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Leonardo Ricaurte

ESR15

Leonardo holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the National University of Colombia. He has experience in design, regulatory coordination, and construction site supervision of housing projects in Bogotá. Likewise, he holds an Erasmus Mundus joint master’s degree in international cooperation in urban development and urban planning between the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany and the University Grenoble Alpes in France. He has collected experience in participatory design activities and co-creation sessions with communities in Colombia and Germany, by partaking in collective projects of capacitybuilding, urban upgrading, and grassroots movements in the crossroads of academic and professional scenarios.

Similarly, he has research experience in sustainable and affordable housing projects fostering participatory practices, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the New Urban Agenda, as part of an internship in the research laboratory CRAterre in Grenoble. In 2020, he defended his master's dissertation “Possibilities of participatory tools in the attainment of sustainable housing solutions: The case of Bogotá” receiving a "mention très bien" with commendations from the jury. This research focused on the production of social housing in the context of international frameworks of sustainability, and the impact of market-led housing systems, urban inequality, and gentrification when creating comprehensive policies and strategies.

Research topic

Updated sumaries

April, 01, 2022

September, 17, 2021

Capturing the social value of design in housing regeneration projects: The potential of POE and learning loops in the built environment

 

The aim of this project is to develop a framework for capturing the social value of housing at a building scale in collaboration with the housing association Clarion. Post-occupancy evaluation (POE) is a promising methodology to gauge a project’s capacity to meet social impact aims, comply with building regulations, and deliver improved sustainability and affordability (RIBA, 2020). It is subtly different to Building Performance Evaluation (BPE), whose scope tends to be limited to environmental impacts, performance benchmarks, and energy efficiency (Hay et al., 2017; Stevenson, 2019). POE has the potential to show what works in a building and what needs to be improved from the inhabitants’ point of view. When it comes to housing, a decision on the height of a bench in a common space, the position of windows in relation to a playground or the size of a stairwell can impact the social value of a project. Although architects such as Herman Hertzberger speculate about these impacts they have not been subject to systematic study or brought into line with contemporary debates about the social value of housing. This thesis seeks to align the potential of the ‘Capability approach’ of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum with debates on social value at the scale of a housing block.

 

The consideration of social value as an integral aspect of POE has been advocated by several publications in recent years (Behar et al., 2017; Samuel, 2020; Watson et al., 2016; Watson & Whitley, 2017). Social Value is understood as an umbrella term that encompasses the wider economic, social and environmental effects of any given activity; it is a concept that has become very prominent, especially in the UK after the advent of the Social Value Act in 2012 (UKGBC, 2020, 2021). Since then a great deal of progress has been made in incorporating the idea of measuring quantitatively the impact of projects in communities and in general in society. Nevertheless, when it comes to the establishment of the role of the construction field in its implementation, the transition has been sluggish (Samuel & Hatleskog, 2020). The social value of design is the focus of this thesis. This research aims to complement the body of knowledge devoted to understanding how buildings work, but bringing forward the human scale and the inhabitants' interaction with and behaviour in the space. In the end, architecture should be first about people and then about buildings; or in the words of Jan Gehl: “First life, then spaces, then buildings. The other way around never works”.

 

Keywords: Post-Occupancy Evaluation; wellbeing assessment; housing regeneration; affordability by design; social value of design

 

References:

Behar, C., Bradshaw, F., Bowles, L., Croxford, B., Chen, D., Davies, J., Heaslip, M., Helliwell, T., Holgate, P., & Keeling, T. (2017). Building Knowledge: Pathways to Post Occupancy Evaluation.

 

Hay, R., Samuel, F., Watson, K. J., & Bradbury, S. (2017). Post-occupancy evaluation in architecture: experiences and perspectives from UK practice. Building Research & Information, 46(6), 698–710. https://doi.org/10.1080/09613218.2017.1314692

 

RIBA. (2020). Post Occupancy Evaluation An essential tool to improve the built environment.

 

Samuel, F. (2020). RIBA social value toolkit for architecture. Royal Institute of British Architects.

