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Aya Elghandour

ESR4

Aya has worked as an architect in Egypt and Portugal. Currently, she is a pre-doctoral researcher at the University of Sheffield, School of Architecture, UK. Meanwhile, she is an Early-Stage Researcher (ESR 4) for the Re-Dwell Research Project on Sustainable and Affordable Housing in Europe funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant.

 

She started her career in academia right after obtaining her BSc from the Architecture and Urban Planning Department at the Port Said University (PSU) in Egypt. During her master's studies, she investigated the computational design and optimization techniques to support decision-making using performance-based parametric design strategies to promote buildings sustainability. She published and presented her thesis case study in the Building Simulation and Optimization Conference (BSO) 2016 in Newcastle University, UK. After her MSc, she was promoted to be a teaching assistant for undergraduate courses that included designing housing projects and residential neighbourhoods.

 

As an architect, she started constructing her professional experience since being an undergraduate in Egypt. She developed her strong conceptual and technical design experience in the industry from being involved in several projects including residence, social buildings, and landscape for public spaces. In Portugal, she joined an AEC company based in Lisbon, where she built a substantial experience in Building Information Modelling (BIM) for schematic design and execution of housing, commercial and industrial building projects in Portugal and Australia. Moreover, she experimented BIM parametric techniques to facilitate design workflow and multidisciplinary teamwork. Therefore, her current research interest aims to further investigate BIM strategies to conduct Lifecycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) to support housing sustainability and affordability.

Research topic

Updated sumaries

August, 06, 2023

May, 18, 2022

September, 15, 2021

An Integrated Households' Health and Financial Wellbeing Life Cycle Costing Framework for the Design of Affordable Houses

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasizes the significant impact of house conditions on human health and wellbeing (H+W). Addressing poor houses conditions in England could save the National Health Service over £1 billion annually where excess cold and falls on stairs result in the most expensive implications.  Risks of health inequalities also exacerbate when houses are considered affordable regardless of their condition of being cold and expensive to heat in winter, overheating in summer, or lacking proper ventilation leading to dampness and mold. Such conditions reflect poor building performance and signal the need to prioritize households' H+W, starting from the design stages of affordable houses. Decisions made during these stages significantly affect future costs, including running and maintenance expenses to be paid by households, as well as building performance impacting their health (physical and mental). The study advocates rethinking the concept of affordable housing from design stages to ensure it is designed and constructed to be affordable for both households' H+W and housing providers as an investment in the long-term.

 

This study aims to develop Life Cycle Costing (LCC) framework, integrating households' H+W considerations during the design stages of affordable houses. The study adopts a transdisciplinary approach and involves a secondment in a non-academic environment of a British housing association to understand housing providers' perspectives. Semi-structured interviews with professionals from various regions in England, covering architecture, affordable housing provision, and public health, will be conducted. A taxonomy of tangible components contributing to H+W within a house will be established. Subsequently, the H+WLCC framework will be proposed and tested using a case study analysis of two design scenarios of a real house in Sheffield. The detailed house modeling will use Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Building Performance Simulation (BPS) to predict its future indoor environmental performance and energy efficiency. The first scenario will be validated by comparing it with real data from the real house, while the second will involve changes in variables of materials (e.g insulation and window type) and energy and ventilation systems.

 

The expected outcome is a novel H+W LCC framework tailored to the British context, adaptable to other European countries. This framework will serve as a valuable decision-making tool for designing affordable and healthy houses, considering perspectives from both housing providers and households. Additionally, it will identify key stakeholders whose decisions influence the house impact on households' H+W. The framework will offer valuable guidance, considering not only initial construction and operational costs concerning housing providers but also the long-term implications for households' health and financial wellbeing. The study advocates rethinking the concept of affordable housing to ensure it is designed and constructed to be affordable for both households' H+W and housing providers as an investment.

An integrated LCC framework for households’ health and wellbeing

 

 

Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) decisions in the design development stages can influence up to 80% of the future costs of a building. Therefore, life cycle cost analysis (LCCA) is one of the most effective methods to select economically sustainable solutions while responding to environmental measures. In the context of sustainable housing design, research and public policies are giving more attention to economic and environmental concerns. Less consideration is given to the financial and psychological burdens on their households which strongly correlate with their health and wellbeing.

 

In this regard, there are two major problems. The first is estimating monetary expenses paid by residents are often excluded from housing LCCA.  The second, design features that lead to reducing construction and maintenance costs are often prioritized over the solutions that would better contribute to households’ health and wellbeing such as daylight availability, noise prevention and more.

 

Therefore, this research aims to develop a framework that integrates households’ health and wellbeing into life cycle cost analysis for the design of social housing. This framework aims to bring residents health and wellbeing at the forefront of AEC decision-making while identifying cost effective solutions for housing stakeholders while responding to building performance requirements. The framework will be constructed using Building Information Modelling (BIM) processes that allow storing and sharing all building geometric and non-geometric data in a digital platform among various stakeholders.

Reference documents

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PhD Abstract Poster

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Life Cycle Economic and Social Cost-based Design

 

Housing affordability and housing quality are two key facets that influence social housing provision. The first is concerned with the overall cost of having and maintaining a house without adding unwanted financial pressure which may lead to psychological burdens on households. On the other hand, housing quality is pertinent to providing a pleasant, healthy, durable, and safe indoor and outdoor built environment, which in return raises housing costs. In this respect to measuring housing affordability, Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) can be used as an economic analysis method to estimate the overall cost of building alternatives starting from the design, construction, operation, till its disposal phase. Therefore, housing alternatives with the lowest overall cost, and in line with quality, can be identified from early design stages where the most influential building decisions are made. 

 

While LCCA is crucial in selecting the optimum housing alternative, it, however, increases the design complexity. For instance, estimating energy consumption, which occupies the largest portion of buildings' LCC, involves the use of various computational tools and requires reliable data that might not be available. In addition, from a social perspective, assessing housing quality and its LCC based on post-occupancy social feedback is still limited. Accordingly, there is a real need to transform occupants’ feedback and their potential role in energy saving into useful data to support design teams. In practice, Building Information Modelling (BIM) allows storing and managing all building data in a single platform. Thus, it has the potential of conducting LCCA and accessing real-time data from completed buildings. However, there is a present lag in providing an applicable feedback loop to inform design teams with this reliable data. Moreover, there is a dearth of research that integrates LCCA and social dimensions into BIM.

 

Therefore, my research aims to develop a market-friendly framework that achieves this integration to reduce the total LCC and inform the design based on occupants’ real needs. The study will adopt a mixed approach of quantitative and qualitative research methods. A taxonomy of literature will be conducted to explore LCCA and social assessment methodologies, parameters, and optimization goals that are adequate for BIM to inform the design of the framework. This framework will be developed following four phases of fieldwork consisting of surveys, interviews, a co-design event with stakeholders and residents, as well as simulation-based comparative analysis of real social housing case studies. As a result, the study will be able to classify and prioritize the most efficient data to be utilized for BIM models. Finally, the framework applicability will be tested for a social housing unit. Therefore, the study is expected to enable informed economic and social-based decision-making from early design stages using BIM to promote housing sustainability and improve affordability.

