The motivations, possibilities and constrains of flexible housing practices in the UK and Turkey
Abo Kanon, Husam
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Housing has, in different contexts, become a volatile issue under the pressure of different forces of change such as social, economic and cultural pressures that influence households’ needs in their dwellings, and if it is not able to respond to these changes this would actually reduce the useful life of the buildings. This research seeks to highlight the concept of “flexible housing” to reveal its importance in producing creative options that can accommodate households’ changing needs in their dwellings over time. This is a particularly important consideration with regard to developing countries such as Syria, that are witnessing a widespread transformation of their housing stock, given the rapid process of change, economic, social, cultural, etc., which has marked the last decade. The research is concerned with flexible housing practices in two different countries: the UK as a developed country that has different flexible housing practices and a policy and regulatory environment that is more relevant to flexible housing provision, and Turkey as a developing country in the Middle East region with some flexible housing experience, but with a policy context relating less to flexible housing. This research aims to discover the motivations, possibilities and constraints of different flexible housing design approaches and how the policy and regulatory environment may affect practice, which could provide lessons on policy and practice for further application of flexible housing indifferent contexts, including Syria. The research first examined the national planning policy in both UK contexts, England and Scotland, to discover how the policy context at strategic level could potentially underpin the provision of flexible housing; second, it examined the national housing standards to assess the extent to which the regulatory environment promotes flexible design solutions for housing in this context. Little evidence was found to indicate that planning policy promotes flexibility in housing design at strategic level in either context. Moreover, in terms of guidance or regulation, there was little relating to what the research identifies as flexible design criteria. As a focus for the exploration of the motivations, possibilities and constraints of flexible design approaches, the research identified four flexible housing projects, two in each of the selected countries, all of which represent a particular cultural and design context, and policy and regulatory environment. The research evaluated the flexible design of these projects through assessing physical aspects including the plan, construction and services, and social aspects relating to use and the user, and also investigated the cost implications of incorporating and delivering flexibility. The empirical work indicated that the demand of households for housing that can accept change and the developer’s desire to build in best practice are the key motivations for implementing flexibility initiatives in housing design. Policy can play a role in driving flexible housing practices, but this is insufficient if the requirements are not mandatory. The potential to increase the size of the plan can lead to best practice for flexibility in the plan and in use. The construction methods need to support flexibility by providing separation between the main structure and the infill elements, allowing clear space between structural elements and using light materials and non- specialist forms of construction for infill parts. It is concluded that the incorporation of flexibility is likely to increase building costs, which may impact on the providers’ willingness to build with flexibility. Finally, raising market awareness in regard to building performance is important in making flexible housing deliverable on the market.