 

Samuel, F., & Hatleskog, E. (2020). Why Social Value? Architectural Design, 90(4), 6–13. https://doi.org/10.1002/AD.2584

 

Stevenson, F. (2019). Housing fit for purpose: Performance, feedback and learning. Routledge.

 

UKGBC. (2020). A guide to measuring the social value of buildings and places. https://www.ukgbc.org/ukgbc-work/delivering-social-value-measurement/

 

UKGBC. (2021). Framework for Defining Social Value. https://www.ukgbc.org/ukgbc-work/framework-for-defining-social-value/

 

Watson, K. J., Evans, J., Karvonen, A., & Whitley, T. (2016). Re-conceiving building design quality: A review of building users in their social context. Indoor + Built Environment : The Journal of the International Society of the Built Environment, 25(3), 509–523. https://doi.org/10.1177/1420326X14557550

 

Watson, K. J., & Whitley, T. (2017). Applying Social Return on Investment (SROI) to the built environment., 45(8), 875–891. https://doi.org/10.1080/09613218.2016.1223486

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Housing regeneration in Europe: Possibilities for social value creation in the context of the Renovation Wave

In the framework of integrated plans such as the Renovation Wave and the European Green Deal, several urban renewal projects are to be implemented in cities across the continent in the coming years. This depicts a remarkable opportunity to channel expertise, decision-making and funds towards better practices and trigger a paradigm shift in city-making. Accordingly, the research question that will steer the development of this study is: How can the social value and wellbeing generated by housing projects be better captured and capitalized in the context of major urban regeneration schemes?

 

Housing projects that envision creating more cohesive and inclusive communities will be targeted in a series of data collection activities, planned to offer the possibility of experimenting with different methods, and considering all the actors involved. The methodology to be used is a mix of quantitative and qualitative data collection processes, incorporating methods like participatory action research, and selected from the array of existing Post-Occupancy Evaluation (POE) frameworks and social value toolkits for architecture, selected through a systematic literature review.  The feedback acquired will be instrumental in informing the development of an own tailor-made social evaluating framework. The intention is to demonstrate the benefits of conducting POE and showcasing projects that reconcile affordability and sustainability. And ultimately inspire decision-makers, private developers, academia, and civil society to get on board.

 

The secondments that complement this research are fundamental for the creation of tangible and productive links between academia and industry. In this aspect, the findings obtained will potentially contribute to the institutions’ own activities. Counting on Clarion’s expertise in regeneration projects for carrying out data collection activities. Consequently, England and France are subjects of a comprehensive analysis, yet other countries participants of the RE-DWELL network remain considered possible sources of input that resonates with the research aims. This study emphasizes the great potential that resides in incorporating practices such as POE, wellbeing and quality of life and social value assessment when developing housing regeneration schemes. Hence, by leveraging on the experiences and momentum, the generation of new projects could be attained.

 

Keywords: Post-Occupancy Evaluation; social value; Renovation Wave; quality of life; housing regeneration; affordability by design; collaborative housing

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Decoding 'new' housing paradigms

