The purpose of this dissertation is to discuss and evaluate the pressure on development land in the South- East of England, and how that pressure relates to the need for sustainable architecture. The reasons for there being pressure on development land in the South-East of England will be described and analysed, as will any differences with the other regions of Britain. The reasons for setting aside or using the available development land and why sustainable architecture should be adopted in the South-East of England will be fully evaluated.
As will be demonstrated there are various and competing factors that apparently increase the pressure to make full use of all available development land in the South-East of England. The available development land in the South-East of England is in high demand to be used for the construction of domestic housing, as well as for commercial, leisure, and industrial building programmes. To a large extent central government and local authorities have attempted to control the construction of such new building programmes through systems of urban planning, as well as building regulations that have applied across the whole of Britain. The reasons why the South-East of England should have a need for sustainable architecture will also be examined in depth. The case for making all the new construction projects designed around the concepts of sustainable architecture shall also be examined, to discuss whether more environmentally focused building designs will lessen the impact of new construction programmes, as well as reducing long-term pollution.
Sustainable architecture and the use of development land are closely linked with the practices and theories of what form the basis of urban and rural planning, as well as ideas concerning the necessity for long-term environmental sustainability. Urban, and to a lesser extent rural planning, became more widespread in their application throughout Britain after 1945, when increased levels of central government intervention were experienced in many social and economic fields. Planning was deemed to be the best way of solving Britain’s housing problems (Taylor, 1998 p. 3). Increased levels of urban and rural planning were justified at the end of the Second World War due to the need for extensive post-war reconstruction. The South-East of England in general, and London in particular had suffered from widespread bomb damage,
which meant that fully or partially destroyed houses, factories, and retail units had to be replaced by well planned buildings which would be an improvement upon the previous buildings. In the immediate post-war period it was believed that a systematic use of town and country planning would be essential for the reconstruction of Britain, with a much higher standard of building to match higher employment, the welfare state, and the National Health Service. The purpose of these policies and institutions was to prolong life and promote good health throughout the whole population (Meller, 1997 p67).
The increased use of urban and rural planning was not intended to protect the environment in an ecological way, or indeed to promote sustainable architecture, rather it was greatly expanded in scope to make the most rational use of scarce development land. However, there would be measures adopted which would conserve large areas of countryside, and give protection despite the need to re-house millions of families in 1945 (Southall, 2000 p. 336). There were groups that wished to conserve specific areas that supported rare forms of animal and plant life, and even groups that wished to preserve old historical buildings, as well as buildings distinguished by their
architectural styles (Meller, 1997 p67). When added together such groups did not equate to an ecological lobby that intended to change agricultural, architectural, or industrial practices to protect the environment. These groups however, were able to heavily influence the decision to restrict urbanisation taking over the countryside. Post-war reconstruction was the catalyst for the largest programmes of publicly funded construction in Britain. Public expenditure was needed due to the sheer scale of reconstruction required, with London and the South-East of England being a major beneficiary of those programmes. Architecture and planning were used for these
large-scale programmes rather than just for individual buildings. The involvement of central government in the promoting and funding of large-scale public building programmes and the use of development land was high until the early part of the 1970s (Greed, 1996 p. 35).
Such wide-ranging building programmes were not only intended to replace the buildings destroyed during the Second World War. The post-war building programmes were also intended to replace the slums in the inner cities of London, Birmingham, Liverpool, as well as elsewhere. The construction programmes were intended to make the South-East of England a much more hospitable place to live in, just as the rest of Britain was also intended to be like (Sheail, 2002 p. 62). New construction and renovation of existing houses was an imperative, as ‘2 million of them condemned and another 3 million lacking in essentials’ (Southall, 2000 p. 337). The South-East of England also benefited from the construction of new towns such as Milton Keynes and Stevenage that were planned as entire towns with purpose built domestic housing and business premises. The Atlee government was so keen upon the creation of new towns to solve the post-war housing shortages that it regulated such construction through the New Town Act of 1946 (Sheail, 2002 p. 62). The construction of the New Towns was considered to be essential for both high economic growth and for solving the national post-war housing shortage. The Atlee government regarded the new towns as being highly beneficial to people’s health as they moved away from major cities and industrial areas to places with cleaner air (Meller, 1997 p67).
In ecological terms such construction was harmful to the environment as more land was built upon and it meant a greater amount of pollution from traffic emissions, though of course nobody understood such implications at that time. Improvements in transport infrastructure and increasing levels of car ownership meant that the new towns were economically viable, as well as allowing their inhabitants to commute to the major cities to work in them (Daniels, Bradshaw, Shaw, & Sidaway, 2005 p. 147). Urban planning was thus considered to be very useful for the progress and development of London and the South-East of England, which traditionally has been the most populous and prosperous region of Britain. Urban planning was also intended to increase the prosperity levels of the other regions in Britain to be as high as possible to match the levels achieved in the South-East of England (Southall, 2000 p. 337). Controlled expansion of urban areas into the new towns was intended to solve the immediate post-war housing shortage and revive the British economy, whilst leaving the great bulk of the countryside untouched by new housing construction (Taylor, 1998 p.3).
Previous improvements in agricultural techniques meant that farming became more efficient nationally which had quickened the pace of urbanisation in Britain as a whole. Urbanisation in Britain had already had a strong impact upon the environment that went beyond the replacement of the countryside with polluting factories and unhealthy slum housing (Southall, 2000, p. 335). Higher crop yields from less land had the consequence that more land in rural areas became available to be used as development land. The greater availability of former agricultural land meant that is was easier to find enough land to construct new towns or expand existing cities across Britain. Urbanisation was a process that was accelerated by the need of industrial towns and cities to find workers to continue their expansion (Goudie & Viles, 1997 p. 5).
