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Viewpoint - Housing has to raise its game

AGENDA - The housing sector needs to be more design-led, writes Andrew Weaver

A RECENT study by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment claimed that four out of five buyers of new build houses and flats have to settle for 'mediocre' quality. I agree.

I am not surprised by the report and its view that the vast majority of new developments fall substantially below what is required from customers, and that new housing is of poor design quality.

House building is not design-led and has not been for a long time.

The industry is governed by people with strengths in areas such as production or finance but very rarely design. It is time for change.

Many house builders concentrate on figures such as production and selling 'units' ? the design element is left behind. We have to transform the perception that property developers deliver monotonous housing estates.

Customers are tired of seeing soulless and dispiriting housing.

People spend an increasing amount of time in their homes, whether it is working, entertaining or relaxing.

Houses need to be multifunctional yet deliver excellent quality.

We have to remember that homes should stand the test of time.

It is vital that design experts are given key positions within companies.

The focus should be on output and profitability, as these are imperative to businesses, but we can offer more.

Many house builders do not focus on how they present themselves to customers.

House builders have to understand that today's customers exist in a fast-moving retail environment where they can buy fantastic products at the touch of a button.

The doorway to European culture is also more open then ever before, with cheap flights leaving on a frequent basis to some of the continents most spectacular cities.

It is plain for all to see that European culture values design far more than we do and has an absolute commitment to good looks at all times.

Consider Europe's architecture, cars, clothes and grooming - our customers have access to all of this and yet our industry is stuck in an old mind set, with its sales staff selling in converted garages and show homes full of pot pouri.

Gone are the days when we could say that one colour suits all.

Customers are individuals and while many other industries have grasped this concept, the housing industry is lagging behind - something we must strive to change.

A home is the single largest purchase a person can make, yet the housing market is being left behind in terms of design quality and customer service.

House builders must be in touch with their customers and bring design expertise to the top of the agenda.

I welcome Cabe's findings and hope that the rest of the industry sits up and takes notice. The world has moved on. We must move with it.