Posted on 13-01-2022

Several attempts to elicit guidelines that holistically respond to the issue of understanding and creating an adequate built environment have been produced, especially since the second half of the previous century. Some of them are recognised and elevated as fundamental readings for urbanists and architects alike. However, the principles of what makes a good public space or the ideal spatial configuration of a housing complex, or the adequate allocation of open spaces and communal areas to recognise the needs of children; keep being ignored or at least relegated to theoretical scenarios held in academic setups or one-off experimental works.   Buildings can be studied from a range of tenets, and through history there has always been a dominating paradigm. For Vitruvius, for instance, the ruling qualities that any architectural work might embody were compiled in three, i.e., firmitatis, utilitatis, venustatis, or stability, utility and beauty, those would be detailed in his influential book De Architectura. In the XX century, in full swing of the modernist movement, Le Corbusier portrayed what would become one of the most ground-breaking books in architecture, vers une architecture (1923), enunciating a new way of living and inhabiting, which in turn was followed by a series of principles that dictated the key elements to accomplish ‘good’ architecture with a particular fixation on residential buildings[1]. Form follows function, was one of the maxims that spearheaded modernist architecture and depicted the decided break up with the past, ornament in buildings would then become unnecessary and anachronic. The zeitgeist of each era fluctuates to respond to the most demanding needs inherent to that moment in time.   From housing standardisation to adaptation   The housing design that follows flexibility and adaptability tenets is not a novelty in architecture, a feature that can be traced in Mies van der Rohe’s Weissenhofsiedlung (1927), or even more than a decade before that with Le Corbusier’s modular prototype the Maison Dom-Ino (1914); the concept has been re-introduced by few contemporary authors like Jeremy Till and Tatjana Schneider, as a response to current housing struggles. According to them, flexible housing should be at the forefront of the contemporary housing agenda. By avoiding the obsolescence that comes with the short-termed mono-functional housing design, and replacing it with a long-term capacity to re-adapt to evolving needs and accommodate multiple ways of life, flexibility by design renders a solution that equates with sustainable practices very much needed in the housebuilding sector.   Nowadays, climate degradation and the urgency of reducing carbon emissions have catapulted sustainability as a term that become part of the everyday jargon in a wide array of fields, an acute issue that has been at the forefront of the international debate in the recent COP26 summit in Glasgow in 2021. Architecture and the built environment are not exempt from this trend[2]. It has been argued that sustainability cannot be attained solely by using energy-friendly technologies, or incorporating labels like LEED or evaluation protocols like BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method). The triple bottom line of sustainability asserts a social dimension, and other interpretations go even further considering a fourth cultural variable attached to it (see the circles of sustainability). In that specific and often neglected niche, that of social and cultural sustainability, this study purports to focus on the housing domain.   Perhaps one of the most harmful practices of the housebuilding sector is the fact that, akin to a tech company, the products, in this case, dwellings, are planned for obsolescence. Numerous examples of designing housing for obsolescence are portrayed by Till and Schneider in their seminal book Flexible Housing (2007). They contend that such a mindset, mainly enforced by developers and architects during the design stages of a project, is the culprit of major disturbances in the urban layout in cities nowadays. Energy poverty, speculation, gentrification, spiralling land cost and urban segregation, could be attributed, at least to some extent, to poor planning practices and an impossibility, deliberate or accidental, of thinking of housing as the most important asset in our cities. This implies bearing in mind the whole life-cycle of a project and the consequences that go beyond the handover of a housing unit. Thus, a dwelling must be seen as an activity rather than seen as an object. And similarly perceived as a social asset rather than as an economic asset from a consumerism perspective. A rather complementary vision to the one contended by John Turner already in 1976 in Housing by People: Towards Autonomy in Buildings Environments. Whereby, though in a totally different context, the barriada or informal settlement in Peru, he recognises housing as a process in which the users are directly implicated.   