 

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A Transdisciplinary Peek Behind Secondment Scenes & Common Challenges to Housing Associations in England

Posted on 22-10-2023

Written by Aya Elghandour Reviewed by Natalie Newman     The Housing Crisis, Cost of Living Crisis, and Climate Change Crisis are undoubtedly critical concerns of the general public. The three crises are interrelated. Please take a moment and think, how many disciplines are involved in those crises? Do you think investigating solutions by first understanding the complexity of any housing-related crisis, can stem from a mono-lens? Needless to say, end-users rights might get lost in ongoing debates. For instance: Hello! Do you see as critical in this debate the future of residents' health and wellbeing living in affordable housing properties?     That is why I joined the South Yorkshire Housing Association (SYHA) for a secondment!   Transdisciplinarity in research has been widely recommended to tackle complex situations influenced by various stakeholders. It is all about mutual learning and exchanging knowledge between disciplines and actors to understand complex issues and produce new knowledge comprehensively. This is what I have been doing for the last three months in the South Yorkshire Housing Association (SYHA) while joining the Development and Asset Management team! As an architect-researcher and prior to joining SYHA, my perception was limited to housing associations and architects as key decision-makers whose decisions have the greatest impact on the house quality and as a result the health and wellbeing of future residents. However, being at SYHA's headquarters expanded my horizons and gave me new perspectives on the various factors and stakeholders influencing those decisions. This broader perspective now guides my current research.     Behind the Scenes of how did it all start!   Six years ago, Miranda Plowden SYHA's Business Development Director planted the seed for my research project in collaboration with my supervisor, Professor Karim Hadjri. She emphasized that Life Cycle Costing (LCC) should be one of the critical pillars guiding SYHA's partnership with RE-DWELL. That's why I have spent three months in SYHA to understand their workflow, decision-making process, who are the key stakeholders in the design stages and what initial costs of construction and future costs of maintenance they are responsible for.   During the secondment, I conducted two learning sessions to initiate discussions with the team and gauge their receptiveness to adopting new approaches in constructing and operating houses over their life cycle that could contribute to residents' health and wellbeing. For instance, using sustainable materials with thermal and acoustic insulation properties in construction. Additionally, I showcased an example from the British Council of Dudley, where Internet of Things (IoT) devices were installed in council houses to monitor indoor temperature, humidity, and air quality for residents' awareness. The team shared past incidents where residents had turned off similar devices due to concerns about their lighting. These discussions proved to be highly informative and shed light on aspects that I had not previously considered in my research.     Scene of Life Cycle Costing in SYHA   Life Cycle Cost (LCC) is all about estimating the costs of something over its entire lifespan. For SYHA, their commitment and ambition to LCC covers the entire life of a house.   Currently, SYHA's LCC approach gives a high-level overview, making initial assumptions about construction and future repair costs before seeking planning permissions for housing projects. However, it hasn't fully integrated expenses like estimated energy and water bills that future residents will incur, which is a common practice in existing literature.   My research aims to develop an LCC framework that prioritizes the health and financial wellbeing of households during the design stages of new houses. SYHA's involvement spans from architects' procurement, land selection, and design briefs to evaluating design proposals, obtaining planning permissions, hiring contractors, overseeing construction for quality assurance, and finally, renting out the house or selling it for shared ownership. They also manage and maintain the properties while learning from past challenges to make better future decisions.   SYHA is open to innovative approaches, such as constructing two homes using Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) like the WikiHouse project. This helps them assess whether these methods can reduce construction time, lower maintenance costs, and deliver better quality for end-users.   While the use of LCC isn't common in affordable housing provision, it's a top priority for SYHA. They rely on LCC to understand the long-term financial implications of their decisions.     The Sneak peek on common challenges of housing associations   From day one and from SYHA's reputation, their care for residents' health and wellbeing can be seen in their adoption to people-first approach. The approach is adopted in designing their housing schemes to provide a beautiful, safe, and affordable place to call home. This approach leads to some challenges for housing associations in England to keep high standards with lower than market rent.   My secondment observations and discussions, as well as the ongoing interview conversations revealed some of the challenges facing the provision of an affordable and healthy house, for instance:   The emergence of technologies without the existence of a reliable supply chain for long-term house maintenance. For instance, with SYHA's 50-year presence in the British market, they prioritize relying on trustworthy providers who can ensure the longevity of house maintenance. If a new technology is considered sustainable and beneficial for residents but is not widely adopted in the UK or lacks a reliable provider for long-term support, the adoption process becomes a complex decision as every penny carries a responsibility.   The continuous rise in construction costs after they have secured funding, for a certain price to deliver a certain quality. This hinders them from accomplishing the full quality they are aiming for.   The fact that housing associations' rent is lower than the market price poses future financial risks and stress on affordable housing providers. Let's see SYHA's initial feasibility study  for a new housing scheme that aims to offer units with affordable rent. The process involves several key steps:   Step 1. Identify what type of  housing to build and its specific location.   Step 2. Research and determine the average market price for similar properties in this location.   Step 3. Set the affordable rent at 80% of the market rent.   Step 4. Assess the affordable rent by asking: Would it exceed 33% of the household income?   Step 5. As an ethical provider, If the rent exceeds the 33% threshold, a decision has to be made either to reduce the rent, or not prioritize homes in that location and reconsider the whole project or recognize that a higher rent is the only way these type of homes would be built in a given location.     Housing associations need a certain level of rent to be able to build good homes in the first place and to maintain them to a high standard. In the context of affordable rents, it becomes more challenging to balance. They need to set rents at a level that allows them to construct and maintain quality homes while keeping them affordable for residents over time. This involves choosing suitable locations and constructing quality housing, which already can lead to higher land and construction expenses. Moreover, affordable rents make it take longer for housing associations to recover their construction costs through rental income, especially when compared to the private sector!     Housing associations are currently the primary providers of affordable homes in England! So, it can be seen that the quality, sustainability, energy-efficiency, and location of an affordable house is so far up to housing providers decisions and the robustness of the national building regulations and support!     So what support housing associations need to provide more affordable houses that is healthy, sustainable, and energy-efficient on the long-term? Land price discount maybe to start with? What else would you add to the list?     Some awesome links! https://www.wikihouse.cc/featured-projects/south-yorkshire-housing-association https://ashden.org/news/social-housing-is-key-to-climate-action/ Miranda Plowden's Blog on the Wikihouse: https://www.mirandaplowden.com/projects/wikihouse-sheffield-2018-could-offsite-construction-be-the-solution-to-the-uks-housing-crisis    

