Parker Morris Committee

The Parker Morris Committee drew up an influential 1961 report on housing space standards in public housing in the United Kingdom entitled Homes for Today and Tomorrow. The report concluded that the quality of social housing needed to be improved to match the rise in living standards and made a number of recommendations. The Committee took a functional approach to determining space standards in the home by considering what furniture was needed in rooms, the space needed to use the furniture and move around it, and the space needed for normal, household activities.

Out of the report came the Parker Morris Standards, set out in the Ministry of Housing's "Design Bulletin 6 – Space in the Home". This provided typical dimensions for the typical items of furniture for which the dwelling designer should allow space, and provided anthropometric data about the space needed to use and move about furniture.

In 1967 these space standards became mandatory for all housing built in new towns, extended to all council housing in 1969, although they had by then already been adopted by many local councils. The mandatory nature of the standards was ended by the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980, as concerns grew over the cost of housing and, generally, public spending.

Among the standards are that:

  • In one, two and three bedroom dwellings, one flushing toilet is required, and it may be in the bathroom.
  • A semi-detached or end-of-terrace house for 4 people should have a net floor area of 72 square metres.
  • A dwelling for three or more people should have enclosed storage space for the kitchen of 2.3 cubic metres.
  • Dwellings should be fitted with heating systems that maintain the kitchen and circulation space at 13 degrees Celsius, and the living and dining spaces at 18 °C, when the external temperature is −1 °C.

In the private sector the Parker Morris Standards influenced the 1967 and subsequent standards set by the National House Builders' Registration Council, now the National House Building Council, but were not adopted as written. However it is widely felt that most public and private sector housing being built today fails to meet the Parker Morris standards for floor and storage space, and this led to a decision in 2008 by the former government agency English Partnerships to re-introduce minimum standards that are 10% more generous than those of Parker Morris for developments on its own land.

Subsequently, The Office of the Mayor of London has also opted to move to adopt a Design Guide for Housing within the city which will be 10% more generous than the Parker Morris Standards. This guide was published on 19 August 2010 and will be implemented from April 2011.

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