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 outside space -> Woods House Grosvenor Waterside [MAKE / A2D]

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.

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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.

Australian take on lack of sunlight here:- Sunlight Australia.pdf
Please bear in mind that in Australia the sun shines from the North.  A North facing flat will be sunny and a South facing flat will not receive direct sunlight.

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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<

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Overheating

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:-

Overheating in new homes

Understanding Overheating – Where to start

Preventing Overheating

Tackling overheating in UK homes

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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.

Interim_London_Housing_Design_Guide.pdf

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Kitchen, disappearance of -> almost any plan on this blog

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?

http://www.bdonline.co.uk/news/mp-slams-farrell%E2%80%99s-earls-court-scheme/5015980.article

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.

CaseforSpace.pdf

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Storage -> see Bathrooms and toilets, en-suite

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?

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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.

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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.

http://www.bdonline.co.uk/news/architects-attack-riba’s-space-standards-campaign/5024896.article


tangsonghe

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.

[ . . . ]

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/26/new-build-homes-british

rosybeeme

26 October 2012 5:49PM

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).

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/26/new-build-homes-british

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Velux vs Dormer -> Wivenhoe [TW] and Langley Library [A2D]

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.

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Noise -> lifts and stairs -> Alfa Laval

The floor plan below from Alfa Laval has a bedroom adjacent to a double lift shaft.  At Trellick Tower, Erno Goldfinger placed the lifts in an entirely separate tower to avoid problems of  noise transmission and for safety.  I find it difficult to believe that an experienced architect would have designed what I found while looking at Alfa Laval.

It’s got a corridor on one side along with banging door closures, a recycling store on the N side (think glass  and cans) and a double lift shaft bound to a common wall the other side of which is the bedroom.  Noise and vibration are likely to be transmitted from the lifts and counterweights to the bedroom, not to mention noise from the stairs.

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Door openings

When a room is designed to be below a certain size the door is hung to open outwards, such as for a cupboard.  Ensuite bathrooms and toilets are now so small that the door cannot be accommodated inside the room and opens into the bedroom restricting the placing of furniture.  Or alternatively the door may be hung so as to open into a corridor causing clashes and impeding free passage in the corridor.

There was a time when it was considered good practice to hang doors so that they opened so as to preserve the privacy of a room, this idea seems to have been abandoned, which is a great pity, it was a good convention.

On a related note I’ve been told by nurses from a generation ago that they were trained to lay pillows with the open end away from the entrance, for appearances sake.

When I trained as a carpenter in 1976 at the Brick Development Association (now a McDonalds) at Colindale on the Edgeware Road we were taught to fit skirting such that the overlapping piece faced away from the door thus making the joint less visible. 

This was  in the days before all skirting was mitred and when moulded skirting (cut on a spindle) had to be cut to fit its neighbour. To me these small things are important and a symptom of what we have lost as society has progressed, if you can call this progress.

One of the commentators below has written on this subject at:-

When is a door not just a door?

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OLD PAGE: If you are interested in seeing the old page that started this off then it’s here Old Page

11th May 2012

Somebody typed in Retrofit balconies tower block to Google this morning.  If that is what you’re looking for you need to read this article here:-

http://www.designofhomes.co.uk/042-tour-bois-le-pretre.html

10 Responses to “Crap Flats”

  1. Diamond Says:

    I totally see the point you are making about certain new builds…… but there are other possibilities for the single person… council or ex council properties…. depending on renting or buying also good conversions in Victorian properties and of course the new builds that do have vision and space.. they do exist!!

  2. Diamond Says:

    Must just add, have seen the main point you are making is nothing whatever to do with flats for single people as I first thought!! Totally agree with what you mean about single aspect flats, I have looked at a lot of flats recently (nearly 50 in the last year!!)The flats that have moved me the most so far have been the ones that have a living room that has a dual aspect. The view from a flat is very important to me.

  3. Single Aspect Says:

    It’s not essential that the living room has a view both ways, after all the scissor maisonette blocks Aragon / Daubeney / Eddystone / Maydew and Kelsan don’t but they still work well because you have a different view from the bedrooms. It’s a lot to ask to get a dual aspect living room in a single level flat. I think that would be more common in a house or a multi-level apartment.

