Superdensity or Hyperdensity. Are residential towers the solution to London’s housing needs?
With London’s population forecast to grow by 20% to 10 million by 2031 there is a need to build 49,000 new homes per year, but at what density do we need to build and do the currently proposed 263, 30 metre + tower developments offer a solution?
Housing density measures are varied but for the purposes of the a recent NLA report in collaboration with HTA, PTEa, Levitt Bernstein and PRP, the number of Dwelling per Hectare was used for comparison; A Garden Suburb, where each house has a front & rear garden in tree lined streets provided just 12 – 25 dwellings per Hectare, whilst inner London Victorian street houses achieved 30+ DPH. In contemporary street developments, with a mix of family apartments, flats & bedsits this could be tripled to 90 DPH whilst retaining the sense of community generated by typical London street patterns. Highly popular Edwardian Mansion schemes, as seen extensively in West London delivered up to 150 DPH, a model which is often re-interpreted in contemporary schemes.
The NLA report proposes that by combining typologies, a mixed development of six story apartments with a single 16 story tower and a boundary of mews houses has achieved 280 dwellings per hectare, as demonstrated at the Zenith development by Genesis Housing Association in Barnet, North London where over 50% of the site is allocated to landscaped public open space.
Another exemplar project is PTEa’s Micawber Street scheme for Notting Hill Housing, where the “modern mansion block” typology has delivered 350 DPA. Anything above 350 DPH is classified as Hyper Density, such as in the Wood Wharf on the Isle of Dogs where proposed high rise towers will be at a density of 436 homes per hectare!
The 2013 study ‘Reinventing London’ by the LSE concluded that London’s backlog in housing needs could be met entirely by developing five to seven story apartment blocks, which would obviously create a homogeneous cityscape which no one would want. Clusters of high rise towers such as those at Wood Wharf, whilst arguably appropriate in certain locations adjacent to the open riverside cityscape, do not offer a widely appropriate solution, after all does anyone really believe in vertical villages as the solution to our housing needs? In Summary the NLA reports 10 recommendations are:
- Adopt mid rise development to perpetuate the character of street life in London.
- Hyper Density developments should be confined to exceptional locations
- Integrate towers with street based typologies, they have an important role when well connected to the public realm
- Promote Street life. Streets & squares provide an unbeatable model for urban living
- Build on London’s traditional mixed communities to encourage a balance for families, elderly & young people
- Provide a wider range of typologies & accommodate London’s young mobile workforce
- Harness space above public buildings for residential use & make better use of public land
- Design for good management to avoid future social problems in higher density developments
- Make device charges affordable, high rise towers have higher management costs
- Develop new funding models for long term management of shared space & the public realm
The full report is available to download at www.superdensity.co.uk