To begin with, the majority of new homes were traditional style houses that formed large council house estates right across the country, in architectural terms there was very little innovation or thought given to making the new housing stock architecturally sustainable or environmentally friendly. More attention was instead devoted to making all new houses comfortable, clean, and ensuring they were being built to last (Greed, 1996 p. 35). The new homes were intended to be better and larger than the ones that they had replaced. The majority of large cities and the new towns in Britain had millions of council houses built in their areas between 1945 and the early
1970s. However, it was much harder to find adequate amounts of development land in inner city areas which led to the building of high rise tower blocks which allowed a greater number of people to be housed without increasing the total area of the development land required (Sheail, 2002 p. 62). Unfortunately, high rise tower blocks constructed during the 1960s and the 1970s in the South-East of England, as well as nationally failed to be an adequate form of long- term and sustainable architecture that allowed people to be housed in safety or comfort. The failure of many high rise tower blocks to be sustainable forms of housing had the affect of increasing the
pressure on development land. It has also meant that tower blocks have had to be refurbished or more frequently demolished (Meller, 1997 p. 63). As the picture below shows the 1950s and the 1960s also witnessed the construction of low-rise apartment blocks which have proved to be longer lasting than tower blocks built during the same period of time. The picture is of apartment flats constructed in Ham Common in Richmond between 1955 and 1958 (Frampton,1997 p. 266).
Although the amount of new housing construction was considerable not all the available land had been developed or built upon. Land remained set aside for agricultural purposes, whilst other land was left un-built upon and not always used for farming. The land that was left alone and was set aside and thus not allowed to be used for domestic housing or industrial sites were referred to as the green belt. The green belt was created to act as a buffer zone between urban and rural areas as a means to limit urbanisation (Greed, 1996 p. 82). Central government set aside areas that were designated as green belt zones to preserve the countryside nationally as well as solely in the South-East of England. Although, it was possible to build on green belt land the process of gaining planning permission from central government and the relevant local authority was a long drawn out one which deterred most property developers and construction firms from doing so. Local interest groups have often being highly vocal in their opposition to any schemes that have been suggested (Clapp, 1994 p. 138). Clapp estimated that with national parks and designated green belt zones that in England and Wales ‘more than a fifth of the countryside now has stringent protection against development’ (Clapp, 1994 p. 140). Therefore, the bulk of available development land was concentrated in urban areas, often referred to as brown field sites (Greed, 1996 p. 82). For central government there are advantages for using brown field sites (Kim & Rigdon, December 1998 p. 5). For instance, using such sites allows for economic regeneration, employment creation as well as less pressure to build on green belt land. Recycling land on brown field sites is a method of preserving rural areas being used as development land (Clapp, 1994 p.139).
The pressure to use greater amounts of development land has arguably increased significantly in recent years throughout Britain as a whole. The pressure to use development land has risen due to a combination of social, economic, and political factors. For instance, in social terms the demographic changes to the British population have had significant, and it could even be argued,profound effects upon the demand for development for new construction programmes. These demographic changes have occurred as a consequence of the British population ageing, the increasing number of adults who live on their own, as well as the major increase in the number of immigrants who have settled in Britain in the past decade or so. These changes have meant that more people within Britain are seeking a higher number of places to live in. Another reason for the raised levels of pressure upon development land is caused by the potential financial gains from building new houses, as well as new retail or industrial complexes. The level of financial gains that could be made has been boosted since 1979 by the shifting away from the publicly funded housing programmes to a market led approach to determining the rates of new housing construction and the ownership of existing housing (Allmendinger and Thomas, 1998 p. 5). Of course even greater numbers of domestic homes and retail premises has a knock on effect on the amount of infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, and roads which are required in Britain as a whole. The building of new forms of infrastructure will only increase the environmental impact of new construction programmes (Kim & Rigdon, December 1998 p. 5). A fuller explanation and a more comprehensive examination of the increased pressures on the development land in Britain in general will be presented in the specific chapter on development land. The more detailed evaluation of the pressures upon development in the South-East of England will be presented in the specific chapter about the South-East of England.
Not only has there been pressure to use more development land in Britain generally and in the South-East of England in particular, there has been more pressure for new construction programmes to use building techniques and technology linked with sustainable architecture. Sustainable architecture may have been a concept, which started in the United States, yet it could be very important to put its ideas into action across the globe (Kim & Rigdon, December 1998 p.
5). The notion of sustainable architecture is in itself influenced by ideas about making or enabling architecture maximise the utility and the subsequent life span of all new construction, whilst minimising the amount of resources needed in the initial construction and the maintenance of buildings. Sustainable architecture, when possible, uses resources that is renewable, recyclable, and biodegradable. There are various motivations for adopting sustainable architecture when it comes down to the construction and the completion of all new building programmes. Motivations that include the minimising of development land used, as well as making use of new technology to conserve energy, the conservation or recycling of finite resources, as well as reducing the levels of water consumption. Reducing the level of pollution and attempting to slow down the consequences of global warming are also factors in the promotion and implementation of sustainable architecture (Kim, Rigdon, & Graves, August 1998
p. 5). Of course, there is the influence of legislation upon the use of sustainable architecture techniques to reduce the environmental and ecological impact of new construction programmes. Property developers and construction firms have to comply with measures to protect theenvironment introduced by the British government and the European Union (Hough, 2004 p. 190).