Secondments, Reflections

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A Culture of a British Housing Association

Posted on 20-07-2023

  On the top floor of their building, where green trees peeked through houses that covered one of Sheffield's seven hills, a farewell party was held. It marked the end of an 11-year journey for Miranda Plowden, the business director of South Yorkshire Housing Association (SYHA). During this heartfelt and humble gathering, Juliann Hall, her close friend, teammate, and co-director of Care, Health, and Wellbeing, shared Miranda's story and her visionary approach to cultivating a unique "culture" within SYHA. However, this was not your typical notion of culture.   Miranda envisioned A Culture of Joy and Right to Beauty, encompassing every decision and detail at SYHA. This culture went beyond their housing schemes and influenced their daily work environment and attitudes. It stemmed from a people-first approach, firmly believing that happy and compassionate employees would naturally deliver homes that inspire happiness.       The Culture and Residents’ Health and Wellbeing   SYHA is keen to spreading joy and promoting the right for everyone to experience beauty in their housing schemes. Their strategic plan focuses on providing affordable homes where residents feel happy, healthy, and proud. This is exemplified in the elegant and modern design of their properties, such as the recent North Wingfield Road social housing complex and the Wikihouse project.   The culture of promoting beauty extends beyond housing schemes to the surrounding landscapes for residents to have beautiful views and shared spaces. SYHA actively participates in creating vibrant meadow-like landscapes in urban areas, which serve as habitats for pollinators and require less maintenance. Through careful selection of plant species, they demonstrate how urban spaces can be transformed into visually appealing and environmentally friendly areas.   The culture of joy also encompasses care for residents' health and well-being, which is evident in various initiatives. For instance, they care to conduct co-design focus groups with residents to update design briefs for future projects. They maintain good communication channels through their customer experience team. Workshops with customers are held to continuously improve their services.   An interesting insight from one of SYHA's co-production workshops is the residents' dislike of jargon. They find terms like "fuel poverty" aggressive and prefer simple language that allows them to understand and feel in control of their decisions without being stigmatized. Similarly, the term "heat pump" can cause frustration, as residents desire clear and accessible language.   SYHA's Livewell department is dedicated to supporting residents' health and well-being. They provide mental health and wellbeing support and assistance in overcoming daily challenges, regardless of whether someone is a SYHA customer or not. They also have staff members focused on helping individuals find employment and integrate naturally into the community.       A unique work Culture, deviating from usual corporate work style   As an architect, I cannot overlook how SYHA implemented their culture of joy and right to beauty in the workplace as well as in their homes and services. Working closely with the interior designer, they ensured that every detail reflects this culture. Miranda's quote describes it best:   “People expect Google to have beautiful offices, but not a charitable organisation in Sheffield. The feedback from our teams shows that design and beauty in places where they are least expected can have a positive effect on wellbeing and make people feel valued. At South Yorkshire Housing Association, we believe that everyone has a right to beauty and joy, especially people who didn’t expect to experience either.”    As cited in SYHA’s interior designer: 93ft website  (accessed on 17/07/2023)   What amazed me was SYHA's boundary-less workplace. There were no individual offices, walls, or closed doors between departments and team members. They have a bookable rooms for meetings and workshops with teams and residents. If you just want to disconnect in peace, there is a room for prayer and meditation regardless of your belief. During her speech at the farewell party, Miranda emphasized the importance of maintaining the joy at work, smiling at one another, opening doors for one another and caring for both colleagues and customers. It's the small gestures that make a lasting impact.   At SYHA, everyone, from newcomers like myself to the CEO Tony Stacey, worked together in the same open space without assigned desks. On my first day, I sat at one of the long tables alongside Miranda (the business director), Natalie (the team's head), and my new colleagues. On the same table on the next day I sat with other directors and team leads and was able to schedule an interview with them within minutes. This setup promotes collaboration and easy access to discussions. It also harnesses a sense of collaboration and support beyond hierarchies. Being physically present in this open environment allowed me actively to engage in conversations, observe ongoing discussions, and receive immediate responses to my inquiries. What better setting could I had for my Transdisciplinarity based research?       SYHA’s Culture and my Research Secondment   Understanding SYHA's core values and culture assured me that I am in a fitting workplace aligned with my research. Their belief in enabling individuals to settle into a welcoming home, live well, and achieve their full potential resonated deeply with the core motivation behind my research on Health and Wellbeing. My study aims to incorporate Life Cycle Costing into the design stages to prioritize the health and well-being of residents. Working in an environment that not only embraced meaningful slogans but also genuinely believed in and implemented them proved to be an invaluable experience for me.   As part of my Marie-Curie research project, I embarked on a three-month secondment with SYHA's Development and Asset Management team, under the guidance of Natalie Newman, the head of the team, who served as my secondment supervisor. Throughout our discussions, she openly shared her opinions, provided critiques, offered feedback, and provided guidance in approaching individuals and gathering necessary data. Likewise, my regular supervisor, Matteo Martini, supported, encouraged, and ensured my seamless integration within SYHA.   The knowledge and insights I gained during these three months at SYHA would have taken years to acquire independently. The colleagues at SYHA, with whom I discussed my topic, showed great enthusiasm and generously answered any doubts I had. They also expressed their willingness to continue supporting my research even after the end of the secondment.   By the end of secondment and being part of an association working hard to realize this culture, I felt hopeful and now eagerly look forward to contributing to the day when the belief in the Right to Beauty and Joy becomes the normal for all humans and for the betterment of our planet.       More interesting readings: How SYHA started and the influence of Cathy Come Home movie SYHA’s history and the founders mission and vision. A beautiful low-maintenance landscapes of Pictorial meadows. How did SYHA communicate their business purpose through their workplace design. 93ft sharing SYHA's interior design.    

Secondments

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What does 'Being Humble!' have to do with affordable and sustainable housing?

