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New housing locations – thinking out of the box

Posted: 3 Dec, 2014.

Where to build next to meet the rising demand for housing?

The need for more housing is constantly in the news and is often referred to as a crisis and one of the problems is the availability of land for building. In a recent blog, I looked at the use of brownfield sites for housing developments, in preference to green belt locations. A solution which will only go part the way in supplying the number of houses required to meet demand. So what else can be done? One answer would be to look at more creative locations for our living spaces.

Adapting commercial and public buildings for future living space

Things change over time. For example, the boom in commercial building prior to the economic downturn is now long gone and some office buildings are now being converted into residential accommodation. From our own industry, the way wooden doors are made in the modern era is far different than in the past and as with the development of materials used in buildings there is the prospect of innovation in adding to existing buildings. One idea is to utilise public buildings by building apartments on top, so people could be living above a hospital, a school or even a train station. The engineering technology exists to create these superstructures but would people want to live in them?

It has become an accepted fact that location is a primary concern for house or flat buyers and the convenience of living above a public utility will suit some but may not be to everyone’s taste. This location would have the advantage of being close to local services, but for those that are interested, the type of public building may determine how acceptable it would be. For example it is estimated that 77,000 new homes could be built using existing NHS hospitals in London, however only 23% of people would like to live over a hospital. (see the article in the Architects Journal). It is also perhaps not surprising that only 8% of people would find it acceptable to live over a prison.

Although this idea may not appeal to a majority of people there may be advantages to some sectors. An example that might be attractive to older people is to live in close proximity to a hospital or for staff who work in the hospital. It may be that early adopters of this type of living will lead the way for others to follow and it might be seen in the future as not unusual to live above a school or hospital – although a prison would probably still be a harder sell!

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