Published On: Thu, Jul 31st, 2014

Putting an end to ‘rabbit-hutch’ Britain


John Cowie believes the conservatory sector can help rid the UK of the problem associated with homes that fail to meet modern size standards

UnknownAccording to new research, millions of British people are living in homes that are too small. The finding of the study conducted by Cambridge University has revealed that over half of all homes in the UK fail to meet minimum modern size standards. As a country we are seriously lagging behind some of our European neighbours when it comes to average floor space in dwellings. The UK comes bottom of a league table comparing 15 other countries. The UK average is 76 square metres, and compares to 87.7 in Ireland, 109.2 in Germany, 115.5 in the Netherlands, with the roomiest homes being in Denmark and measuring 137 square metres.

The study, which appeared in the journal Building Research and Information, analysed 16,000 homes in England and concluded that 79 per cent of properties were below acceptable sizes. The worst effected were terraced houses and flats occupied by families with children. Malcolm Morgan, the author of the study, concluded that about a third of occupants were unhappy with their homes and found themselves living in three-bedroom properties with the floorspace of a two-bedroom property. The poorest households are suffering the most, and cannot afford to move to a larger home. House builders are also partly to blame, as they are now building smaller homes but are keen to stress that the pressures of the lack of land and its price inhibit the building of larger homes.

An array of solutions has been banded around to overcome the problem but economic and social reasons often prevent actions being taken. Too many people and not enough homes comprise a situation that has haunted successive governments. Building bigger houses has been dismissed as it doesn’t tackle the more pressing concern over the lack of numbers of dwellings. There is however a solution that can help the UK move up the league table of the average dwelling sizes.

No longer considered a ‘plastic box’, the modern-day conservatory has seen a massive resurgence as the leading manufacturers have developed systems that are crammed full of innovation and feature vastly improved aesthetics. With the price tag still remaining attractively affordable, a conservatory is often well within the budget of some of the UK’s cash-strapped homeowners. A 4m by 4m conservatory can drastically improve the living conditions of a terrace house and can add an additional habitable space that can free up room within the main part of the house. It’s the innovations within construction, and more specifically, glazing, that can make a modern-day conservatory an all-year-round space that can be turned into a dining room, living room or children’s playroom.

‘Rabbit-hutch Britain’ could definitely benefit from the installation of more conservatories. The introduction of cost-effective orangery systems and more substantial conservatories has seen the sector challenge the benefits demonstrated by standard extensions. With planning restrictions currently relaxed, allowing householders to build beyond 3 and metres from the rear wall, the possibilities are endless. But it has nevertheless confused me as to why so many installers have ‘fallen out of love’ with the trusty conservatory. The products are better than ever, the designs are out of this world; it’s just a case of targeting the right consumers. Market evidence shows that there is a drastic need for extra living space in the UK. The demand is there, it just needs to be activated. I’m hoping this will re-ignite the sector and the home improvement landscape will become awash with professional conservatory installers and retailers helping homeowners to maximise their available living space.