As will be shown in the specific chapter about sustainable architecture the majority of methods used to improve environmental sustainability are relatively straightforward to incorporate into the designs of new building programmes, and in some cases into existing buildings. Sustainable architecture could be achieved by using construction materials that are less damaging to the environment, or materials that have been obtained from recycled and renewable resources. Making buildings as environmentally sustainable as possible during new construction projects (as will be examined in greater depth) will achieve the over all objectives of those that practice and argue for the implementation of sustainable architecture. It is most practical to install features or equipment which enhances environmental sustainability during new construction projects rather than afterwards. The pressures to adopt sustainable architecture in many ways are contradictory, yet are also connected with the pressures to raise the levels of development land used up for new building programmes.
Other motivations for adopting sustainable architecture include applying measures that are requirements for gaining planning permission, as well as ensuring that all new buildings comply with all the minimum standards for safeguarding the environment set by the British government and also by the European Union. The British government has set standards for domestic and retail buildings since the 1950s. For instance, to rid London of its previously renowned smog and fog by reducing smoke emissions from domestic homes and factories alike under the auspices of the Clean Air Act. The European Union has taken a greater interest in promoting environmental sustainability since the 1980s, believing that such actions to protect the natural environment on a regional rather than a national basis would be far more effective in doing so (Hough, 2004 p. 190).
‘Urban Planning and the British New Right’, by Allmendinger and Thomas was primarily used as a source of reference for the ways in which the Conservative governments between 1979 and 1997 altered housing and economic policies in Britain. This book also contained information about the introduction of more extensive government environmental protection policies, which were started during that period of Conservative administration. The book demonstrates the contradictions between the strong Conservative support for free market economics and the increasing understanding that central government needed to act to protect the environment. Brian Clapp’s ‘An Environmental History of Britain from the Industrial Revolution’ is a good source of information with regard to development land and the impact of the green belt zones on limiting building programmes to already urbanised areas. The book provides a useful insight into the establishment and the continued maintenance of green belt zones in modern Britain. ‘An introduction to Human Geography – Issues for the 21st century’ by Daniels, Bradshaw, Shaw, and Sidaway proved a useful source of information about development and the environmental impacts of human activity such as constructing buildings and using fossil fuel in buildings. The book assists in explaining why such impacts on the environment would provide a catalyst for sustainable architecture.
‘Modern architecture – a critical history’ by Kenneth Frampton was used as a source of pictures and reference for information about architectural styles and building materials. There was also a brief section concerning the planning of the new town constructed at Milton Keynes during the early 1970s.
‘The Earth Transformed – an introduction to Human Impacts on the Environment’ by Goudie and Viles was used to obtain information about development land and the impact of unsustainable architecture and building techniques upon pollution levels and global warming. The book contained information about the harmful consequences of global urbanisation and industrialisation.
‘Cities & Natural Process – A basis for sustainability’, by Michael Hough was a useful reference book for discussing development land and issues that relate to enhancing environmental sustainability. This book was also useful because there was a greater focus upon Britain within it. The book contained suggestions and examples of how sustainability could be achieved with the help of sustainable architecture. ‘Sustainable Architecture: Introduction to Sustainable Design by’ Kim and Rigdon is an article which explores the theoretical and practical background to sustainable architecture. It was used to gain information for the chapter, which dealt with sustainable architecture specifically. That information was also for the chapter concerning the need for any new construction programmes in the South-East of England to embrace sustainable architecture.
‘Pollution Prevention in Architecture – Introductory Module’ by Kim, Rigdon, and Graves provides further theoretical and practical insights into the ideas contained within the notion of sustainable architecture. This article contained strong arguments as to why sustainable architecture should be implemented across the world and not just in a single specific region of one particular country. This article proved a sound reference for the chapters concerning sustainable architecture and the necessity of its use in the South-East of England. ‘Towns, plans, and society in modern Britain’ by Helen Meller was used to gain background knowledge of the establishment of a more vigorous and restrictive planning regulatory framework brought into operation after the end of the Second World War. That information was then included within the introduction and the specific chapter dealing with the pressures upon the use of development land.
‘Urban and Environmental Planning in the UK’, by Yvonne Rydin provides useful information concerning the protection of the environment through planning regulations and restrictions. Provides good reference material as to how the British government and the European Union have attempted to reduce environmental damage through restrictions on development land and building or other regulations to cut pollution and enhance sustainability.
‘A History of Britain 3, End of Empire 1776 – 2000′, by Simon Schama was used to gain information as to why the Conservative party did not overturn the extended provision of council houses introduced by the Atlee government until after 1979. The book also had information about the ideological changes that Margaret Thatcher brought into Britain and the consequences of such changes.
‘An Environmental History of Twentieth Century Britain’ by John Sheail was a book, which discussed the developments within the environment of Britain between 1900 and 2000. Sheail examines how the understanding of environmental issues in Britain developed in the latter part of the twentieth century. The book was informative in relation to the development of policies that were intended to protect the environment and promote sustainability.
‘The City – In time and space’ by Aidan Southall was a book used to assist with the description and evaluation of the use as well as the restrictions placed upon the availability of development land within Britain. Southall’s account in particular provided information concerning the effective regeneration of brown field sites within the immediate vicinity of London besides providing an insight into the construction of the new towns in the aftermath of the Second World War.
‘Ecological Architecture: A critical history’ by Steele provided some useful practical and theoretical information about the concepts and the designs of sustainable architecture.
