Present context                                                                   | introduction | state of the art | sustainability | 


At the beginning of the 21st century the key conundrum for housing in the UK is how to provide enough homes for the rising number of households in the country. Changes in the way that people live and set up home mean that though the country’s population is stable, the number of households are expected to increase by an average of 180,000 a year up to 2011 (Barker, Kate, Dec 2003, ‘Review Of Housing Supply’, HMSO, Norwich). Most of these will be small in size, and result from the fact that people are more likely to stay single for longer, separate from their partners, or live longer. Much of the UK is already crowded and intensively developed. A key factor is to provide these new homes in a way that keeps use of space and environmental impact to a minimum. This poses a huge challenge to policy-makers and providers of private and social housing.

The last time the UK faced a dramatic need for new homes was during the post-war period; when, building high was part of the solution. In seeking to develop sustainable communities for the 21st century we should learn lessons from the flawed housing programmes of the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

Thus the task is to provide more homes while keeping land use to a minimum. Contemporary priorities however are wider than this and it is now expected that housing should be of a reasonable standard; it should help in the development of sustainable communities; and it should be affordable.

Tower blocks were seen as the way to build a better future in the 1950s and 1960s. Since then around 3000 tower blocks have been built in Greater London alone. By the mid-1970s, however, high-rise building came to a halt as doubts were thrown on construction methods and the social consequences of poor quality building. The towers became unpopular for inhabitation and some were subsequently demolished.

The existing tower blocks are in need of urgent attention and refurbishment. The government has insisted that all councils draw up business plans to bring all of their homes up to a decent standard in the next 10 years. Therefore there is great demand from owners of tower blocks for best practice solutions for sustainable refurbishment. The majority of tower blocks are owned by local authorities, who in many cases favour demolition. A number are now run by housing associations, and this will increase markedly in the next few years. If conditions are to improve, the physical environment and social development of the community must move forward together. While negative perceptions are commonplace, they are by no means universal, and many residents are proud of where they live.

Refurbishment can sometimes be more expensive than demolition. However, keeping those tower blocks that can be saved is a more efficient strategy than demolishing them in the long term. With 3.8m new homes needed by 2021, central and local government cannot afford to cut into the existing stock of around 400,000 homes in tower blocks. With the advance in new technologies such as, photovoltaics, wind energy harnessing strategies, security systems, intelligent lift controls etc. it is now possible to make an old tower block more secure and energy efficient.

 | introduction | state of the art | sustainability |




Project partners: | Price Myers: Sustainability | Battle McCarthy | Architype | STBI | Franklin Andrews |

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