Housing Standardisation

Symposium: The Future of Housing Standards

19th March 2024 | 2:00 to 9:00 pm | Frobisher Auditorium, Barbican Centre, London EC2Y 8DS.

The event discusses challenges in defining affordable, decent, or adequate housing and providing homes that are equitable and sustainable in the long term. It brings together architects, housing practitioners, and researchers to discuss future housing standards and ambitions.

This is a free event, but places are limited. Places can be booked on the Architecture Foundation website. Please note that you will need to book separate tickets for EVENT 1 in the afternoon (26 pm) and EVENT 2 in the evening (6:309 pm).

The Royal Institute of British Architects believes that only 6% of housing in the UK is designed by architects, of which three-quarters are for the private sector. Housing tends to be extensively standardised and traditional in construction and appearance, with many housebuilders averse to risk and innovation. According to a 2020 audit by the Place Alliance of recently completed large housing developments, three-quarters of the schemes had ‘mediocre’ or ‘poor’ designs, and one in five should not have been granted planning permission.

We are currently seeing a significant review of standards and regulations with the aim of improving housing safety, sustainability, and quality, including the Building Safety Act 2022, the Future Homes Standard, and the Decent Homes Standard. Their most important impact is on social, public, and affordable housing provision, which are essential for a just society and social welfare. However, demand continues to be unmet, with the Centre for Policy Studies estimating that in 2022/23 only 234,400 of the 499,344 new homes needed in England alone were provided, highlighting the need for a fundamental change in housing procurement.

With volume housing standardised in layout and construction, affordable housing often utilises standard house types designed to just meet building regulations and common standards, and expected to only require minor adaptation over time to regulatory changes. Consequently, minimum standards of provision or performance have not only become a widely accepted measure of basic housing quality but are often also the targeted maximum. However, recent events such as COVID-19 lockdowns, the cost-of-living crisis, and increases in interest rates and rent have shown that the way we use and experience our homes can quickly change, along with our long-term housing expectations.

While there are many political and economic reasons for the perpetual housing crisis in the UK and beyond, housing design governance plays an important role in the failure to provide enough decent and adequate homes. The symposium will explore how design governance as the interaction of policy, regulatory frameworks, standards, and institutions shapes housing outcomes.

EVENT 1 (2:00–6:00 pm):

A) Housing standards and design (2:00–4:00 pm)

  • Lucia Alonso (Royal College of Art), Consuelo Albornoz (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile), and Dr Seyithan Özer (Royal College of Art)
  • David Stronge (Design Director, Peabody)
  • Jane Briginshaw (Director, Design England)
  • Prof Flora Samuel (University of Cambridge)

Discussion chair: Dr Dhruv Sookhoo (Manchester School of Architecture)

B) Housing affordability and communities (4:30–6:00 pm)

  • Dr Beth Stratford (economist; London Renters Union)
  • Tina John (Senior Architectural Design Manager, Pocket Living)
  • Levent Kerimol (Director, Community Led Housing London)

Discussion chair: Prof Peter Bishop (University College London)

EVENT 2: International housing debate (6:30–9:00 pm)

  • Prof Sam Jacoby (Royal College of Art)
  • Dr Alvaro Arancibia (Principal, Alvaro Arancibia Arquitecto, Chile)
  • Dr Jennifer Duyne Barenstein (Executive Director, ETH CASE, Switzerland) 
  • Denise Koeleveld (Architect, Ymere, the Netherlands)
  • Josep Maria Borell (Technical Coordinator, IMPSOL/AMB, Spain) 

Discussion chair: Dr Adrian Lahoud (Royal College of Art)


Adrian Lahoud

Adrian Lahoud is Dean, School of Architecture and Fellow at the Royal College of Art. He is a board member of the Architecture Foundation, Design Museum Future Observatory, New Architecture Writers, and was Convenor and Co-Chair of the Rights of Future Generation Working Group.

Alvaro Arancibia

Alvaro is an architect and graduate of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. He holds an MPhil in urban design and a PhD in architectural design from the Architectural Association, and won the AA Graduate Prize for Research: Outstanding Work 2015–2016 for his doctoral thesis. He is a co-investigator on the project ‘Housing Standardisation: The Architecture of Regulations and Design Standards’ funded by the AHRC (UK). His architectural practice has won several housing competitions organised by the Ministry of Housing (Chile), notably the Mirador Laguna project, to be completed in 2024. His practice and research focus on issues of collective housing and urban design, particularly in the context of Santiago de Chile.

Beth Stratford

Dr Beth Stratford is a founder member of the London Renters Union, a freelance economist and Honorary Research Fellow at the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, UCL. She was a lead author of Land For The Many, a report for the UK’s Labour Party arguing that tackling the housing and environmental crises requires changing the way we own and govern land. Beth lectures on ecological macroeconomics and the political economy of housing. She is an advisor to The Social Guarantee and Positive Money. Previously in Labour’s Sustainable Economics Working Group and a fellow at the New Economics Foundation.

Consuelo Albornoz 

Consuelo is an architect and holds a master’s degree in architecture from the Universidad de Chile. She has worked as a teaching assistant at the Universidad de Chile and the Pontificia Universidad Católica. She is currently a researcher on the AHRC-funded project Housing Standardisation: The Architecture of Regulations and Design Standards. 

