An appraisal of system built housing in a comparative perspective

  • Dorte Stollberg

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

This project was initiated by the Built Environment Faculty at Southampton Institute to investigate the multi-disciplined nature of the problems in System Built Housing (SBH). The intention was to look at the situation from a wide angle using a comparative study. Problems on SBH estates are evident in many European countries. In the attempt for a holistic approach to the wide range of issue involved, the topic was accessed from an urban design perspective besides the focus on housing. Valuable information was derived from conducting the research in two countries, Britain and East Germany. It was possible to examine the SBH estates in two places with distinct histories, cultures, traditions and mentalities of the people. An objective of this thesis was to compare an urban problem in the context of an eastern and western European country. The data collection fort this research departed from the general issues. The more it progressed the more specific and detailed became the information. First the background of the research issue was explored including the recent history of each country, the political and economic context as well as an overview about the construction systems. Furthermore SBH estates were placed in an urban design context by examining their distinct patterns which break with the principles of traditional city planning. A questionnaire survey was conducted to investigate the attitudes towards SBH expressed by professionals and tenants as the main groups of housing actors. Open-ended questionnaires allowed a comprehensive interpretation of the situation based on the viewpoints of the respondents. The technique of cognitive mapping assisted in drawing a problem picture from the survey findings. Case studies were then used to study the situation on selected estates in detail. Interviews with housing experts in the four case study estates revealed insights into the process of decision making. Commonalities and differences between the countries were explained in the light of local and central government policies, national traditions and people's perceptions. Special attention was drawn to the urban context of the SBH estates compared to the overall city structure. Advice was given to decision makers how to achieve better effectiveness of housing regeneration schemes and to create sustainable residential areas which are appreciated by the people who live in them. Interactions between the characteristics of urban environments, the socioeconomic context, political influences and the quality of the built structures were discussed based on the knowledge gained in the two countries. This comparative study on SBH estates revealed wider conclusions which are relevant for other problems in the built environment. It illustrated that urban problems cannot be considered in isolation from their context; the same problem needs a tailor-made solution in each situation. The built environment should fill the needs of the people who live in it; they are most directly affected by urban problems and therefore should be in the centre of the decision-making process. This requires a better collaboration and the establishment of a mutual understanding among the three groups of actors: politicians, professionals and users, whatever their different economic and political powers. It is necessary to raise people's awareness of the role of their contribution to decisions about the built environment. Political and economic issues should not be the dominant issues in decision making. Short-sighted and half-hearted policy decisions often waste valuable resources without achieving a better quality of life for the people. The latter should, however, be the overall aim of all developments in the urban environment. Concerning the academic debate regarding urban regeneration, the applicability of the research methodology was assessed critically. Furthermore, the value of introducing a comparative element into research in the built environment was discussed.
Date of Award1998
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Nottingham Trent University

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