Foto: SOL4 Büro- und Seminarzentrum Eichkogel

home dreams

Listening to the inhabitants of innovative buildings and using their satisfactory and unsatisfactory experiences as the basis for drawing up practice based criteria and recommendations for a quality, user-orientated building policy. The target groups are funding bodies, building contractors and town planners.

Content Description

Status

finished

Summary

"Home dreams" is a project which focuses on the needs and satisfaction of residents already living in innovative housing. The target of "home dreams" is the development of practice-orientated criteria, recommendations for good practice and suggestions for measures to be taken by investors and contractors, in order to heighten awareness of innovative house-building.

The starting point is a directed and detailed analysis of the criteria for quality defined by the residents themselves. In addition, extensive standardised questionnaires and interviews were completed and evaluated. Due to the extensive nature of the project it has been broken down into a general commentary, five shorter sections and a volume on materials.

The results should make a contribution towards:

  • raising understanding of user-specific obstacles in the innovative housing market
  • promoting investment in innovation-orientated projects
  • raising acceptance of innovation-orientated housing
  • furthering an eco-housing sector

Course of work and methods

At the beginning of the project an analysis of all the literature pertaining to it was carried out. Through this, people's wishes and needs in terms of living satisfaction were researched and documented.

The central criterion in the selection and documentation of the reference projects was innovation in the light of resident satisfaction, and the interest and readiness to co-operate shown by the respective contractors. The choice of projects was based on the categories of social, economic and ecological innovation.

The five chosen reference projects in Vienna are:

  • Mischek Tower (1220 Vienna, Mischek GmbH)
  • Low Energy House Engerthstrasse ( 1020 Vienna, Vienna South)
  • Thermal Housing Estate Oberlaa (1100 Vienna, ÖSW)
  • Owner-built Housing Estate Leberberg (1110 Vienna, GEWOG component)
  • Vehicle-Free Model Housing Estate (1210 Vienna, GEWOG and Mischek GmbH)

The target of the survey was to establish the subjective criteria for resident's choice of location, and the factors contributing to living satisfaction. The questionnaire was standardised, in written form and directed primarily at adults. For every multi-residential building there was one core questionnaire supplemented by specific questions appropriate to particular projects. In all, a total of 1087questionnaires were sent out. From this number, 494 were filled out, returned and analysed.

For households the return rate was 33%, which in comparison with other research surveys is relatively high. With the support of three building contractors (parts of the "bmvit" backed project were co-financed), additional interviews were carried out with residents in Mischek Tower, Low Energy House Engerthstrasse and Thermal Housing Estate Oberlaa). Lifestyle issues were of particular importance in these interviews. The main points from the resident's interviews were worked into the questionnaire thematically, in the form of stories and quotes.

The results and feed-back of the investigation were presented in the framework of e3building workshops with experts from the building sector,

The compilation of recommendations for action for the two main target groups, contractors and building investors, constituted the rounding-off of this project.

Questionnaire results

The following documentation and interpretation (structured thematically) of the quantitative and qualitative results of the questionnaires gives a comparative overview of the residential buildings investigated.

Motives

The results of the survey showed clear and constant criteria determining the motives for the residents' choice of apartment. These are related above all to aspects of the surroundings: facilities available and the proximity of leisure and recreation areas.

The results of the survey identified these criteria as "hard location factors" in the individual's choice of apartment. These so-called 'hard location factors' come behind the aspect of cost in the order of motives determining choice of apartment. Specific qualities of particular buildings (e.g. low energy consumption or specially designed communal spaces) do play an influential role in the individual's decision for or against a flat. These factors, however, only come into consideration after the 'hard location criteria' as a main priority have been fulfilled.

Living satisfaction

All the questionnaires returned revealed that residents from each of the estates surveyed are essentially very satisfied with their flat. Where criticism is made, it is concerned with planning details. One striking phenomenon is the consistent order in which residents placed various aspects of satisfaction. The lighting of the apartments is the aspect considered best by all residents. The size, plan and location of the apartments were mostly considered "very good" or "good". The presence of free roaming space within the apartments was considered to be very important by the residents. Common to all housing estates was a dissatisfaction with the quality of the materials used and the lack of storage facilities. People also tended to be dissatisfied with the amount of rent and overhead costs they had to pay, which, as a central factor in the decision to take or reject an apartment, must be taken into consideration by contractors, politicians and investors.

Overview

The motives that had been cited for choosing an apartment and the order in which aspects of satisfaction were placed were mirrored again in the general overview of the building/housing block or estate as a whole. Living surroundings, facilities, access to public transport or leisure and recreation possibilities were given high priority, just as they were highly rated in the part of the survey pertaining to the individual apartments. Interestingly, architecture does not figure at all highly among the factors influencing choice of apartment and living satisfaction. Functional aspects such as accessibility, garage space, storage space and choice of building materials are not considered to be part of the 'architecture', but nevertheless were subject to harsh criticism. The conclusion to be drawn from this is that a change in the weight put on different architectural aspects should be encouraged. There needs to be a move away from clean, aesthetical aspects, towards functional, user-orientated aspects. The design of green and recreational areas was broadly criticised, although their size was generally deemed sufficient.

This interpretation of the innovation concept through the residents themselves highlighted and emphasised the tension gap between an expert-orientated and a user-orientated housing concept.

Social climate

The ideal neighbour is open to occasional visits, helpful, quiet, tidy and basically available when needed. This consistent image of a desired social climate is characterised by an underlying desire for an option of contact and friendship, arising from the need for quiet, intimacy, and security within that close living environment which is the apartment. The progression towards a more individualistic society is coupled by a need for community, togetherness and personal contact. For this reason, contractors and planners are being encouraged to place more emphasis on the realisation of "communicative living forms".