Posted on 19-04-2023

The provision of affordable and healthy homes in England is a complex matter involving factors from different walks of life. As an Egyptian/Portuguese and having won the ESR4 post in RE-DWELL, to be a researcher and PhD candidate in The University of Sheffield, I am exploring the English context with a fresh eye. In addition, as an architect, I have always been biased towards architecture to have the power to change things, and in particular how people live and feel in their homes.  But since I have been learning more and more about transdisciplinarity, I have noticed that this attitude is gradually changing; it is not only about architecture ... You know, the only constant in life is change! but what made that change?  Let us talk about it in a story.      Recently, I travelled to Zagreb in Croatia for the RE-DWELL workshop on policy and financing for affordable and sustainable housing which is a key research in the "Transdisciplinarity" of RE-DWELL research. But, what is this word "Transdisciplinarity" that has become fashionable in research lately? In RE-DWELL we are 15 researchers from different fields of knowledge such as architecture, industrialised construction, retrofitting, finance, politics, mobility, community participation and social sciences. We meet almost every 6 months for workshops and summer schools and continuously train in research methods and transferable skills to understand transdisciplinarity better and better. But why? Because our plan is to create a transdisciplinary framework for affordable and sustainable housing by the end of this project. Again, why a transdisciplinary framework! Is it because you want to add a fashionable term?   Nope! there are a lot of things (research, news, etc.) that show how complex it is to build sustainable and affordable homes. If you stay away from what's happening in the real world, you might get the idea: Hey guys, it's not that complicated, we have videos of sustainable materials everywhere, why do not you just do it?    But! the more I expand the perspective to understand how the provision of affordable and healthy homes for low-income communities on a large scale is challenging, the more I discover new challenges and new factors "the devil's in the detail". It is also becoming clearer to me that it is not just the responsibility of the architects. In fact, there are too many factors and challenges that I learn about through my ongoing interviews that tie the hands of architects. That is why transdisciplinary research is necessary!   Similar to the world of architecture, researchers can propose a great solution to something, but when it hits the ground, it gets a shock and break! And this is what is called the gap between research and practise. This gap, by the way, poses a problem for many researchers. In some cases, practitioners are not interested in working with researchers because they think we are in LaLa land! Here comes the importance of research that digs in to preceive the real world context. It is also important how the researcher communicate the research and its impact to others. This why we are now in the RE-DWELL Transferable Skills TS4 on Communication, Engagement, and Impact led by Lorraine-Farrelly from The University of Reading and Adrienne Csizmady from Hungarian Academy of Sciences.    Fortunately, on RE-DWELL project as ESRs, we are collaborating with non-academic partners who are keen to work with researchers to better understand tricky issues and exchange knowledge with us while we develop the transdisciplinary framework for affordable and sustainable housing. And here comes the reason for: Why transdisciplinarity?   Transdisciplinarity is a paradigm of thinking where the biases of each discipline are set aside to focus on understanding or solving a particular problem. Hence, this paradigm is adopted by RE-DWELL. As Marja Elsinga from TU Delft during the workshop discussed with us, it is not something new!   Simply put, transdisciplinarity is about "Being Humble" and recognising that everyone is on a continuous learning journey and no one knows everything. The term "Being Humble" was shared with us by Leandro Madrazo while reflecting on Ashraf Salama's publication on transdisciplinarity. But for me, it really simplified what transdisciplinarity means, which in many situations was confussing. "Being Humble" means that we should listen, question others and ourselves, reflect, share and be open to change. And this is similar to what Salama referred to transdisciplinarity as a “Mutual Learning” process between various disciplines.   "Being humble" came back to my mind during Ana Vaz Milheiro session when she told us a story of architects in Portugal who designed houses a long time ago thinking they had a good design, but people did not like it and did not want to buy or rent it. And another example of some flat buildings that for architects may not seem to be of good design, but whose inhabitants expressed that they loved them and liked living in them. These are examples of how the monothematic mindset can sometimes not predict what will really work on the ground for the end users "the residents".    Getting this real-world essence into research via interviews is one of the most common research methods in a transdisciplinary research. "How much does it cost to build an affordable and healthy house and maintain it for years?" This is the question I am currently eliciting answers for, through a series of interviews to understand the different factors that influence this and then develop a life cycle costing model to estimate these costs. So far, I am finding that interviews are interesting opportunities to talk and share knowledge. And the best part for me is this "wow" moment when I discover factors I have never thought or came across before.   The researcher immerse in a non-academic experience of engaging with the subject is another powerful method of a transdisciplinary research. For this reason, I am now joining South Yorkshire Housing Association, who are one of the non-academic partners of the RE-DWELL project. They provide affordable housing and also look after the wellbeing of end users through their LiveWell team. I will be working closely with SYHA Development team for 3 months adopting a transdisciplinary mindset. I will be open to learn and share knowledge with them while putting aside my own professional biases.   Speaking of biases, in the workshop Montserrat Pareja-Eastaway opened the discussion of how it is difficult in many cases nowadays, an in particular in housing related-studies, to say that “I have a specific discipline”.  Many of us in RE-DWELL are continously gaining experience that is correlated with various fields. That's why she is ecouraging that we need to replace the word discipline with area of knowledge. For example, in my own research, I am cooking up the work of cost consultants, sustainability consultants, architects and housing providers in one pot to produce new knowledge and share with the world.   So as you can see, transdisciplinary is like a conversation and a way of thinking – my favourite to say: it is also like cooking - where new knowledge is created through genuine integration - mixing - of knowledge of academics and non-academics from various fields, where own biases disappear and the main focus is on a certain subject. The results then will be hard to say: Oh! it is this specific discipline that produced it.    In the end, I hope you enjoyed reading and learned something new about transdisciplinarity as I did in Zagreab Workshop: “Being Humble” is not only important in dealing with people in our daily lives, but also in the way we see our own field of knowledge. Let's put our biases and egos aside and work together to make the world a better place.    Thank you for reading and Good Bye!   

Workshops, Secondments, Reflections

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A Turning Point Conversation on Portuguese Public Dwellings Design, Is it some kind of Feminism?

