The demand for houses and homes that are less expensive to build has been keeping specialists busy for longer than just the last few years – since for ever, in fact, as cheap (quick) living spaces have always been needed.

The cited examples from the “Standard’s” article are thus neither new, nor do they originate from the Scandinavian region. We probably all remember the so-called apartment flats of former East Germany. All the same, many of the same elements, everything standardised, primarily prefabricated, many surface mountings etc. Simplified, and correspondingly functional for the residents of the time. Or one can remember the constructions in Berlin and Vienna in the pre-war period. Even then, affordable living space was an important social aspect.

In our opinion, the question is not whether one can build cheaper buildings, but rather under which framework conditions this should occur. Which standards do we want as a society or as individuals, and which are we prepared to relinquish?

On this matter, planners and builders must differentiate between optimisation potential which is designable, and that which is fixed by the legislation. A standard size to be observed is, for example, the 250 cm height of a living room. Whereby it is appropriate to wonder what the individual loses at 245 or 240 cm? The answer lies in the eye of the beholder. Aspects of use are certainly designable, such as water taps or the demand for visible installations. That, as a planner, one should try everything to fall back on that which is tried and proven rather that inventing everything anew, is self-evident with regard to efficiency; likewise, unifying instead of only creating single pieces. All of this is however always coupled with matters concerning comfort of use and design. What is the goal of my planning in conjunction with the requirements and wishes of the owner?

Furthermore, certain (minimum) standards must be applied in the context of the legal regulations.

The respective regional building regulations, structural engineering orders or the (former) European construction-products directive, now the Construction Products Regulation, thus define standards. These provisions are however to be observed by the planners and builders and are (usually) mandatory. Deviations are only permitted for equal implementation, in the sense of the goals of the provision in question. In view of an optimisation process, this currently means the public legal (planning) limit. Through a reduction of social demands and thus “an individual/a new definition (direction) for cheap planning and building”, there would be more leeway in some circumstances due to amendments of the regulations.

On the other hand, technical norms are (with the exception of protective laws) guidelines and can be implemented more “freely”. This means that there is potential at this point, where the limit can be refined.

In the context of a promised competition and the following implementation by a team of architects, constructional ecologists and kppk, a similar optimisation project for the purpose of demarcation was conducted (unfortunately only) up to the tender planning. The goal of this project was to question the requirements of the OIB guidelines and to tread alternative solution pathways (such as minimising the floor structure, surface mounting, minimising outputs, etc… but also reducing the required tolerances in the shell structure).

Unfortunately, the team failed at processing guarantee topics with the executing construction companies and thus at the new risk assessment of the property developer.

Another assumption suggests that the lack of essential finishing craft would have led to a significant reduction or transfer of (calculated) manufacturing costs, which was not desired by the company despite a known and obvious planning goal.



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