Sarah Halford

Architecture and Ceramics

metric space standards

The book of Scottish Space Standards that we use in our office was first published in 1968; we use the 1985 edition which is surprisingly relevant to today’s way of living.

Minimum dimensions are given for the major rooms of the home, based on typical activities such as having friends for coffee, eating dinner, helping a child bake a cake, even moving furniture up and down stairs. The dimensions have largely been assumed by Housing for Varying Needs guidance, the benchmark for most Housing Associations in Scotland. The  minumum net areas for houses and flats are also given.

In many ways the way we use our homes hasn’t changed a great deal since 1985, according to the space standards. One major change is that there is no provision for a computer, although really we’ve bypassed the era when there was a dedicated desk for the family computer. People often use their laptops at home, or their computer doubles up as a bedroom tv.  The book has anticipated that the radiator has freed us from arranging our furniture around the fire, and instead the arrangements are often around the coffee table.

Ergonomes are shown in plan and elevation, to describe the most useful furniture and fitting arrangements, along with descriptions of the different rooms with how much furniture should be shown. When we lay out houses, we still show a sideboard in the living room, despite every second-hand and antique showroom I have been in being crammed with the things. Young people do not have sideboards in their homes.

Storage space is divided into general storage, on all storeys of a house; solid fuel storage, which we never provide; linen storage, of a sensible dimension; kitchen storage, also specified in the building regulations; pram space, and medicine cabinets.

The book has charming diagrams at the back, showing exemplar family groups and how they typically use their homes, in spacial arrangements relating to the diagrams in the earlier chapters. An example can be seen in two parts here and here. See the last entry for a wee bit of humour from the illustrator.

I was two years old when this addition was published, and when I read it I’m transported back to the Mary Quant carpet of my Mum’s  house in York. I wonder what the editors thought the 2010 version would look like; a different sort of fuel store? No fuel store at all? A garage on the roof? Smaller kitchen storage for the meal-pills we’d be eating? The reality is more plug points, internet points in all the bedrooms, a fitted kitchen as standard and space for various recycling bins.

Tvs have also become bigger, but also less voluminous [is that the right word? It makes the tellybox sound like a billowing curtain, or an inflatable].


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This entry was posted on February 13, 2011 by in architecture.
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