Posted on 06-09-2022

You know those kinds of conversations that are filled with enthusiasm and passion. It's one of those moments that proves to you: yes! Passion exists and it works!   This time it was passion for design as a tool to indirectly empower people and their sense of belonging. It's about promoting social justice!   Currently in Lisbon, there are several affordable rent programmes "Programa de Renda Acessível" (PRA) run by the City Council in view of the high rent prices in the city. Some programmes are public-private partnerships like this initiative. Other programmes are purely public investments from start to finish, where people can apply for rental housing through this website, for example.   My co-supervisor Dr Vasco Moreira Rato from ISCTE - where I had my secondment - is also chief advisor to Lisbon City Councillor on Housing and Public Works, Filipa Roseta. Dealing at the front line with housing issues, the discussions with him were very informative, practical and honest, both from the research and the authorities' point of view. In the process, he wanted to show me an example of how parametric design can benefit public housing in the context of affordability to determine the suitable design parameters within a certain budget while responding to various requirements.       And here comes one of those memorable and inspiring conversations as a Marie Curie ESR.   I had a fruitful conversation with the architects Susana Rato and Joana Couto from SRU (Sociedade de Reabilitação Urbana). They were responsible for preparing the Public Housing concept design for low-cost housing projects that are fully financed by the public sector.  They explained what, why and how they created this schematic design to achieve ambitious design goals within a certain given construction budget. They had a limited budget of about 1000 euros per square metre for construction. Thus, they exploited the power of geometric parametrisation to determine appropriate modern design parameters while meeting the various requirements such as space ratios, areas, technical requirements and regulations.       It is interesting to note that one of the main objectives of this schematic design process is to ensure that future residents feel comfortable where they live and to support their right to live in affordable, durable and beautiful homes.   How did they do so?   They ensured that the spatial needs of different family structures were accommodated by adhering to Portuguese building codes and regulations. As two Portuguese ladies, they questioned the design as if this house would be their own house, that of their relatives or the future home of their children. They insisted on providing terraces for each living unit as an extension of the house to connect the residents with nature, which benefits their soul and mind. They also know that Portuguese people love being outside. Various services have also been proposed, such as a shared laundry room and a communal room. For buildings in neighbourhoods where there are no kindergartens, a kindergarten on the ground floor was proposed.   They worked with energy specialists to design energy-efficient building envelopes, define the technical requirements for walls, doors and windows, and decide on the appropriate renewable energy and water heating techniques. In addition, the distribution of daylight in the interior spaces was investigated. A construction economist accompanied all steps of their design journey, simultaneously calculating construction costs and investigating economic feasibility to modify the design accordingly without compromising the quality and performance requirements of the residential building. This hard work does not negate the fact that they were unable to work with the community itself during the design process due to the tight timeframe of the project. This reflects the reality of many architects in practise. They also expressed their interest in using the possibilities of Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the future, as it would have saved them a lot of time in working with other disciplines to complete this project. It would also be an important tool for management and cost control during construction.       When I returned to Sheffield and while attending Doina Petrescu class on feminism research as part of my PhD training.   I immediately remembered Susana and Joana! Now I see their work and enthusiasm as a kind of feminist action – consistent, practical and balanced - advocating the public housing residents' rights and doing the best in the area under their control. I cannot deny that it was admirable and inspirable.       To sum up!   This conversation triggered the turning point of my PhD research. Currently, I am passionately investigating literature to answer how to design a house that promotes household health and wellbeing?   But, Why?   I dream of Affordable Happy Healthy Housing [Why not?]. Can you label a house as sustainable if it is negatively impacting your physical and mental health?   Hmmm, nope. But in reality, it does not sound that simple …   Sim Senhor [Yes Sir in Portuguese] and that is what we are here to contribute to ? See you in the next blog post! Goodbye!       Relevant Sources https://www.lisboaocidentalsru.pt/ https://www.lisboa.pt/atualidade/noticias/detalhe/camara-constroi-476-casas-destinadas-ao-programa-de-renda-acessivel https://www.publico.pt/2019/12/04/local/noticia/lancado-concurso-construcao-renda-acessivel-entrecampos-1896237

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Case studies

Contributions to the case study library

Vocabulary

Contributions to the vocabulary

BIM

Housing Affordability

Life Cycle Costing

Measuring Housing Affordability

Area: Design, planning and building

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is the process of creating a set of digital representations which consists of both graphical and non-graphical data for the entire building cycle  (Eastman et al., 2011). This process involves documenting, gathering, organising, and updating this information throughout the whole life cycle of a building from conception to demolition (Eschenbruch & Bodden, 2018). Beyond the demolition stage BIM can also support circular principles; managing the re-use, recovery, and recycling-potential of a building (Akbarieh et al., 2020; Xue et al., 2021). Whilst the concept of BIM as a process is supported by the International Organisation for Standardisation in ISO 19650-1:2018 (ISO, 2018), the National BIM Standard describes BIM as a digital technology (NBIMS-US, 2015). Despite the origins of BIM dating back to the 1970s, it did not become widely adopted by the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry as a computer design tool until the 2000s (Costa, 2017). The digital building information model uses intelligent objects to store information in the form of three-dimensional geometric components along with its functional characteristics such as type, materials, technical properties, or costs (Eschenbruch & Bodden, 2018). This model forms the basis of a shared knowledge resource to support the various digital workflows of multidisciplinary stakeholders (Chong, Lee and Wang, 2017; Barile et al., 2018). Moreover, it serves the purpose of visualisation, clash detection between different building components, code criteria checking, environmental analysis, and cost estimation to name a few (Kamel & Memari, 2019; Krygiel & Nies, 2008). Therefore, utilising BIM can improve construction accuracy and enhance the built asset’s performance (Kubba, 2017; Love et al., 2013). The building information model facilitates the knowledge transfer between experts and project participants to satisfy end-user needs and support early-stage decision-making (Chong et al., 2017; Lu et al., 2017). Therefore, BIM can be considered a transdisciplinary practice as it communicates AEC, computation, and science (Correia et al., 2017). In the AEC industry implementing BIM involves several stages, which are known as BIM maturity models. The maturity here means the extent of the user’s ability to produce and exchange information. These stages are the milestones, or levels, of collaboration and sharing of information that teams, and organisations aspire to. Defining these milestones is the main purpose of the different BIM maturity models that exist nowadays (Succar et al., 2012). The European Commission (EC) encourages step-by-step maturity models starting from BIM level 0 up to 4, to move the industry from a traditional modelling approach towards an open BIM approach. According to the EC, to reach BIM level 4 “all project, operational documentation and history are linked to objects in the model” (European Commission, 2017). Due to growing concerns over the environmental, economic, and social impacts of the built environment, BIM is increasingly used to facilitate various sustainability analyses. In this regard, the concept of Green BIM initiated as the systematic digitalisation of building life cycles to accomplish established sustainability goals (Barile et al., 2018; Wong & Zhou, 2015). As such BIM has been integrated with Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), Life Cycle Costing Analysis (LCCA), and recently with Social Life Cycle Analysis (S-LCA) (Llatas et al., 2020). Today several BIM applications perform sustainability analysis in conjunction with Green Building Rating Systems (Sartori et al., 2021). In relation to housing BIM plays a crucial role in addressing affordability and sustainability issues from creation to maintenance, as well as the beyond end-of-life phases. However, many challenges remain for it to be fully and inclusively integrated within the AEC practice and for the full potential of BIM to be realised.

Created on 16-02-2022

Author: A.Elghandour (ESR4), A.Davis (ESR1)

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Area: Design, planning and building

