Perceptions of Privacy and Density

A unique piece of research looking at residents’ thoughts on SPACE, SECURITY, SOUND and SAFETY and across a range of housetypes from regency to MMC.

Overview of Privacy & Density Research Findings

Intrusion of privacy in the English home for most people means hearing or being heard by the neighbours. This is usually caused by poor construction and detailing of party walls, and sometimes by having the windows of adjacent properties too close together.

These are some of the findings of a major 68 page report into issues facing households living at the higher densities of 30-50 homes to the hectare called for in England¹s statutory guidance for the planning of new housing (PPG3).

“Perceptions of Privacy and Density in Housing” analyses experiences of different common types of urban housing provision dating from four different centuries  Regency terraces, Victorian milltown terrace, Edwardian mansion block, 1970s townhouses, 1980s conversion, 1990s urban regeneration and PPG3-compliant new-build. Researchers found that intrusive noise is by no means a function of higher density – two low density suburban models introduced as controls in the research (1930s suburban semis and 1990s large executive homes on an out-of-town greenfield site) were both damned by owners for suffering from intrusive noise.

The report marks the launch of Design for Homes Popular Housing Research, a new venture resulting from the merger of Design for Homes and Popular Housing Group. Sponsored jointly by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Royal Town Planning Institute, Royals Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, the research set out to:

  •  Understand which issues are significant in household and personal perceptions of privacy in housing.
  •  Identify what design elements are effective in achieving privacy in higher density housing from different environments.

The research contractor Mulholland Research and Consulting undertook focus groups and in-depth interviews in the 10 schemes drawn from across England, 8 developed at PPG3 densities and two at below.

The eight developed at PPG3 densities were:

  •     1980s Hospital conversion and new-build, Jesmond, Newcastle
  •     Hulme Regeneration, Manchester
  •     Turn of the 20th century terraces, Ryton, Lancashire
  •     Regency terraces, Clifton, Bristol
  •     Poundbury urban extension
  •     Greenwich Millennium village, London
  •     Edwardian mansion block, Battersea
  •     1970s town houses, Norwich

The two low density developments were:

  •     Wynyard nr Sedgefield, an out-of-town development in county Durham
  •     1930s suburban semis in Cheam, Surrey.

A surprise finding of the research was that households perceive privacy very differently from how regulation supposes they do. Members of a household are more concerned about getting away from each other through having private internal domains than they are about the spaces between them and their neighbours.

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