• Ashok Lall

    Here is the conundrum. Middle class homes built for families with parents and children do not shrink or subdivide when the young take wing. They have spare accommodation which they enjoy – guests, friends, visitors, hobbies, home-based work. Singles and couples ( without children) wanting compact homes – bedsitter or one bedroom apartment – consume more floor space per person compared to family homes. Overall, the demand for residential space doubles as a result of this demographic shift. And the demand for residential units trebles!

    “The Market” is slow to respond. This is in the nature of buildings. You can’t alter them with the ease of altering a hand-me-down shirt.

    Perhaps the answer lies in the way buildings should be designed. The good old terrace house is a good model. Four storeys high, two rooms deep, one and half rooms wide, toilet/kitchen possibility on each floor and a stair at the entrance that connects all floors. This is a robust typology – in which you can expand and subdivide to achieve a whole range of household configurations with relative ease – single women’s hostel, independant bed-sitters, one bedroom flats, multi-generational joint family, clinic, office……. It is cheap to build, needs very little to make fire, earthquake and typhoon safe, and if you park cars at a distance ( or do away with them when close to public transport ) you can get high densities in compact formations. A great way for mixing age-groups and social sets to produce a vibrant and humane urbanity.