Thursday, 28 April 2016

Design Quality and Market Value

My thoughts on our latest professional seminar held on 25th April.

And the big winner on the night was………… Buildings for Life 12. The use of this now qualitative assessment tool, in its latest iterations for judging the quality of housing developments, was independently focused on by two of the speakers and supported by the whole panel. To work it needs to be backed by specific Statutory Plan authority and supported by knowledgable people both in Development Management and the industry as a whole. As Paul Collins said in his opening slide: "collaboration between all the parties is critical to improve design quality." James Wilson's view was that post recession blander housing has been encouraged /allowed due to high need and demand, so standards need to continue to be improved.

The seminar, backed by the RTPI, RIBA, RICS, Landscape Institute, ProCon and Academy for Urbanism, attracted 115 people to an evening again at the Parcel Yard bar in central Leicester. In a departure from the usual we had three speakers: Paul Collins (Nottingham Trent), Grant Butterworth (Leicester City) and James Wilson (Davidsons Developments), all speaking to a pecha kucha style* on the topic of the night. The intention was to look at Design Quality and Market Value from three different professional perspectives: chartered surveyor, planner and developer.

A recent scheme in Scraptoft by Davidsons
This led on to a substantial discussion regarding the propensity in most Local Plans for large allocations, typically described as Sustainable Urban Extensions (SUEs). The massive upfront costs, including those relating to trying to generate a distinctive place, put them largely in the hands of a few major housebuilders who have a semi monopoly position driven by finance, not drive for quality per se. One can understand the political and administrative advantage of this approach. However, perhaps we need to build more on the multitude of attractive and successful locations we already have with more smaller schemes; enhancing them with extra or improved facilities (doctors surgery / leisure centre / new store etc) rather than starting from scratch?
I don’t think we drilled down into the value side enough (like we did not achieve any resolution of a simple question on how much individual elevational enhancements, such as chimneys, justified their cost in market value terms).  It is difficult to prove beyond doubt that extra costs will be recovered (RICS research). However, the evidence presented on the night was more than interesting, and showed that strong place making in general can improve house price premiums.  There were seeming failures even here, for example with early results for Upton in Northamptonshire appearing to show a negative return. 

Thanks to all the speakers. If anyone has particular topics in the future that they would like to see aired please say so, because the overall approach certainly attracts a good audience.

* Pecha kucha is a Japanese originating presentational format where each speaker is restricted to a specific number of styles and each slide moves on at a prearranged regular time, say 20 seconds."