Play and amenity space for apartment’s – the role of design guides

In the National Design Guide published in early October 2019 references to play run through the document. It describes the role of ‘informal doorstop play’ (p.26) the need for a hierarchy of public spaces including ‘small local spaces’ (p,30) and the need for ‘direct access to well overlooked communal space’ (p. 39) – all of these highlight the need to provide play or multi functional amenity spaces accessible from apartment buildings. Local guidance can take this intention further giving parameters or rules for how much play and how this should be provided and maintained.

Over a decade the London Mayor’s Housing Design Guide (2010) and Housing SPG (2016) have had a clear impact on the design of housing by setting out forty-one clear quality expectations. These cover the placemaking role of sites, the provision of communal and play space and issues to do with building design such as; space standards, aspect and sunlight, ceiling heights, noise and privacy, resource use and durability. These spatial quality standards have had an impact on the quality of private amenity in new development. For example, the requirement for a minimum of 5m2 of private outdoor space for each dwelling has led to generous balconies becoming the norm and to GF apartments often having carefully considered garden interfaces.

The Bristol Urban Living SPD, making successful places at higher densities adopted in November 2018 follows on from this with general guidance about design at city, neighbourhood, block and building scale – with quality guidance is presented as 14 questions or tests.  Does the scheme provide sufficient outdoor space?Introduces the same standards for private outdoor space also allowing that space can be provided in private communal gardens. Does the scheme creatively integrate children’s play? Noting that in recent years the number of children living in the city centre had more than doubled the guidance requires the integration of informal doorstop play for the under 5s of setting a standard of 10m2 per child for developments with an occupancy of 10 children or more. 

Swindon’s Residential Design Guide SPD, 2016 requires a communal space equivalent to the footprint of the apartment building or 10m2 per apartment is also suggested. It also highlights the need for clearly identified entrances from the street, dual aspect orientation and private amenity space. Teignbridge District Council’s Draft Design Guide gives more detailed guidance about a similar range of issues with much emphasis on providing a ‘reference point for character and identity of settlements within the district’. When describing expectations for apartment buildings it also advises – street entrances, defensible space to ground floor habitable rooms, parking to rear but makes no specific requirement regarding amenity.

Sometimes developers will say that RSL’s wish to avoid the maintenance cost of private amenity provision but as a benchmark Peabody’s Design Guide says each dwelling should have access to private external amenity space to provide access and views of green spaces to residents. It also advises that design teams should include landscape architects a recommendation often made to clients in design review.

Image: Extract from Bristol’s Urban Living SPD

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integrating space for play in housing leads to more social interaction

The research identifies the need for supervised spaces near the home as well as the ability for older children to move about safely and independently across a ‘network of interconnected spaces around the development’.

3017666_GREENSPACES-LIMETREESQUAREDinah Borat of ZCD Architects has published a summary of research into the sociability of streets and public spaces in housing design in the Architects Journal. This offers findings from studies of six 20th Century Estates in Hackney and a further 10 recent schemes across England. The study recorded activity in the streets and public spaces of housing developments over twenty-four hours over two days. This used Jan Gehl’s categories of activity; necessary, optional and social – also recording the gender and age of people and the numbers talking or playing together at any time.

The research identifies how the streets and public spaces provided, function in terms of their accessibility and describes their success in supporting activity to understand how well ‘social activity, children’s independent activity and their extended use of space’ is supported. The research demonstrates the need for supervised spaces near the home as well as the ability for older children to move about safely and independently across a ‘network of interconnected spaces around the development’. Which is evidence for my more empirical observations in an earlier blog ‘Playing Out’.

The research found play to be the dominant outdoor activity and discovered that when there was room for this other activities followed with more sociability occurring between adults as well. The full report will probably tell us more – but the plan diagrams (see above) recording accessibility seem to suggest that the position of the street or space in the layout is important as well as the types of street and range of spatial types used – with developments that are more generic supporting less social opportunity.

The Architects Journal; Designing Green Spaces that people want to use, Dinah Borat – AJ 21.04.16 VOL 243/ISSUE 10

http://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/buildings/designing-green-spaces-that-people-want-to-use/10005102.fullarticle

Research funded by; The Homes and Communities Agency, NHBC, ZCD Architects, University of East London, Levitt Bernstein and the Hargrave Foundation.

See also:

Housing as if people mattered, Clare Cooper Marcus and Wendy Sarkissian, 1986Child’s Play – Rob Wheyway and Alison Millward, 1997.

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