  4. Sarah Says:

    Just looking at this again; the issue with doors is perhaps understandable if you look at Housing for Varying Needs. All doors must have 300mm from the leading edge, and more in flats for the disabled, to give room to stand, open the door, then walk through. Of course this isn’t strictly necessary in private housing, but it’s a convention I find myself using all the time.
    Doors to bathrooms open outwards because infirm users may have a fall against the door, in which case it would be difficult to open the door and get them out. I know my gran leaves the bathroom door unlocked now, for this very reason.

  5. Single Aspect Says:

    Sarah. With the best of intentions you are presuming far too much of the good will of people like Assael and Taylor Wimpey, to name but two volume house builders. Your comments about door openings come from “Building for Life” no doubt and with the best of intentions also no doubt. However volume house builders who hang doors opening into the corridor in the plans on my blog are doing so because their architects have made the internal bathrooms too small for the door to open inwards. This is an utterly different situation to that which you describe. One situation is admirable, that of building spacious homes for the elderly and infirm, and the other is a disgrace, building modern homes barely fit for human habitation.

  6. Who are Green Issues Communications? | Guy Debord's Cat Says:

    [...] This blogger is very unhappy about A2Dominion and lists a catalogue of failures by the landlord. These are crap flats. There’s more here. [...]

  7. Peter Smith Says:

    I have enjoyed reading the articles and views.
    I was particularly blessed to be able to watch “Where we live now – City of Towers” which I haven’t seen since 19.2.1979. There is an entry on that day in my diary about that evenings programme
    Over the years I have made several recordings of transmissions on tape or DVD which I can copy for you. You may be missing some. they include

    The Sixties-1982 Chan 4 Narrated James Bolam
    Diary of Northern Landscapes 1985 BBC2 written and narrated Patrick Nuttgens
    Building Sites Trellick tower 1990
    Let me know we can discuss over phone no charge etc just happy to help.
    Regards
    Peter

  8. Fumbletrumpet Says:

    Interesting topic(s) for a blog. I wrote my Master’s (Urban Design) dissertation on Single Aspect buildings, mainly because they can be used to ‘wrap’ large, windowless buildings such as retail ‘sheds’ or even cinemas, thus making these building uses better integrated into urban locations (windows and ‘vitality’ – inter-action with the street activity). Of course, by and large, they (sheds) get located in sub-urban type contexts where a blank wall is less of a problem perhaps, but then we’re necessitating car usage etc.
    Single Aspect buildings CAN be made tolerable – it IS possible to naturally ventilate fairly deep rooms – the BRE did a study on it in the 90′s – and 19th C back-to-back houses were often condemned due to poor build quality and sanitary provision rather than poor ventilation. Sure, developer housing is often gimmick-led, but sq. meterage = cost and ‘mean’ dimensions are often a factor of keeping the end result affordable after costly planning wrangles, Section 106 payments, voids provision etc. Developers (esp. the larger ones) have shareholders to keep happy too !
    My own bugbear is the single, centrally located electric light – how un-imaginative and generally inefficient as one ends up shading it from eyes and then struggling to use ceiling reflected light.
    I like your recognition of the ‘privacy doorhang’. I wonder when we changed hinge side ? Until we switched direction we suffered less with the handle bashing the plaster ! I think, however, in my own home, the tendency to leave most of the internal doors open works better with the hinge-to-the wall format.
    Great to read housing design detail debated though. Thank you.

  9. Fumbletrumpet Says:

    I wonder therefore (about door hinge/handle side relative to the room) if the switch came with widespread installation of central heating ? The whole property is at the same ‘heated’ temp, so open doors are less of a problem. Prior to this we liked to close doors to keep what little heat we had, in the room. How does cross-flow ventilation work then ? Perhaps there’s correlation too between a more open, liberated society and a room privacy on door opening revision ? No, only joking on that last point !

  10. Groucho Says:

    I thought the McCarthy & Stone flat my mother moved into, was great, until I had to spend a few days there when she was ill. As you say, no ventilation until the door from the passage was left open. There were times when I could hardly breathe. No balcony. When she died, some other poor sod had it all inflicted on her. What a country. What an attitude to housing.

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