‘Life Cycle Analysis for Automobiles’, by Sulivan and Hu was used solely for the data concerning the amount of energy needed to produce aluminium, polyethene, PVC and steel, comparing the consumption to produce the materials new with when those products are recycled. ‘Urban Planning Since 1945′ by Nigel Taylor was a highly useful source of information with regard to the development and the continuation of planning restrictions as well as building regulations. The information about the uses of town and country planning besides the motivations for the establishment and the continuation of green belt land areas was of great use. Taylor also included some succinct information about environmental sustainability within this book.
Brenda Vale’s ‘Green Architecture: Design for a Sustainable Future’ is a good introduction to the concepts and the designs most strongly linked with sustainable development.
Prior to the start of the twentieth century there was very little formal or legal regulation or planning undertaken when it came down to the use of development land. There was in effect little to prevent the construction of new building programmes, let alone notions about limiting the size and the scope of such programmes to protect the environment or promote ecological sustainability (Taylor, 1998 p. 3). Central government by and large did not intervene to prevent individuals, businesses of various sizes, or indeed local authorities from using development land in any way that they wished to do so. The central government was willing to permit any parties to construct new buildings upon such development land, especially if the party responsible for constructing such buildings already owned the land, which was been built upon (Greed, 1996 p.
2). The freedom with which new buildings could be built was demonstrated by the ability of the majority of landowners to choose the style of architecture in the construction of their homes, factories, or shops. Landowners had the option of making their buildings as grand as possible or as cheap to construct as possible (Kim & Rigdon, December 1998 p. 5). They did not have to consider that their right to build on their land would be restricted by the location of that land in relation to the nearest city or its place in the countryside. Landowners and their architects did not believe that there was any profound need to change what they built or how they built it in order to protect the environment and promote sustainability (Sheail, 2003 p. 2).
Those building regulations that did exist were generally very minimalist in their actual nature, and were usually introduced on an ad hoc basis. Architecture and the development of land were more likely to be influenced by changes in technology or improvements in economic development, as well as change in fashion and styles (Meller, 1997 p. 63). For instance, these houses started to have gas, electricity, and water supplies installed. These supplies of utility services were regulated by the central government (Daniels, Bradshaw, Shaw, & Sidaway, 2005 p.115). Those services were also supplied to factories and shops, which were increasingly subject to health, and safety standards that were intended to prevent accidents, yet paid no attention to the land that they happened to be constructed on (Sheail, 2003 p. 2). The nineteenth century witnessed a quantum leap forward in the amount of land, which was built upon due to a raising population as well as increased levels of industrialisation. These factors happened to coincide with the development of improved infrastructure such as roads, railways, sewage systems, public hospitals, and schools. The development of such infrastructure required large quantities of land, labour, and resources to be successfully completed, whilst in turn promoting higher levels of industrialisation and the migration of people from the countryside to the expanding cities. Some cities and regions benefited economically from such industrialisation more than others did. In Britain, industrialisation benefited the regions surrounding Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, and Glasgow. Over all though London and the South-East of England retained their position as the most prosperous region within Britain. Industrialisationcame at a cost, namely pollution and greater levels of social inequality (Southall, 2000 p. 335)
The development of gas, electricity, and water supplies alongside sewage systems made domestic houses more comfortable to live in and factories more productive due to having greater efficiency (Daniels, Bradshaw, Shaw, & Sidaway, 2005 p.115).
Before a system of urban and rural planning were introduced there was no specifically set aside development land. Market forces determined the use of land and what if anything was built upon it. If landowners found that their land was most profitably used for agricultural purposes then it would remain as agricultural land (Taylor, 1998 p. 3). If, however more money could be made from building houses, shops, or factories on their land, then that is what usually happened to that land. Landowners could also be tempted to sell their land to property developers, construction firms, or industrial enterprises if they were lucky enough to own land that those other parties felt
in urgent need of developing (Meller, 1997 p. 62). It was market forces that drove the industrial revolution in Britain as well as also promoting the process of urbanisation. The processes of industrialisation and urbanisation meant that cities such as London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Glasgow greatly expanded in terms of both their geographical areas and their total population levels, which led to shrinkage in the size of rural areas in Britain as a whole (Southall, 2000 p. 335). It was also market forces that determined the location, size, and scope of housing, factories, and commercial buildings. There were no limitations to the size, location or scope of such buildings, and absolutely no attention was given to the environmental consequences of these building programmes (Sheail, 2003 p 2).
The absence of building regulations and restrictions on the use of land meant that there was a great deal of unhealthy and substandard slum housing, which caused widespread illness. Illness occurred besides reflecting the poverty of those people that were unfortunate enough to have to live in such areas (Daniels, Bradshaw, Shaw, & Sidaway, 2005 p.115). Planning regulations would have undoubtedly improved conditions, for instance introducing proper sanitation into the slums or having substandard housing replaced by higher quality houses for people to move into (Southall, 2000 p. 335). In rural areas fears that heavy industry and unsightly slums would eventually over take all the land within their close proximity prompted the foundation of organisations dedicated to the physical preservation of the countryside, the rural way of life, and its wildlife (Clapp, 1994 p. 138). The countryside preservation organisations would eventually have a strong influence on the establishment of the green belt zones and the restricted availability of development land in the more predominantly rural areas of Britain (Allmendinger and Thomas, 1998 p. 55).
