flats/houses (from the Save Hove blog by Valerie Paynter)
House builders today increasingly cram flats into buildings so they are single-aspect only. Any prevailing wind direction that might help with ventilation is denied to them. Cross ventilation requires two windows/doors and not both facing the same way! This can result in harmful overheating . . . read on
Overheating is directly linked to lack of efficient ventilation as described above. The articles linked below describe the present situation:-
Low ceilings – the LHDG specifies:-
5.4 Floor to Ceiling Heights
5.4.1 The minimum floor to ceiling height in habitable rooms is 2.5m between finished floor level and finished ceiling level. A minimum floor to ceiling height of 2.6m in habitable rooms is considered desirable and taller ceiling heights are encouraged in ground floor dwellings.
In almost every new development whose floor plans it has been my displeasure to view, the kitchen has been replaced by a few units in a corner or a line along the dark wall of the living room. The appearance of the kitchen – living room – diner as a replacement for the traditional kitchen / dining room is a depressing and unwelcome trend.
anon | 1 April 2011 3:36 pm
Well don’t include the estates in the masterplan then, current older council estates probably have better space design than any new developer led design. Just take a look at the Factory Quarter in H and F for poor developer led design.
All the shared ownership units have the kitchens in the rear of the living room and are so dark that in order to use the kitchen you need the lights on no matter what time of day it is. How is this sustainable or pleasant. They have sold all the upper level units to investors in the Far East leaving the worst ones to sell in the UK so we have a shortage here and they are still selling the units outside the country? Is Hammersmith and Fulham going to prevent this or has it already happened on this site?
It has arrived so far unchallenged by the regulators but is going to be hard to reverse because each dwelling no longer has the space required to reinstate the kitchen. What is ridiculous is that the same flat will often contain a bathroom for each occupant thus taking away the space that could and should have been the kitchen.
This from the RIBA and their excellent Case for Space publication:-
8 sqm is the single bedroom you’re missing. It’s the space for a new arrival to the family, the space that means the kids have a room of their own or a spare room for a guest to stay over. It’s the space that could take the kitchen out of the lounge and the sounds and smells that go with it.
In the days of Parker Morris standards between 1961 – 1980, it was possible to find space in a house to store domestic articles not in use such as the bucket, ironing board, vacuum cleaner, cleaning fluids, spare toilet rolls, stepladder, boots, shoes, and what have you.
Now, in newly built houses and flats, it isn’t. This is because what was the space for cupboards is now taken up with gratuitous ensuites. What’s wrong with sharing a bathroom? Are we all so selfish and impatient now?
Bathrooms and toilets, internal -> see The Scissor Maisonette
In modern flats I detest these things because they are a lazy way of designing sanitation into a dwelling while not providing daylight. Most often the flat is single aspect but I’ve seen them used in a modern house in Cambridge (Cavendish Place) where the usual excess of ensuites existed and the architect didn’t want to “waste” an outside wall putting a bathroom against it.
The one exception I’m prepared to make is the scissor maisonette which makes up for this by the light flooding in to the living room, kitchen and bedrooms owing to the dual aspect and the large windows. The whole nature of living inside the dwelling is so enhanced by the design that on this occasion a compromise is worth accepting.
Bathrooms and toilets, en-suite -> see storage
It started with the master bedroom in a family household. I presume that the parents wanted access to a shower and toilet when the bathroom was occupied and so was born the en-suite. Then the developers picked up on it and now it’s difficult to find a newly built flat that doesn’t have an en-suite in the larger bedroom even when there’s a perfectly serviceable bathroom next door, even in a two bedroom flat. I think I’ve found out why, click the image below.
Genesis homes think you should have a bathroom each
This takes much needed space out of the bedroom and is entirely unnecessary. In a new flat with absolutely no storage space, the en-suite unit takes up space that could have been better used for cupboards and a wall around the increasingly non-existent kitchen.
Alun Nicholas | 21 September 2011 11:47 am
The simple fact is once you remove the unnecessary sales gimics of separate utility, ensuite, conservatory etc, small can be far more than adequate, not for family life or even long term living, but as that first step onto the property ladder…
Barry Reid | 21 September 2011 11:56 am
Right on the money, Alun Nicholas. The builders shoe horning en-suites into previously adequate housetypes while keeping the GIA the same has exacerbated the problem massively over recent years.
26 October 2012 5:46PM
[ . . . ]
The craziest thing in my opinion is that these places always have two bathrooms. 70 m2 and two bathrooms? If I lived in such a poky box, an en suite would be the last thing on my mind.
[ . . . ]
26 October 2012 5:49PMResponse to 4ngela, 26 October 2012 5:13PM
I entirely agree about the daft inclusion of an ensuite bathroom in small flats. A few years ago I was considering buying a new build off plan. The bathroom was accessible to both bedrooms and there was an additional separate toilet.
I asked the developer if the ensuite could be removed to allow more space for storage in the main bedroom. He thought I was mad and told me that he had to stick to the original plan or he would breach his planning permission but that once installed he could come and take it out again!
The ensuite is a silly bit of marketing appealing to snob value. Great if you can afford a home big enough for one without compromising space elsewhere but otherwise it’s ridiculous, especially if you live on your own or as a couple (I can see the point for those with families).
I’ve had to reconsider my objection to two bathroom dwellings in view of two comments in recent years, the first from Alison Redmond under my [edited] Kidbrooke Village Phase One article
there is a change in trend now that as people can’t afford 1 bed flats, they purchase a 2 bed with friends, or to rent out the spare room. As such 2 bathrooms are now required as standard. This explains the en-suite. – Alison Redmond
and another, more recently from an architect in, I presume Denmark possibly Copenhagen judging by his comments in an exchance of emails, who makes pretty much the same point as Alison.
The two bathrooms (and perhaps no separate living room) designs make the flats easier to rent out to two separate people, which may give a better income than renting it to a single person/family. Wrong priority in my opinion. – Nikolas Andersen
So there you have it. I’ve learned something. That’s the problem with being an observer only and not living among Generation Y or designing flats but I listen and I’m glad people write to me so thank you both.
Velux windows are becoming increasingly common where developers have sought to make maximum use of internal space by building flats into what once would simply have been the attic. They will be noisy when it rains or hails and allow direct sunlight to heat the room in a way that a dormer would not.
A dormer window is the preferred option in this situation because it enables a view directly outside, and down, which a Velux window does not.
The link above for Langley Library takes you to a floor plan showing Bedroom 1 with a Velux window only to provide illumination, with no view out. This is evident from the front elevation where I have circled the offending skylight of Bedroom 1.
Noise -> lifts and stairs -> Alfa Laval