Housing can be perceived as consisting of two inseparable components: the product and the process. The product refers to the building as a physical artefact, and the process encompasses the activities required to create and manage this artefact in the long term (Turner, 1972), as cited in (Brysch & Czischke, 2021). Affordability is understood as the capability to purchase and maintain something long-term while remaining convenient for the beneficiary's resources and needs (Bogdon & Can, 1997). Housing Affordability is commonly explained as the ratio between rent and household income (Hulchanski, 1995). However, Stone (2006, p.2) proposed a broader definition of housing affordability to associate it with households' social experience and financial stability as: "An expression of the social and material experiences of people, constituted as households, in relation to their individual housing situations", ….. "Affordability expresses the challenge each household faces in balancing the cost of its actual or potential housing, on the one hand, and its non-housing expenditures, on the other, within the constraints of its income." Housing costs signify initial and periodic payments such as rent or mortgages in the case of  homeowners, housing insurance, housing taxes, and so on. On the other hand, non-housing costs include utility charges resulting from household usage, such as energy and water, as well as schools, health, and transportation (AHC, 2019; Ezennia & Hoskara, 2019). Therefore, housing affordability needs to reflect the household's capability to balance current and future costs to afford a house while maintaining other basic expenses without experiencing any financial hardship (Ezennia & Hoskara, 2019). Two close terminologies to housing affordability are  “affordable housing” and “affordability of housing”. Affordable housing is frequently mentioned in government support schemes to refer to the housing crisis and associated financial hardship. In England, affordable housing is still concerned with its financial attainability, as stated in the UK Government's official glossaries: "Housing for sale or rent, for those whose needs are not met by the market (including housing that provides a subsidised route to home ownership and/or is for essential local workers)", while also complying with other themes that maintain the affordability of housing prices in terms of rent or homeownership (Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities, 2019). The affordability of housing, on the other hand, refers to a broader focus on the affordability of the entire housing market, whereas housing affordability specifically refers to the ability of individuals or households to afford housing. In the literature, however, the term “affordability of housing” is frequently used interchangeably with “housing affordability,” despite their differences (Robinson et al., 2006). The "affordability of housing" concerns housing as a sector in a particular region, market or residential area. It can correlate affordability with population satisfaction, accommodation types and household compositions to alert local authorities of issues such as homelessness (Kneebone & Wilkins, 2016; Emma Mulliner et al., 2013; OECD, 2021). That is why the OECD defined it as "the capacity of a country to deliver good quality housing at an accessible price for all" (OECD, n.d.). Short-term and long-term affordability are two concepts for policymakers to perceive housing affordability holistically. Short-term affordability is "concerned with financial access to a dwelling based on out-of-pocket expenses", and long-term affordability is " about the costs attributed to housing consumption" (Haffner & Heylen, 2011, p.607). The costs of housing consumption, also known as user costs, do not pertain to the monthly utility bills paid by users, but rather to the cost associated with consuming the dwelling as a housing service  (Haffner & Heylen, 2011). “Housing quality” and “housing sustainability” are crucial aspects of housing affordability, broadening its scope beyond the narrow economic perspective within the housing sector. Housing affordability needs to consider "a standard for housing quality" and "a standard of reasonableness for the price of housing consumption in relation to income" (p. 609) (Haffner & Heylen, 2011). In addition, housing affordability requires an inclusive aggregation and a transdisciplinary perspective of sustainability concerning its economic, social, and environmental facets (Ezennia & Hoskara, 2019; Perera, 2017; Salama, 2011). Shared concerns extend across the domains of housing quality, sustainability, and affordability, exhibiting intricate interrelations among them that require examination. For instance, housing quality encompasses three levels of consideration: (1) the dwelling itself as a physically built environment, (2) the household attitudes and behaviours, and (3) the surroundings, encompassing the community, neighbourhood, region, nation, and extending to global circumstances (Keall et al., 2010). On the other hand, housing sustainability embraces the triad of economic, social, and environmental aspects. The shared problems among the three domains encompass critical aspects such as health and wellbeing, fuel poverty and costly long-term maintenance  proximity to workplaces and amenities, as well as the impact of climate. Health and wellbeing Inequalities in health and wellbeing pose a significant risk to social sustainability, mainly in conditions where affordable dwellings are of poor quality. In contrast, such conditions extend the affordability problem posing increased risks to poor households harming their health, wellbeing and productivity (Garnham et al., 2022; Hick et al., 2022; Leviten-Reid et al., 2020). An illustrative example emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic, where individuals residing in unsafe and poor-quality houses faced higher rates of virus transmission and mortality (Housing Europe, 2021; OECD, 2020). Hence, addressing housing affordability necessitates recognising it as a mutually dependent relationship between housing quality and individuals (Stone, 2006). Fuel poverty and costly long-term maintenance Affordable houses of poor quality pose risks of fuel poverty and costly long-term maintenance. This risk makes them economically unsustainable. For example, good quality entails the home being energy efficient to mitigate fuel poverty. However, it might become unaffordable to heat the dwelling after paying housing costs because of its poor quality (Stone et al., 2011). Thus, affordability needs to consider potential fluctuations in non-housing prices, such as energy bills (AHC, 2019; Smith, 2007). Poor quality also can emerge from decisions made during the design and construction stages. For example, housing providers may prioritise reducing construction costs by using low-quality and less expensive materials or equipment that may lead to costly recurring maintenance and running costs over time (Emekci, 2021). Proximity to work and amenities The proximity to workplaces and amenities influences housing quality and has an impact on economic and environmental sustainability. From a financial perspective, Disney (2006) defines affordable housing as "an adequate basic standard that provides reasonable access to work opportunities and community services, and that is available at a cost which does not cause substantial hardship to the occupants". Relocating to deprived areas far from work opportunities, essential amenities, and community services will not make housing affordable (Leviten-Reid et al., 2020). Commuting to a distant workplace also incurs environmental costs. Research shows that reduced commuting significantly decreases gas emissions (Sutton-Parker, 2021). Therefore, ensuring involves careful planning when selecting housing locations, considering their impact on economic and environmental sustainability (EK Mulliner & Maliene, 2012). Moreover, design practices can contribute by providing adaptability and flexibility, enabling dwellers to work from home and generate income (Shehayeb & Kellett, 2011). Climate change's mutual impact Climate change can pose risks to housing affordability and, conversely, housing affordability can impact climate change. A house cannot be considered "affordable" if its construction and operation result in adverse environmental impacts contributing to increased CO2 emissions or climate change (Haidar & Bahammam, 2021; Salama, 2011). For a house to be environmentally sustainable, it must be low-carbon, energy-efficient, water-efficient, and climate-resilient (Holmes et al., 2019). This entails adopting strategies such as incorporating eco-friendly materials, utilizing renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, and implementing sustainable water management systems (Petrović et al., 2021). However, implementing these measures requires funding initiatives to support the upfront costs, leading to long-term household savings (Holmes et al., 2019). Principio del formulario Furthermore,  when houses lack quality and climate resilience, they become unaffordable. Households bear high energy costs, especially during extreme weather conditions such as heatwaves or cold spells (Holmes et al., 2019). Issues like cold homes and fuel poverty in the UK contribute to excess winter deaths (Lee et al., 2022). In this context, climate change can adversely affect families, impacting their financial well-being and health, thereby exacerbating housing affordability challenges beyond mere rent-to-income ratios.    