It was after the end of the First World War that the central government and local authorities took a greater interest in the construction of housing and how land was actually being used in domestic housing and industrial or commercial construction programmes. The role of the market in deciding how many houses were built and the location of where those houses were constructed was reduced with the development of council houses (Taylor, 1998 p. 3). The provision of affordable housing built by local authorities and subsidised by central government funding meant that there was increased public involvement in the determination of land usage. The use, abuse, or the non-use of land was no longer solely determined by market forces. The involvement of central government and local authorities was intended to reduce poverty, ill health, and social exclusion. At no point in the inter-war period were measures taken to introduce town and country planning with the intention of protecting the environment or promoting sustainability as nobody considered such steps were necessary. The First World War had only witnessed very minimal levels of property damage caused by German naval attacks and bombing raids on Britain, so there was no widespread need for urgent reconstruction programmes as there would be at the end of the Second World War (Clapp, 1994 p. 138).
The central government first took legislative measures to restrict the use of development land within the remit of the Town and Country Planning Act of 1925, although planning decisions were usually left to individual local authorities to be enforced. The harsher economic conditions that dominated much of the inter-war period meant that the use of development land except by local authority building council houses was limited through decreased levels of capital to fund such construction projects by private sector companies (Rydin, 2003 p. 18).
The legacy of the Great Depression and the Second World War meant that central government and local authorities were keen to take a controlling interest in determining the amount of available development land as part of the increased planning of both society and the British economy. The Atlee government was tasked with reconstructing a country that had suffered extensive bomb damage during the Second World War. The majority of that damage had been sustained by the South-East of England and the Midlands, a reflection of the industrial and strategic importance of these regions to the British war effort, as well as the limited range of German bombers (Southall, 2000 p. 335). The Atlee government decided to build new towns as a way of moving thousands of families in to new council house estates that were purpose built and away from the extensively war damaged city centres such as London and Southampton. The provision of social housing was assured of continuing, as the Conservative party was as committed to its provision as the Labour party was (Schama, 2002 p. 538).
The new towns were built on carefully selected development land and green field sites. The main notion for new towns was to give people the opportunity to live in more conducive and desirable rural areas than the inner city districts of the major cities and enjoy a higher quality of life than when they had lived in those districts. Although the central government intended to conserve as much of the countryside as possible whilst solving the immediate housing shortages that has resulted from the Second World War (Sheail, 2002 p. 62). The construction of the new town in places such as Stevenage, Milton Keynes, and Telford moved people away from the cities and allowed rapid economics development of previously rural areas. When the new town were completed it also allowed more building programmes to be finished in inner city districts
with less urgency as people had already been re-housed (Clapp, 1994 p. 138). The construction of the new towns was very important for the social and economic development of post-war Britain. As London was the largest city in Britain with the most urgent requirement to have its homeless people re-housed it was no great surprise that more new towns were constructed to house people who had lived in London. The Atlee government ‘planned thirty –four New Towns, eight of them ringing London, twenty to thirty miles out, aiming at populations of 80,000 to 100,000′ (Southall, 2000 p. 337). The table below shows the national distribution of new towns in post-war Britain and which cities they took their populations from.
Although the new towns were meant to relieve the immediate post-war housing shortages some of them took longer to be completed than was originally planned. As towns such as Peterborough and Northampton already existed it was much easier to simply expand their size (Southall, 2000 p. 337). However it took longer to complete the construction of new towns that were built on sites were nothing had previously been constructed. For instance, the development and completion of Milton Keynes originally conceived in the early 1960s was not even built until after 1972 when its plans were finally approved (Frampton, 1997 p. 286).
In the immediate post-war period aside from the sites used for the new towns the main source of development land were brown field sites in already urbanised areas. The post-war need for reconstitution had allowed local authorities to opt for the construction of new buildings, which took up less land than had been destroyed during the Second World War (Rydin, 2003 p. 18). The building of high rise tower blocks at that time seemed to be the ideal means of re-housing many thousands of people and finally allowing for the long overdue clearance of inner city slums from Britain (Taylor, 1998 p. 145). As high rise tower blocks could re-house more people than
building housing estates they would reduce the need to use greater quantities of development land. High rise tower blocks changed the architectural landscape of urban and inner city Britain in the first two decades of the post-war period. Unfortunately high rise tower blocks were not the ideal means of making the best and most efficient use of development land, as they did not offer long-term comfort and they also required a lot of maintaining to remain habitable (Kim & Rigdon, December 1998 p. 5). Buildings that have only have a limited life span, that were constructed with unsustainable and generally non-recyclable materials is about away from the concepts of sustainable architecture as it could be possible to go. Such badly constructed building projects were that undoubtedly a waste of taxpayers’ money as well as a waste of resources and also the development land used (Taylor, 1998 p. 147).
Arguably, it was not the basic concept of high rise tower blocks which was flawed, rather the materials in the construction were generally of poor quality and the tower blocks were not prove against the vagaries of the British weather (Meller, 1997 p. 63). High rise tower blocks would in some places be prone to damp, expensive to heat and vulnerable to crime. More recent urban building programmes have returned to the idea of putting individual flats within apartment blocks that are not as high as high rise tower blocks had been (Rydin, 2003 p. 281). Building apartment blocks still allows more people to be housed than more traditional houses, reducing the need for new development land, and potentially increasing profits for the firms that sell flats in often desirable locations (Taylor, 1998 p. 145). Given the increasing demand for housing in recent years the construction of apartment blocks seems to be a sounder method of finding extra homes for people without needing extra development land. Apartment blocks have been a favoured form of new construction projects in the inner city areas, which have been given central government, and European Union funds for regeneration schemes. Such schemes have frequently succeeded in completing more new housing programmes in these areas as well as receiving or expanding local businesses and reducing unemployment (Rydin, 2003 p. 281).