The process or the housing pathway derived from the housing practices as Clapham suggests (2002), evidence that the evolution of a housing development, along with people's housing careers, continues very much after dwellings have been sold or rented; and therefore, there must be a different approach towards housing design and production. As Till and other authors argue, flexibility and adaptability do not mean that architects are no longer relevant or that every design decision is passed to the users. Architects, according to these precepts, work more as enablers or facilitators, a veritable different approach from the controlling and godlike paradigm that accompanied architectural practice in the XX century, especially during modernism. A good design goes beyond the moment a project is handed over, the life-cycle of a housing scheme must be fully considered from the initial stages of design. A good design is one that recognises that needs change over time and that users are not static, families are formed, grow and reduce. As opposed to what Andrew Rabeneck has called ‘tight-fit-functionalism’, that is the design that follows specific requirements and that can only accommodate determined uses designated by a type of furniture layout. This attitude condemns the typology, and by extension the building, to obsolescence. That is a house that can only accommodate a family-type, a default user. Lifestyles are more fluid than ever before, the way people live has evolved especially in multicultural setups. It is no longer possible to make generalising assumptions over people needs and expectations. In other cultures, the notion of a house might have different connotations than in a traditional north European scenario. Yet, housing solutions seem to fail to respond effectively to a myriad of ways of life and aspirations. These challenges are not new and as it has been established, these debates were held decades ago. Nevertheless, the same question that Marcus and Sarkissian made in their book Housing as if people mattered: Site design guidelines for the planning of medium-density family housing (1986),  four decades in the past, still remains: “If research on people-housing relations now exists, why are the design professions not using it?” (p.5).   The empirical research that my thesis is pushing forward purports to give equitable significance to what happens inside, outside and in-between dwellings, and that is the reason that supports the intertwining of Marcus and Sarkissian’s work with the one of Schneider and Till. Marcus and Sarkissian put it clearly when insisting:   “A particular program, and the resulting built environment, may be well conceived to cope with the current daily needs of, say families with young children, but what happens when the children become teenagers or when half of the original nuclear families become single-parent families or grouping of unrelated adults? Design flexibility is often recommended, but an ambiguous space in year I is often equally ambiguous (and leads to equally ambiguous serious problems) in year 15.” (p.7)     One of the main misconceptions that as many authors cited before this research aim to address, is the idea of housing seen as a disposable commodity. People should not have to move out when their personal circumstances change, because their dwelling is not suitable anymore. Such a capitalist view of real estate, especially housing, is not socially responsible let alone environmentally sustainable. Housing provision seen through the lenses of affordability and sustainability goals must incorporate POE, social value and flexibility whether it intends to holistically respond to current concerns. When carrying out Post-occupancy evaluation of a regeneration project there are a series of tenets that shall be permanently referred to during the data collection: User participation, Flexibility by design, Affordability by design and sustainability. Then it will be clear what makes a regeneration project succeed and what aspects are crucial to monitor. This is where the responses and data collected can come in handy. As an analogue research endeavour to that carried out by Marcus and Sarkissian, this research can possibly deliver an updated roadmap for generating social value through regeneration schemes to be further applied, in this case by Clarion in other ventures. Likewise, any housing association, social landlord or non-profit investor that is actively involved in regeneration schemes, can consider these aspects as part of its comprehensive social value approach.   [1] In Les cinq points de l'architecture moderne (1927), Le Corbusier along with Pierre Jeanneret, would compile their recipe of the modern architecture : The Pilotis, Roof gardens, Free plan, Ribbon windows, and Free façade. The Unité d'habitation in Marseille (1952) represents the epitome of these principles applied to residential architecture, a formula that would be further implemented in other sites in the years on.   [2] Especially knowing that at least 8% of global emissions are produced by the cement industry alone without considering other unsustainable building techniques (Ellis, et al. 2020).   References   Clapham, D., 2002. Housing pathways: A post modern analytical framework. Housing, theory and society, 19(2), pp.57-68.   Ellis, L.D., Badel, A.F., Chiang, M.L., Park, R.J.Y. and Chiang, Y.M., 2020. Toward electrochemical synthesis of cement—An electrolyzer-based process for decarbonating CaCO3 while producing useful gas streams. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(23), pp.12584-12591.   Le Corbusier, 1946. Towards a new architecture. London: Architectural Press.   Marcus, C.C. and Sarkissian, W., 1986. Housing as if people mattered: Site design guidelines for the planning of medium-density family housing (Vol. 4). Univ of California Press.   Rabeneck, A., Sheppard, D. and Town, P., 1973. Housing flexibility. Architectural Design, 43(11), pp.698-727.   Rowland, I.D. and Howe, T.N. eds., 2001. Vitruvius:'Ten books on architecture'. Cambridge University Press.   Schneider, T. and Till, J., 2007. Flexible housing. Architectural press.   Schneider, T. and Till, J., 2005. Flexible housing: opportunities and limits. Arq: Architectural Research Quarterly, 9(2), pp.157-166.   Till, J. and Schneider, T., 2005. Flexible housing: the means to the end. ARQ: architectural research quarterly, 9(3-4), pp.287-296.   Turner, J., 1976. Housing by People: Towards Autonomy in Building Environments. Marion Boyars Publishers.

