An Aalto University study gives indications that townhouses appeal to a pioneering type of resident willing to compromise on living space for environmental reasons.
The Dream Home study completed at the Aalto University Department of Architecture examined the demand for townhouse-type residential buildings. Alongside families with children, the study identified different kinds of groups of various sizes and lifestyles who are interested in townhouse living. Interest in townhouses is greatest in groups which appreciate an environment resembling that of a city centre. However, those appreciating a greener living environment also take a positive view of townhouses.
The study put special emphasis on the preconditions with which townhouse living could correspond to the residential needs of different kinds of households, and how these needs might be considered in the urban planning of townhouse areas.
Significant factors concerning the planning of townhouses include opinions on the density of a residential area and attitudes towards social contacts and the feeling of community. Four different lifestyle groups were identified in the study.
‘Using these factors we identified four groups: busy and social, busy and private, spacious and social, and spacious and private. What was remarkable about identifying the measures was that an urban, built-up city space does not correlate with the feeling of community. Density does not directly create community spirit,’ says researcher Anne Tervo.
The study also examined the interest shown toward different methods of construction. The target groups found buying directly from a contractor and using the services of a building consultant as the most interesting options. The responses to the questionnaire also suggest an unexpectedly great interest in shared space. The study gives indications that townhouses appeal to pioneering residential groups who are willing to compromise on residential space in exchange for a better environment.
‘Townhouses are currently larger than the respondents' ideal living space would be. The result could move the development of the concept in a new direction,’ Tervo says.
The results of the research are to be used when planning and developing townhouse-type buildings in a Finnish context. In light of the results it is apparent that increasing the popularity of townhouses requires design solutions that are tailored to different lifestyles and residential styles. This would help to create successful buildings which would showcase townhouses to target groups. In addition, building standards require more flexible application from the point of view of accessibility and divisibility.
In the background of the study are zoning projects in the Helsinki region, whose goals include enhancing the versatility of residential alternatives with the help of new urban types of housing. As a building type, the term townhouse refers to small houses attached to the neighbouring houses on the sides, with a street-level entrance and small front and back yards. The rows of houses bordering on the street form a dense city structure on a small scale.
The project resumes in the autumn of 2014, when material from the questionnaire will be given closer examination in workshop activities. The results of the research for the entire project are to be reported in early 2015.
Professor Hannu Huttunen
tel.+358 40 0844967
hannu.huttunen [at] aalto [dot] fi
Researcher Anne Tervo
tel. +358 40 776 9814
anne.tervo [at] aalto [dot] fi