When it comes down to solving housing shortages or conserving the countryside, the continued protection of the green belt or allowing it to be used as development land has caused much debate. The original concept behind the designation and the protection of the green belt was the conservation of the parts of the countryside, which were not needed as development land for the new towns (Sheail, 2002 p. 2). For central government and the local authorities had believed that the construction programmes within already urban areas when added to the housing, shops and industrial units built in the new towns meant that implied that there was no longer an urgent
or pressing need for limitless amounts of development land. Central government and the local authorities assumed that the regeneration of brown field sites and construction on unused urban land would provide all the development land that was actually needed. These assumptions were based on there being no significant demographic and social changes, which would drastically alter the demand for new building projects (Southall, 2000 p. 337).
The central government and local authorities to ensure that all the areas included within the nominated green belt zones did not become used up as development land tight planning regulations and restrictions were set as to how or when green belt land could be built upon. Those regulations and planning restrictions were so tight that virtually no green belt land was used for new building projects. The long-term consequences of establishing and then maintaining the green belt zones was the rigid restricting of the availability of development land so as to prevent the urbanisation of large areas of the countryside. Some areas of green belt land have gone to have even tougher planning regulations and building restrictions placed on them when central government or the relevant local authority has believed that to be necessary. The strengthening of planning regulations and restrictions is most especially undertaken for areas that are considered to well blessed with rare plants and animals, which is besides other parts of the countryside that are deemed to be of high scientific interest (Clapp, 1994 p. 140).
There are certainly those who argue that the restrictions on the amount of development land made available imposed by the maintenance of the green belt zones should be reduced drastically due to altering demographic, social, and economic trends (Taylor, 1998 p. 147). The pressure for relaxing or indeed completely removing the green belt zone restrictions is caused by concerns about the increasing levels of housing shortages. Pressure has risen as the number of building sites in urban areas has started to dwindle at the same time that the number of people wanting separate houses for themselves has noticeably increased (Rydin, 2003 p. 18).
The pressure to build great quantities of houses, shops, and industrial units on green belt land has also been raised by landowners and property developers showing a desire to use such land for their benefit. They are hoping to share in the potentially significant profits that could be made from the selling of properties in the mainly rural areas, which constitute green belt zones (Taylor, 2003 p. 147). Not only would people wish to live in less urbanised areas, the landowners and property developers would expect the land in such areas to be cheaper than the land available in urban areas. The housing policies pursued by the Conservative governments between 1979 and 1997 effectively meant that market forces were once again the main determining factor in deciding the level and the location of building programmes, providing that planning permission could be obtained. The main change introduced by the Conservative governments from 1979 was the selling off of council tenants through the right to buy scheme and the sharp reduction in the number of new council houses being built. Although some new social housing was constructed by housing associations it was at greatly reduced levels compared to the 1950s, the 1960s, and the 1970s (Rydin, 2003 p. 281). Those developments have reduced the availability of affordable housing and boosted house prices as well as worsening the shortages of new homes available to people in the South-East of England. The sell off of council houses was one of the
Thatcher government’s most popular policies, yet it terms of protecting the environment and enhancing sustainability it was probably one of the most short sighted policies pursued by that administration (Allmendinger and Thomas, 1998 p. 5). The sell off of council houses stimulated the private housing market which in turn meant more people wanted to own their homes, and led to ever increasing numbers of proposed building projects. Building and property developers would have strong grounds for believing that properties newly built in areas which are currently protected through the green belt regulations would fetch high prices, especially as the South-East of England usually has the highest priced properties nationally (Rydin, 2003 p. 56).
Sustainable architecture is a concept within architecture that has expanded in influence as the knowledge about adverse environmental changes caused by human activity has increased (Hough, 2004 p. 5). The starting point of the concepts concerning sustainability is that the natural environment is a living ecosystem, which is being unduly and dangerously harmed by human activity (Vale, 1991 p. 2). Sustainable architecture is therefore a development and remains strongly linked with ecology as well as environmentalist organisations (Taylor, 1998 p. 149). The main objective of sustainable architecture is thus to minimise the adverse environmental impact of buildings from their initial construction throughout the entire period of their occupation and use, as well as after their eventual demolition (Kim & Rigdon, 1998 p. 5). The aims of sustainable architecture are achievable through improved building designs, careful selection of the most sustainable building materials and the use of the most efficient technology (Steele, 2005 p. 4).
Prior to the emergence of ecological movements the main focus of architecture was deciding upon which architectural style to use, and whether to make the building designs appear more important than the actual functions of the buildings being constructed. Architects wee not averse to using building materials from the other side of the world if that material would could the desired design or appearance of the completed building. Providing the company paying for building of construction projects was happy to pay for exotic materials within that project bringing materials from far flung places was not a problem (Steele, 2005 p. 4). The financial cost of construction projects was an essential consideration before building work could commence, yet environmental costs were not considered to be of any great significance or indeed counted within the over all financial costs of each completed project (Vale, 1991 p. 2). Those architects and property developers who are either opposed or unconvinced of the need to use designs and materials based upon sustainable architecture could argue that such construction projects will become too expensive and therefore be detrimental to strong economic growth. Implementing a strategy to achieve sustainable architecture might not be detrimental to strong economic growth or performance (Kim & Rigdon, December 1998 p. 5). The intended outcome of the designs and materials that are adopted through sustainable architecture are lower energy consumption levels and the more efficient use of other sources would be beneficial in the longterm (Kim & Rigdon, December 1998 p. 5). Improving energy and resource efficiency with sustainable architectural designs arguably enhances the prospects for strong economic growth and performance rather than decreasing such chances. Japan for instance uses considerably less fossil fuel than the United States and other Western countries without any adverse economic consequences, mainly as a consequence of using sustainable architecture to lower consumption levels (Kim & Rigdon, December 1998 p. 6).
