Resistance to base building

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Despite these encouraging facts and developments, there are still some questions to answer: Why are there not more base buildings? Why did the development come to an almost complete standstill in the 1990s? What is the outlook for the future? Why is there so much resistance to this application, when the methods work well and the building costs are not higher than normal? Why is ‘base-building fit-out’ still not commonplace in public housing? How will individuals deal with this, even if they are not in a position to pay for the entire house themselves, just the fit-out?

In the discussions at the start-up of a project, most developers and clients seem to believe it is good in principle but are hesitant because it is new. This hesitation is due to a number of reasons. Firstly, a housing association and a project developer do not need to make the design and execution process more complex with fit-out elements that they have never used before. Nor do they welcome the idea of involving individual residents in planning their home. They believe it is good in theory, but inconvenient at the same time. Clients still believe that it is not their task to directly involve residents in this way. They are afraid of excesses and odd floor plans that are unacceptable to subsequent residents. Quite understandable for someone who has never experienced it. However, the excesses are limited to one or two exceptions that can be changed later with the help of the residents. Research in Delft has provided data about the nature and frequency of changes by residents.

A second reason for hesitation is the assumption that if every resident has his own floor plan, building will be more expensive . Institutional clients like housing corporations and project developers are convinced that diversity and flexibility cost money. Evidence to the contrary in the projects Keyenburg in Rotterdam and Berkenkamp in Enschede were not always convincing. And where there was faith, the contractor quashed it due to a lack of experience or refusal to believe in it at the proposal stage.

The strong conviction and will of the client appear to be the most important forces for bringing about those base building projects, at least until the residents can take matters into their own hands and become the clients. Apprehension certainly subsides when the parties to a design remain open to the possibility of turning it into a standard project. Despite the greater involvement of private clients, considering future changes in land-based homes remains difficult, as does finding a corporation or developer as backup.

A third reason lies with the designers. They are unable to agree on the rights of residents to determine the layout of their homes. Changes in functions within a home is fine, but changing the layout – never. Architects feel responsible for the developed environment ‘from chair to city’. They have not learned to design specifically for you the user, but rather for an anonymous client, often an organization paying for the residential or office building. Even now, corporations and municipalities ask for residential floor plans to be assessed, as if the layout of a home were a professional job, not as basic as eating and drinking. The architect discusses his designs with directors at the conference table. The terms turn out to be much less of a hindrance than you would imagine. The Building Decree has simplified matters with its nationally rather than municipally applicable statements. And the utility companies – after the partial privatization of energy companies – now have the authority to allow adjustments. Whether or not they use it is the important question?

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