Created on 17-10-2023

Author: A.Elghandour (ESR4), K.Hadjri(Supervisor)

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Area: Design, planning and building

Life Cycle Costing (LCC) is a method used to estimate the overall cost of a building during its different life cycle stages, whether from cradle to grave or within a predetermined timeframe (Nucci et al., 2016; Wouterszoon Jansen et al., 2020). The Standardised Method of Life Cycle Costing (SMLCC) identifies LCC in line with the International Standard ISO 15686-5:2008 as "Methodology for the systematic economic evaluation of life cycle costs over a period of analysis, as defined in the agreed scope." (RICS, 2016). This evaluation can provide a useful breakdown of all costs associated with designing, constructing, operating, maintaining and disposing of this building (Dwaikat & Ali, 2018). Life cycle costs of an asset can be divided into two categories: (1) Initial costs, which are all the costs incurred before the occupation of the house, such as capital investment costs, purchase costs, and construction and installation costs (Goh & Sun, 2016; Kubba, 2010); (2) Future costs, which are those that occur after the occupancy phase of the dwelling. The future costs may involve operational costs, maintenance, occupancy and capital replacement (RICS, 2016). They may also include financing, resale, salvage, and end-of-life costs (Karatas & El-Rayes, 2014; Kubba, 2010; Rad et al., 2021). The costs to be included in a LCC analysis vary depending on its objective, scope and time period. Both the LCC objective and scope also determine whether the assessment will be conducted for the whole building, or for a certain building component or equipment (Liu & Qian, 2019; RICS, 2016). When LCC combines initial and future costs, it needs to consider the time value of money (Islam et al., 2015; Korpi & Ala-Risku, 2008). To do so, future costs need to be discounted to present value using what is known as "Discount Rate" (Islam et al., 2015; Korpi & Ala-Risku, 2008). LCC responds to the needs of the Architectural Engineering Construction (AEC) industry to recognise that value on the long term, as opposed to initial price, should be the focus of project financial assessments (Higham et al., 2015). LCC can be seen as a suitable management method to assess costs and available resources for housing projects, regardless of whether they are new or already exist. LCC looks beyond initial capital investment as it takes future operating and maintenance costs into account (Goh & Sun, 2016). Operating an asset over a 30-year lifespan could cost up to four times as much as the initial design and construction costs (Zanni et al., 2019). The costs associated with energy consumption often represent a large proportion of a building’s life cycle costs. For instance, the cumulative value of utility bills is almost half of the cost of a total building life cycle over a 50-year period in some countries (Ahmad & Thaheem, 2018; Inchauste et al., 2018). Prioritising initial cost reduction when selecting a design alternative, regardless of future costs, may not lead to an economically efficient building in the long run (Rad et al., 2021). LCC is a valuable appraising technique for an existing building to predict and assess "whether a project meets the client's performance requirements" (ISO, 2008). Similarly, during the design stages, LCC analysis can be applied to predict the long-term cost performance of a new building or a refurbishing project (Islam et al., 2015; RICS, 2016). Conducting LCC supports the decision-making in the design development stages has a number of benefits (Kubba, 2010). Decisions on building programme requirements, specifications, and systems can affect up to 80% of its environmental performance and operating costs (Bogenstätter, 2000; Goh & Sun, 2016). The absence of comprehensive information about the building's operational performance may result in uninformed decision-making that impacts its life cycle costs and future performance (Alsaadani & Bleil De Souza, 2018; Zanni et al., 2019). LCC can improve the selection of materials in order to reduce negative environmental impact and positively contribute to resourcing efficiency (Rad et al., 2021; Wouterszoon Jansen et al., 2020), in particular when combined with Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA is concerned with the environmental aspects and impacts and the use of resources throughout a product's life cycle (ISO, 2006). Together, LCC and LCA contribute to adopt more comprehensive decisions to promote the sustainability of buildings (Kim, 2014). Therefore, both are part of the requirements of some green building certificates, such as LEED (Hajare & Elwakil, 2020).     LCC can be used to compare design, material, and/or equipment alternatives to find economically compelling solutions that respond to building performance goals, such as maximising human comfort and enhancing energy efficiency (Karatas & El-Rayes, 2014; Rad et al., 2021). Such solutions may have high initial costs but would decrease recurring future cost obligations by selecting the alternative that maximises net savings (Atmaca, 2016; Kubba, 2010; Zanni et al., 2019). LCC is particularly relevant for decisions on energy efficiency measures investments for both new buildings and building retrofitting. Such investments have been argued to be a dominant factor in lowering a building's life cycle cost (Fantozzi et al., 2019; Kazem et al., 2021). The financial effectiveness of such measures on decreasing energy-related operating costs, can be investigated using LCC analysis to compare air-condition systems, glazing options, etc. (Aktacir et al., 2006; Rad et al., 2021). Thus, LCC can be seen as a risk mitigation strategy for owners and occupants to overcome challenges associated with increasing energy prices (Kubba, 2010). The price of investing in energy-efficient measures increase over time. Therefore, LCC has the potential to significantly contribute to tackling housing affordability issues by not only making design decisions based on the building's initial costs but also its impact on future costs – for example energy bills - that will be paid by occupants (Cambier et al., 2021). The input data for a LCC analysis are useful for stakeholders involved in procurement and tendering processes as well as the long-term management of built assets (Korpi & Ala-Risku, 2008). Depending on the LCC scope, these data are extracted from information on installation, operating and maintenance costs and schedules as well as the life cycle performance and the quantity of materials, components and systems, (Goh & Sun, 2016) These information is then translated into cost data along with each element life expectancy in a typical life cycle cost plan (ISO, 2008). Such a process assists the procurement decisions whether for buildings, materials, or systems and/or hiring contractors and labour, in addition to supporting future decisions when needed (RICS, 2016). All this information can be organised using Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology (Kim, 2014; RICS, 2016). BIM is used to organise and structure building information in a digital model. In some countries, it has become mandatory that any procured project by a public sector be delivered in a BIM model to make informed decisions about that project (Government, 2012). Thus, conducting LCC aligns with the adoption purposes of BIM to facilitate the communication and  transfer of building information and data among various stakeholders (Juan & Hsing, 2017; Marzouk et al., 2018). However, conducting LCC is still challenging and not widely adopted in practice. The reliability and various formats of building related-data are some of the main barriers hindering the adoption of LCCs (Goh & Sun, 2016; Islam et al., 2015; Kehily & Underwood, 2017; Zanni et al., 2019).

