Residential usability and social sustainability, Towards a paradigm shift within housing design?

University dissertation from Chalmers University of Technology

Abstract: ABSTRACT The ongoing demographic transformation poses challenges for the field of residential design. Meanwhile rules and regulations maintain a conventional approach to the subject. The housing market is considering the home as a commercialized lifestyle question, not focusing on the long-term residential resilience of the housing stock. These preconditions imply a misfit between accelerating diversity in articulated consumer preferences and appropriate offers in the housing market. This situation impacts the quality of life in housing, in particular regarding issues of social sustainability. In order to obtain a sustainable housing stock we need to develop a new focus and new perspectives for the design professions. This study constitutes a part of a larger research and development experimental project, the Positive Footprint Housing project. This licentiate thesis concentrates on the notion of residential usability and how it relates to aspects of social sustainability. It also focuses on how these issues can be incorporated into the practice of residential design. The mixed methodological approach is based on the combination of studies of residential life situations with non-directed interviews and research by design in master studios. The work adopts a theoretical perspective presented by Schneider and Till and tests the hypothesis of residential usability as a critical precondition for socially sustainable residential processes. Findings from the research show that enhanced usability in residential design represents an important factor in the realisation of a sustainable society. A main result is the elaboration of a model for implementing social sustainability aspects in the design work in order to promote future housing design innovations. Further research intends to address the complexity of residential user participation and accompanying social consequences. Keywords: residential design, residential usability, flexibility, adaptability, alterability, social sustainability, residential process, user participation, demographic transformation

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