Mobility and everyday organisation

Efficient and accessible public transport was essential as a factor determining the choice of location and apartment for the residents interviewed. How easily surrounding areas, facilities and leisure and recreation sites can be reached is also a deciding quality.

There is a rising need for leisure provision "within our own four walls" (within the apartment, the free-roaming space belonging to the apartment, the housing block) as well as within the surrounding areas, and as a repeatedly occurring response in the survey this underlines the key importance of realising the "hard location factors and criteria". Only then, in the view of the residents, can an optimal framework be guaranteed for the fulfilment of their needs in apartments and living areas.

Living preferences

With 45% of residents in agreement, a green living environment was deemed the most preferable. From this one can assume that a green area will still be the most desired home environment in the future. One possible strategy would be to strongly encourage more ecological and nature orientated, children- and family-friendly housing projects.

Recommendations for action to be taken

The development of the following recommendations for action was based first and foremost on the research carried out among residents of the particular housing blocks in the form of comprehensive surveys and questionnaires.

The overall concept of the recommendations is to provide comprehensive and multi-target orientated solutions. Through them, the project team want to express that:

  • housing is fundamentally a socio-political task,
  • this task is becoming more complex because of considerations of sustainable development targets,
  • therefore qualitative development can not be achieved solely through action or policies exclusively carried out in the single field of the house-building sector.

Innovation

The building sector in general, and the housing sector in particular, need to be more strongly orientated towards innovation. The development of highly innovative demonstration projects should not be limited to special programmes such as the "Building of Tomorrow". Besides building contractors who are willing to take risks, investors interested in innovation are needed. From the point of view of the "home dreams" project, the realisation of a user-orientated innovation concept is also necessary. This is decidedly different from planning- or technically-orientated concepts.

The work done on "home dreams" and the project findings offer three basic "innovation levels" with varying focuses of action to be taken.

  • Innovation as a programmatic objective:
    orientated towards international trends in building, attempting to take "state of the art" to the next level.
  • Innovation as marketing criterion:
    building plans correspond to "theme homes" and are strongly orientated towards current social mainstreams and living styles.
  • Innovation as a constant factor:
    this, the last, and for the living satisfaction of residents the most important level, is constituted by those innovations which have already been established as decisive factors in quality of living for as long as a decade. The high levels of satisfaction with elements of innovation identified by the residents surveyed result mainly from the fulfilment of long recognised quality criteria such as location and ground plan.

This view of distinct levels of innovation should in future be incorporated into the possibilities for progress suggested here, with varying, but deliberate public involvement. From the point of view of the targets set and professional interests, all three levels are clearly credible and legitimate.

Understanding town building

With regard to high-quality building, do we need designers and politicians who understand residents, or do we need residents who understand building?

Residents with a basic understanding of urban planning and modern housing are an essential element in achieving the target of quality housing. The necessity for various areas of further education revealed by this fact should not obscure the very important function of public information which should be made available by contractors and urban planners. Furthermore, designers, contractors and general urban planners should fulfil a key role in the area of "housing" education.

Housing information needed

The central responsibility of contractors and urban planners to implement a progressive information policy ensuring the availability of transparent information is directly connected to any new 'housing education initiative'. The main functions of this, according to "home dreams" would be:

  • to ensure advancement and progress
  • to ensure transparency in decision-making concerning renting
  • to provide hard facts and soft stories

Hard location factors

Any ambitious and innovative building concept will have marketing problems if the criteria of a satisfactory location are not fulfilled. Buyers in the housing market place urban surroundings with high-quality amenities, availability of leisure and recreational facilities and accessibility to public transport as top priority. The questionnaires showed that these factors are overtaken only by a well-designed ground plan (highest priority) and a good price-performance ratio. The aforementioned hard location factors are the basic conditions for high-quality housing, and this opinion is shared by consumers.

Hard housing criteria

Just as hard location factors need to be fulfilled, there are also 'hard housing criteria' which demand attention. These are well-designed ground plans, free-roaming space within the apartment, lighting and room climate, common rooms, garages and storage areas, accessibility, choice of materials and a good price-performance ratio.

Individual satisfaction aspects

The focus on individual aspects of satisfaction as shown in "theme homes" and/or similar ventures (see " housing service") paves the way for further possibilities for higher quality innovative projects, strongly orientated towards lifestyles ( see " innovation").

Housing service

The development of new services connected to individual aspects of living leads to a new
overall definition of the term "living". Living is the satisfaction of various needs through the built environment and the offer or lifestyle-specific and target group orientated services. In this context, there is a clear need for innovative contractors or other independent providers who offer their services in a very client- and user-orientated way, consistently developing those services.

Suburban special case

The vast majority of the residents who took part in the survey, though content on the whole with their current location, ultimately desire a house in a green environment. This particular contradiction on the consumer side of the market (the desire for "urban life in a green environment") still constitutes a political dilemma.

Project Partners

Austrian Institute of Ecology:

  • Georg Tappeiner (Project leader)
  • Inge Schrattenecker
  • Robert Lechner
  • Karin Walch
  • Georg Stafler
  • Philipp Sutter
  • Petra Oswald
  • Manfred Koblmüller

Residents survey in the reference projects in co-operation with:

  • Mag. Margarete Havel
    Wohnbund Wien
    Tel.:+43 1 586 07 99
    E-Mail: wohnbund@via.at

The project was support by:

  • Mischek-Wiener Heim Wohnbaugesellschaft m.b.H
  • ÖSW Österreichisches Siedlungswerk Gemeinnützige Ges.m.b.H.
  • Wien Süd, Gemeinnützige Bau- und Wohnungsgenossenschaft
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