Created on 05-12-2022

Author: A.Elghandour (ESR4)

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Area: Design, planning and building

Measuring housing affordability refers to assessing the extent to which households can secure suitable housing in relation to their financial resources and other relevant factors. To date there is no global agreement on measuring housing affordability, nor is there a single metric which comprehensively encompasses all the considerations regarding households' ability to access suitable housing in a convenient location at an affordable cost (Ezennia & Hoskara, 2019; OECD, 2021b). Several approaches exist to measure housing affordability, with two popular approaches, namely the Income Ratio Method (IRM), and the Residual Income Method (RIM) (Ezennia & Hoskara, 2019; Stone et al., 2011). Both are recommended to be accompanied by housing quality standards to evaluate what a household is paying for and a measure of housing satisfaction (Haffner & Heylen, 2011; OECD, 2021b). However, the perception of what constitutes satisfactory, quality, or affordable housing is subjective. This perception can be influenced by economic and social circumstances that policymakers may not perceive as directly relevant to housing policy (OECD, 2021b). The Income Ratio Method (IRM) is the most commonly used in policy and housing market-relevant statistics, as it is easy to measure and compare among different countries. It is based on the housing costs to income ratio defined by national authorities not to exceed a certain proportion (Haidar & Bahammam, 2021; Smith, 2007; Stone, 2006). The official EU indicator for IRM is the "Housing Cost Overburden" index. It considers households suffering from affordability issues if more than 40% of their net income is spent on housing costs (AHC, 2019; Hick et al., 2022; OECD, 2020). However, IRM has been widely criticised as it does not reflect if the household could afford non-housing costs and for how long. The focus on housing costs neglects non-housing costs of utility bills, schools, health, transportation, and so on (AHC, 2019). In this sense, Ezennia & Hoskara, (2019) investigation of the weaknesses of measuring housing affordability emphasised the need to reflect a household's capability to balance current and future costs to attain a house – "access to a house at a certain period" while maintaining other basic expenses without experiencing any financial hardship. The Residual Income Method (RIM) is the second dominant approach. It recognises that after paying the housing costs, a household might be unable to satisfy its non-housing requirements. Thus, the RIM is the remaining income after subtracting housing costs, based on the idea that Housing Affordability is the households' ability to cover their housing costs while still being able to pay their non-housing expenditures (Stone et al., 2011; Stone, 2006). The residual income method took a step closer to resonating with non-housing costs. However, both Haffner & Heylen (2011) and Bramley (2012) advised that the IRM and RIM approaches "are not interchangeable" and need to be combined to provide a comprehensive perception of housing affordability. This combination becomes apparent when comparing both for different household compositions, health, or work conditions. For instance, a house might be affordable when measured using the IRM from the housing costs standpoint, but it might not be affordable utilising the RIM, which is connected with non-housing costs. This combination is referred to as the Composite Method from which several advanced economic modelling approaches to measure housing affordability were developed (Ezennia & Hoskara, 2019). However, relying solely on economic criteria to assess affordability and thus overlooking quality and sustainability may not prove sufficient. A poor-quality house can impose hardships on its residents, and an unsustainable dwelling can strain the environment. Mitigating this issue may involve complementing affordability measurements with indicators reflecting housing quality and sustainability to expand the purely economic view (Ezennia & Hoskara, 2019; Haffner & Heylen, 2011; Mulliner et al., 2013; Salama, 2011). Various indicators can be used to assess housing quality beyond just its cost. These indicators could be seen as serving three primary purposes: (1) to measure the quality of a housing scheme and compare it to others within a country (Homes and Communities Agency, 2011), (2) to measure the quality of housing in one country and compare it to other countries (OECD, 2021b), and (3) to measure housing satisfaction across groups (OECD, 2021a; Riazi & Emami, 2018). An example of the first purpose is England's Housing Quality Indicators (HQIs) system (Homes and Communities Agency, 2011), which is currently withdrawn. HQIs served  as “ measurement and assessment tool to evaluate housing schemes on the basis of quality rather than just cost” design standards mandated for affordable housing providers funded through the National Affordable Housing Programme from 2008 to 2011 and the Affordable Homes Programme from 2011 to 2015. The system comprised ten indicators, which can be categorized into four groups. The first category focused on the location and proximity to amenities and services. The second dealt with site-related aspects such as landscaping, open spaces, and pathways. The third pertained to the housing unit itself, encompassing factors like noise, lighting, accessibility, and sustainability. Lastly, the fourth category addressed the external environment (Homes and Communities Agency, 2011). To enable meaningful cross-country comparisons, it is crucial that the data used for measuring and assessing these indicators are both available and up-to-date. However, it is important to acknowledge that this may not be the case in all countries, as pointed out by the OECD in 2021 (OECD, 2021b). Consequently, to accurately determine what residents are paying for in terms of quality and to facilitate meaningful comparisons, the OECD 2021 Policy Brief on Affordable Housing has emphasized the necessity of two additional housing quality indicators to complement affordability measurements. The first proposed indicator is the "Overcrowding Rate," which evaluates whether a dwelling provides sufficient space for household members based on their composition. This metric assesses whether residents have adequate living space according to the size and structure of their household. The second indicator is the "Housing Deprivation Rates," which gauge inadequate housing conditions. This encompasses issues related to maintenance, such as roofs, walls, floors, foundations, and deteriorating window frames. Moreover, these rates consider the absence of essential amenities, including sanitary facilities. By taking all these factors into account, this indicator offers a comprehensive perspective on the overall quality and habitability of housing in a specific area. Considering subjective measures of housing affordability can be advantageous when assessing housing affordability and quality based on household perceptions. These measures aim to capture housing satisfaction, reflecting the quality of the dwelling as accommodation (OECD, 2021a). In a broader context, housing satisfaction might be termed residential satisfaction, encompassing not just the dwelling but also its surroundings, including places and people. Residential satisfaction assesses how well the current residence and surrounding environment align with the household's desired living conditions (Riazi & Emami, 2018). Therefore, incorporating subjective measures is valuable in assessing housing affordability, helping to identify the determinants of housing satisfaction. Indicators such as satisfaction with the availability of good and affordable housing are crucial aspects to consider in this context (OECD, 2021a). When it comes to sustainability indicators, incorporating them into the measurement of housing affordability remains a wicked  problem. Finding a single comprehensive measure that encompasses the multifaceted aspects of sustainability related to housing affordability is challenging. The technical complexity stems from the necessity to integrate assessments of household characteristics, environmental impacts, financing, and financial aspects, along with housing stress factors. This challenge is exacerbated by the persistent fluctuations in housing prices and recurring expenses like water and energy bills (AHC, 2019). Hence, easily calculable methods such as the Income-to-Rent Ratio (IRM) and Residual Income Model (RIM) continue to be widely used for assessing housing affordability from a top-down perspective at a macro level. Although imperfect, these methods still provide valuable support for policy decision-making to a certain extent (AHC, 2019; Haffner & Heylen, 2011; OECD, 2021a).   

Created on 17-10-2023

Author: A.Elghandour (ESR4), K.Hadjri(Supervisor)

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Publications

Elghandour, A. (2023, June). Affordability-led decisions impacting households' health and economic wellbeing - A transdisciplinary perspective. In Schweiker, M. et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Healthy Buildings 2023 Europe (pp. 482-484). Aachen, Germany.

Posted on 11-06-2023

Conference

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Elghandour, A., & Hadjri, K. (2023, August). Rethinking housing affordability to advocate the design for health and wellbeing. In 21st ISQOLS Annual Conference, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Posted on 17-07-2024

Conference

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