The materials needed to successfully complete building programmes have traditionally resources whose extraction or production has added to pollution caused by human activity (Vale, 1991 p.
2). To increase the adverse consequences of building programmes the finite resources expended have not generally come from renewable sources (Kim & Rigdon, December 1998 p. 5). The construction costs of buildings have usually only included the cost of the materials used, and the labour used to complete those buildings. When calculating the costs of building programmes very little attention used to be given to incorporating the costs of the actual building materials used to complete the buildings themselves. For instance the cost of shipping or flying rare or exotic materials was not usually accounted for. Some building materials are very intensive in
terms of the amount of resources used and pollution caused to produce or refine them that they should rarely be used in building designs inspired or influenced by sustainable architecture. Perhaps the best example of such a building material is aluminium, which should only be used in building projects unless it is taken from 100 per cent recycled material (Kim & Rigdon, December 1998 p. 5).
Those using sustainable architecture techniques attach far more importance to the environmental impact of their own construction projects (Kim & Rigdon, December 1998 p. 5). Even before sustainable architecture emerged as a concept some architects had already started to use less resources to complete their construction projects (Frampton, 1997 p. 266). For instance, more modernist types of architecture such as functionalism and structuralism may have used less materials in their construction than more traditional styles, though that was an inadvertent consequence of the style being expressed as opposed to concerns about the environment (Kim &
Rigdon, December 1998 p. 5). Architects were using minimal amounts of building materials and resources before the emergence of sustainable architecture either as an expression of their preferred style, or also as a means of keeping the financial costs of their construction projects as low as possible (Kim & Rigdon, December 1998 p.5).
Sustainable architecture is achieved by various methods which when combined together reduce the environmental impact of buildings whether newly constructed or modified in structure. The financial costs of constructing new buildings is high, whilst when unsustainable construction techniques continue to be actively employed then the environmental costs and also the consequences will be even higher (Kim & Rigdon, December 1998 p. 5). The materials used in the construction of new buildings such as concrete, steel, bricks, timber, and glass are manufactured in ways, which entail the extensive not to mention intensive use of natural resources. Not only do such construction materials have to be extracted from the earth, that very extraction and the processing of these building materials so that they are ready to be used requires large quantities of energy to do so. By deciding to utilise recycled construction materials architects following the concepts put forward via the notion of sustainable architecture could make a significant step towards energy consumption by reducing the need to extract raw minerals and turn them into finished construction materials. Aluminium is probably the most environmentally damaging building material to be used when produced from being new, so should only be used the attributes of that metal itself are required for the successful completionof any project (Kim, Rigdon, & Graves, August 1998 p. 5). Recycling building materials is not only better for the environment, it could also be more cost effective in the long-term as construction firms will not have to pay so much for their materials (Kim & Rigdon, December 1998 p. 5). Furthermore, the more construction projects which use as much recycled building materials as possible the more it will help to conserve finite resources and perhaps could even delay the onset of scarcities in such materials (Rydin, 2003 p. 281).
Sustainable architecture is also about using sustainable materials and improved environmentally friendlier technology within existing buildings as well as in newly constructed buildings. Sustainable architecture helps to protect the environment by lowering the amount of toxic pollutants released into the atmosphere during the construction process, as well as later once the buildings are in full use (Kim, Rigdon, & Graves, August 1998 p. 5).
It seems likely that the central government and local authorities will increasingly consider new construction programmes to be built upon development land drawn from green belt land. To appease environmentalist and ecological groups, the central government and local authorities might insist that developers will have to adhere to concepts linked with s a before receiving full planning permission (Taylor, 1998 p. 147). Central government and local authorities would in any case want any new construction programmes to use as much renewable, recycled and biodegradable materials as possible to meet the pollution cutting targets set by the European Union (Rydin, 2003 p. 281). The European Union has generally set tougher targets to reduce pollution and promote environmental sustainability than the governments of its member states have done (Meller, 1997 p. 109). Therefore, the British government has attempted to persuade businesses to increase their environmental sustainability to meet European Union targets (Meller, 1997 p. 109). When it comes down to the construction industry it would be easier to achieve targets set by the central government and the European Union by embracing sustainable architecture when constructing new building programmes in the South-East of England (Taylor,1998 p. 145).
For construction firms using sustainable architecture would not only allow them to comply with environmental requirements, it could in the long term prove it is more cost effective. Re-using and recycling building materials would mean these companies could avoid paying land fill taxes (Kim & Rigdon, December 1998 p. 5). If companies are also able to recycle their own waste products, they might also be able to avoid buying new materials altogether, or at least lower the amount of new materials they need to complete new building programmes (Kim & Rigdon, December 1998 p. 5). Companies will no doubt begin to favour using sustainable architecture techniques if it means that they gain planning permission when it might not otherwise be granted. Planning permission allows construction to proceed ensuring profits, as well as saving the costs of new materials and allowing them to avoid green house taxes such as the land fill tax (Sheail, 2002 p. 62).
It would actually be straightforward for building companies to adopt most of the measures and techniques linked with s a. For instance, such companies could buy their construction materials from suppliers that are able to provide renewable, recycled, as well as biodegradable materials.Sustainability is also enhanced through the use of appliances and equipment that are rated according to the amount of harm they do or do not do the environment. The more companies, which will only use products that are renewable, recyclable, and biodegradable the cheaper all those building material products, will become (Kim & Rigdon, December 1998 p. 5).