David Stronge 

David is Design Director at Peabody, responsible for the quality of its development programme across its four main operating regions covering London and northern Home Counties. His team facilitates the design, procurement, construction and handover of new homes to residents and Peabody’s landlord functions. His team focuses on ensuring we design and construct safe, sustainable, inclusive, viable and desirable new homes and neighbourhoods, where people want to live. David trained as an architect in Dublin and Edinburgh. His work on the design and construction of buildings and housing over the past 20 years has been carried out from the varied perspectives of architect, main contractor, developer contractor, and now at Peabody.

Denise Koeleveld

Denise Koeleveld is an architect with three years of experience at Amsterdam’s largest housing association, ‘Ymere’. She was trained as an architect at the Technical University in Delft and for the last 20 years, she has worked at esteemed architectural firms. She now oversees commissioning projects for Ymere, advocates for timber construction, and ensures the spatial quality of their housing projects. By doing this she recognized a need for improvement in floor plan quality in the social housing projects that Ymere develops. As a result, she decided to set up a spatial program of requirements for Ymere and a new working method for the architects that Ymere commissions. In her presentation she will briefly outline how it got to this point and why she developed and implemented the new strategy within the organisation.

Dhruv Sookhoo 

Dhruv Adam Sookhoo is Senior Lecturer in Architecture and Urbanism at Manchester School of Architecture. He is a chartered architect (ARB, RIBA), chartered town planner (MRTPI) and recognised university educator (FHEA). Dhruv holds professionally-accredited degrees in architecture and planning from the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, Newcastle University, and where he later completed a PhD examining the social practices adopted by architects to negotiate housing quality during development management (NINE ESRC funded doctoral studentship). His teaching and research are informed by understanding developed in practice as former Head of Research and Practice Innovation, Metropolitan Workshop; Head of Design, Home Group; and past Chair of the RIBA Housing Group.

Flora Samuel

Flora Samuel is the Professor of Architecture (1970) and Head of the Department of Architecture at the University of Cambridge. Her current research focuses promoting inclusion in planning the focus of the Public Map Platform (www.publicmap.org) which she leads. She is also working on the development of an urban room for Cambridge. Her most recent book is Housing for Hope and Wellbeing (2023).

Jennifer Duyne Barenstein

Dr Jennifer Duyne Barenstein is a social anthropologist and the executive director of the Centre for Research on Architecture, Society and the Built Environment of the ETH Zurich. Her research interests focus on housing policies and on the socioeconomic and institutional dimensions of housing and urban renewal. She recently completed the research project “Tackling the global housing challenges: relevance and replicability of Switzerland’s and Uruguay’s cooperative housing policies and strategies” supported by the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS) and is currently directing the international research project “Negotiating Space for Cooperative Housing in Latin America: The case of post-conflict Colombia and El Salvador” funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). 

Josep M. Borrell Bru

Josep is an architect who graduated from ETSAB in Barcelona in 2001 with an honours degree. He is currently the Technical Coordinator of the Metropolitan Institute of Land Development and Property Management (IMPSOL), a public organisation within the Barcelona Metropolitan Area, responsible for new or rehabilitated inclusive social housing developments. IMPSOL promotes social, environmental, and economic sustainability, typological, technological and social innovation, gender perspective and architectural quality. IMPSOL has received many awards and gained recognition for its developments, including FAD awards (2020, 2021 and 2023) and a Mies Van der Rohe  finalist award (2021).

Levent Kerimol

Lev is Director of Community Led Housing London, leading a small team offering support, advice, and mentoring to groups seeking to provide their own homes, and councils and others creating opportunities. CLH London is also developing new replicable routes to make community led housing more widespread. Lev was previously at the Greater London Authority, managing a range of masterplans and projects, establishing the Small Sites x Small Builders programme, and contributing to the London Plan on housing density and design standards and the government’s Nationally Described Space Standards. Lev studied Architecture at Cambridge and the Architectural Association and Real Estate at Reading. He previously taught on the Design and Planning MA at the Cass School.

Lucia Alonso

Lucia Alonso is an architect and researcher at the Royal College of Art. Her work and research centres around social housing, housing standards, and wellbeing. She is currently a researcher for the project ‘Housing Standardisation: The Architecture of Regulations and Design Standards’ funded by the UK AHRC. 

Peter Bishop

Peter Bishop is Professor of Urban Design at The Bartlett School of Architecture and a partner at Bishop and Williams ltd. For 25 years he was a planning director in four central London Boroughs working on major projects including Kings Cross. In 2006 appointed as the first Director of Design for London and in 2008 the Deputy Chief Executive at the London Development Agency. In 2011 carried out a policy on behalf of the Government, “The Bishop Review”, on the quality of design in the built environment. Fellow of University College London, fellow of the RIBA, honorary doctorate University of Kingston, Distinguished Visiting Scholar UTS Sydney.

Sam Jacoby

Sam is Professor of Architectural and Urban Design Research, Research Lead of the School of Architecture, and Director of the Laboratory for Design and Machine Learning at the Royal College of Art. He is the primary investigator of the AHRC-funded project ‘Housing Standardisation: The Architecture of Regulations and Design Standards’.

Seyithan Özer

Seyithan Özer is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Royal College of Art, School of Architecture, currently working in the project ‘Housing Standardisation: The Architecture of Regulations and Design Standards’ funded by the UK AHRC. His research interests are housing, design and governance.

Tina John

Tina trained as an architect and has over 15 years of design and development experience in the UK and India, working within a diverse range of sectors from residential and education projects to mixed-use schemes and master planning. She has led projects from both the consultant and client side successfully securing planning on several significant schemes across London & the Midlands. At Pocket Living, she leads the design and technical aspects of all projects from land acquisition to delivery with a focus on innovation and sustainability. Well-designed places and deliverability of affordable homes are her key focus.