We all know that Britain has a ‘traditional outlook’ when it comes to housebuilding: aside from a few modernisations, we have built more or less in the same way for hundreds of years.
Whilst we have clung to our bricks and mortar and felt restricted by an onerous planning system, parts of Europe have been more open to innovation and using imagination when considering new ways to deliver housing. So is it time we took a little inspiration from our European neighbours?
Those in the know promised me, that there is no better place to see what can be achieved than the city of Almere in the province of Flevoland, Netherlands. Could such innovative ways of housebuilding hold the key to helping the UK dig its way out of the housing crisis? As part of the BSA’s project to research the role of – and potential in – modern methods of construction, I headed to Almere to see for myself.
My first destination was the plot-shop or kavelwinkel to use its Dutch name. This is where, as the name suggests, a potential homeowner can come and interactively browse through the available plots and put an offer in if they would like to buy one.
Lots of information is provided from the plot-shop experts and buyers are put in touch with manufacturers and developers to help them in the next stage of building their home. This makes the process a lot less daunting. Local authorities issue the building permits, which set out the parameters of what can be built.
The vast array of different sizes, locations and build types means that homeownership is achievable for all budgets. First time buyers with typically smaller budgets will find the homes they want, as well as those looking to build a more elaborate design where the budget is less restrictive.
Almere is one of the fastest-growing cities in Europe. Raised from the sea, the city was constructed in the seventies and became a spacious area, with many modern and innovative highlights. In just 40 years, Almere’s population has grown to around 200,000.
There is certainly a lot that can be learnt from this inspiring City. Not only has it embraced ways of making it easier for people to build their own homes, but it has also incorporated many new building technologies and techniques such as offsite construction, which the UK is only just beginning to take advantage of.
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