The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) have had a long-running campaign to highlight the lack of space in new homes being built in the UK. A RIBA/IPSOS Mori report entitled “The Way We Live Now: What People Need and Expect from their Homes” found that many new homes in the UK simply do not have enough storage space for the basic essentials of life, including food and household appliances.
Families interviewed around the UK reported keeping food in the back of the car because storage space was inadequate and others keep vacuum cleaners permanently in the living room for lack of storage. It is becoming impossible for a family to store their basic possessions in a typical new-build 3-bedroom “family” home.
The report provides important evidence to back up the perception that new homes are not big enough and to instigate changes in the way new homes are designed, marketed and sold. It shows in detail how poorly planned and cramped many new homes are and will be used by the Future Homes Commission, which is researching the quality of new homes.
Space is an important issue when buying or renting a new home because a lack of space impacts on basic lifestyle needs such as storing possessions, living comfortably with our family and entertaining friends.
New homes in the UK are substantially smaller than the rest of Europe and the USA where homes are marketed based on square footage (or square metres) to help the consumer more easily assess value for money. In the UK homes are still typically sold based on the number of bedrooms and reception rooms.
RIBA found that the floor area of an average 3-bedroom new build family home in the UK is 88 square metres, which is 8 square metres less than the minimum floor area recommended by the Greater London Authority in July 2011 in their report “The London Plan: Spatial Development Strategy for Greater London”. This shortfall in space is the equivalent of a single bedroom with room for a bed, bedside table, wardrobe, desk and chair.
But because this is an average figure there are many new 3-bedroom houses that are even smaller and fall short of recommended space by the equivalent of two double bedrooms.
The introduction of minimum space standards in London are an effort to ensure new homes in the capital have enough space for basic needs but there are currently no UK-wide standards.