This chapter specifically evaluates the pressures on development land, and the pressures for sustainable architecture in the South-East of England. In general terms it could be argued that the pressures on the use of development land and for using the techniques of sustainable architecture in the South-East of England are the same as in the rest of Britain. For instance, architects and property developers in London would have the same pressures or conditions as their counterparts in Birmingham, Manchester, and Glasgow (Hough, 2004 p. 190). However, this is not the case in reality as the economic and social conditions in the South-East of England are not the same as in the rest of Britain. Different conditions have a strong influence over why the pressures to use development land or adopt sustainable architecture vary throughout the country. Formally though the planning regulations and restrictions upon the use of development land (most notably the green belt) as well as the legal requirements to make buildings environmentally less damaging are the same in the other regions within Britain. It is however the pressures to act to use development land and to a lesser extent sustainable architecture in the South-East of England which are arguably much greater in that specific region than in the other regions of Britain (Kim & Rigdon, December 1998 p. 5).
The pressures on development land are stronger than in the other regions of Britain because the region usually has stronger economic growth than everywhere else does. That economic disparity within Britain has been referred to as the divide between the North and South which recognises that the South-East of England is wealthier than the other regions of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales (Schama, 2002 p. 538). Stronger economic growth and performance also equates to a higher demand for the construction of more homes, shops, and industrial or business units. Such increased levels of demand in turn puts added pressure to use development land to satisfy such demand. Although any new buildings would have to comply with tougher environmental regulations, the amount of land being used for new construction is still being restricted through the operation of the green belt schemes. Property developers and construction firms regard the green belt schemes as an unnecessary restraint on their profits and a barrier to economic growth. Such arguments would have probably been disregarded as much as before if other economic and social changes had not also placed additional pressure to use green belt land as development land (Sheail, 2002 p. 62). The continuation of the green belt policy owes a great deal to both Conservative and Labour governments being unwilling to risk electoral unpopularity by allowing a full return to the unrestricted use of development land (Meller, 1997 p. 109).
The higher economic growth and performance frequently experienced by the South-East of England is mostly attributable to the fact that London is located within this region. London is a magnet to businesses as well as for people. London and its surrounding suburbs have the largest concentration of population within Britain (Meller, 1997 p. 109). London has the largest population of any city in Britain as it is the capital city, with more people and businesses wanting to be located there or within travelling distance of there. High demand for domestic housing, retail, and business premises has meant the price of land, houses, and rents are also high (Vale, 1991 p.2).
Demographic changes have increased the pressure of development land in the South-East of England. Whilst increases in the South-East of England were modest not above the national average the demands to use d l were manageable and it was not too difficult to leave green belt zone areas free of new building programmes. However, even before the increases in population within the South-East of England rose above the national average the demand for new development land had put pressure on the green belt zone (Meller, 1997 p. 109). There was an increased demand for homes, due to more adults living on their own, either through choices or because of the breakdown of relationships. Higher divorce rates, as well as more single parent families has meant that more homes are wanted than were available (Meller, 1997 p. 109).
Further pressure was put on development land in the South-East of England by the sharp decline in the amount of council houses available. That was primarily due to council house tenants taking up their right to buy option, with central government not allowing local authorities to build new council houses. The Conservative governments between 1979 and 1997 regarded the reduction of housing controlled and owned by the public sector as being a politically, socially, and economically desirable outcome. The declining amount of council houses in turn meant that people either had to rent their accommodation from private landlords or attempt to buy their own homes. With local authorities unable to build any new council houses the onus for the building of new houses fell upon private property developers and building firms. Property developers and building firms viewed the land protected by being part of the green belt zone as an untapped source of development land (Meller, 1997 p. 109).
The pressure to use extra amounts of development land drawn from the green belt zone in the South-East of England has increased because of population increases. In recent years the main cause of such population increases in the South-East of England has been immigration, both by asylum seekers and people from the new member states of the European Union (Meller, 1997 p. 109).
Therefore, there are various reasons for the pressure on development land, and also for the adoption of sustainable architecture in the South-East of England. Some of these reasons are the same as the general reasons and factors as witnessed or experienced within the other regions of Britain. The amount of development land available in the South-East of England was tightly controlled by the planning restrictions linked with the establishment and the maintenance of the green belt zones. As they were intended to do the green belt zones restricted the scope, location as well as the size of new construction programmes in the South-East of England. Instead of building within the green belt zones, development land was confined to brown field sites as well as in the areas already set aside for the development and the expansion of the new towns. At least until the 1980s the building programmes that had been in the areas of the new towns and upon brown field sites appeared to have adequately housed families and businesses a like (Kim & Rigdon, December 1998 p. 5).
The changes in demographic trends has certainly put more pressure has arguably put more pressure upon existing development in the South- East of England, as well as prompting calls for green belt land to be used for new building programmes. There are also strong pressures for present and future building programmes within the South-East of England to embrace sustainable architecture in their planning, construction, and final completion. The British government and the European Union have passed legislation and set directives, which require member states to reduce pollution levels, as well as embracing practices that improve sustainability throughout the community. Building companies will have to embrace sustainable materials to comply with the law, so they might as well use designs that maximise the level of sustainability within each new building programme that they complete. The use of renewable, recycled and biodegradable materials to complete new building programmes built in accordance within the concepts of social architecture will reduce the environmental impact of new construction necessitated by higher population levels within the South-East of England. Whilst central governments and local authorities are not keen about agreeing to increasing the use of development land in the South East of England, the recent increases in population within the region mean that new construction will not be avoidable in the long-term.
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