Reflections

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Chega de Saudade, see you next time!

Posted on 29-09-2021

The RE-DWELL Lisbon workshop was a particularly challenging experience for me. It was the very first time that the entire cohort of ESR's would summon, several lectures and guest speakers would come to complement and enrich the variety of perspectives on the issues that interest us the most. The three-days programme seemed an utterly refreshing event that would inspire us to take off in this research journey. Lisbon was the perfect scenery, with its distinctive pleasant weather, sinuous alleys full of history and architectural enchant. But also with an acute housing crisis that demands immediate solutions.   All of this sounds quite positive, so you might be wondering why it ended up being so challenging. Well, simply because I was the only one that couldn’t make it to Lisbon. That’s right, the Coronavirus post-pandemic world kept stubbornly making my life difficult and what in other times would entail a really simple trip from London to Lisbon, now meant the possibility of going back to quarantine afterwards. So, I had to catch up with the team in activities that were clearly designed to be carried out within the classroom, hands-on, organic and open to, perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of (on site)-human interaction, unpredictability. The unpredictability that leads to opportunities, the doses of chaos that make workshops a fruitful encounter. And inevitably, Microsoft Teams became my best ally to plough through the 985 miles* that were separating me from the vivid tête-à-têtes that my colleagues were having those days.   However, it was not always difficult to engage during the sessions. The open roundtable with guests experts discussing transdisciplinary research on housing rendered a very refreshing debate on how to apply transdisciplinary principles and theories, and common pitfalls and opportunities when researching sustainable and affordable housing. It was the demonstration of the evolution that these ideas have had in time and an urgent call to truly consider transdisciplinary and participatory practices in decision-making boards and academia. The importance of devoting comprehensive efforts to develop the field of housing studies, assembling not only economists but also architects, urban planners and other professionals involved in the production of the built environment; and to bring about a real research culture at the heart of architecture schools, are some of the takeaways I got from this stimulating debate.   Now that the workshop is done, and after witnessing my fellow ESR's having such a prolific time there. I only have to say that I won't miss the Nicosia summer school for anything in the world! So see you in Cyprus from the 15 to 19 Nov!             *1,585.76 km. (For the ones that, like me, are still trying to get used to the odd imperial system)   

Workshops

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New beginnings: paving the way towards sustainable and affordable housing for all

Posted on 19-07-2021

Contemporary times have shown us that telecommuting is something that is here to stay. And here we are, in front of our screens, taking the first steps into what will definitely be one of the most exciting journeys we will ever undertake. Finally, after a competitive and exhaustive recruitment process, composed of several months of waiting, a dose of stress, a tablespoon of excitement, and a myriad of desires, objectives, and goals, the RE-DWELL network is officially launched; by incorporating a team of avid early-stage researchers and I'm part of it. The squad is now complete, and a series of introductory sessions are the backdrop to meet each other, identify affinities and envisage potential synergies.  RE-DWELL project contends an enticing premise under its title, at least this is how I perceived it from the very first time I read about it. It's inviting us to re-think how we are producing and shaping the built environment and its most valuable ingredient, housing. To re-evaluate the level of effectiveness of current policies and strategies of housing provision, and to re-connect with civil society, communities, and everyone that co-habits in modern-day urban agglomerations. To do so, we have the best human resources available and the collaboration of superb partners in academia and industry. Likewise, the support of an ambitious project like Horizon 2020 and the leverage of being part of a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative training network.  As part of the challenging exercise of producing knowledge under the limitations that living in the post-pandemic world supposes, we are invited to participate in a kick-off session. A meeting that despite lacking physical interaction, didn't fail to deliver the most important feature when a group of interesting minds convenes: dialogue and effective communication, exchange of ideas, points of view, and collaboration. Personally, I was truly amazed by the set of skills, experience, and capacities gathered in my fellow ESRs, supervisory panel, and secondments representatives.  By making the most out of the tools available, we were able to produce mind maps and diagrams intertwining the key concepts that serve as the cornerstone of our approach, i.e., affordability, sustainability, and transdisciplinarity. A first attempt to gauge the countless possibilities for producing cooperation and collaboration between our individual projects and the common aims that we all share. I’m thrilled to imagine the enriching conversations and projects that will bring about the workshops, conferences, and summer schools scheduled in the coming years. Current travel restrictions and a visit that had been postponed for several years have left me stranded in Colombia, from where, despite the 8510 km that separate Bogotá from Barcelona, I was able to participate in these meetings (thank you very much broadband and Microsoft Teams). I hope that next time we'll meet in person in Lisbon (and not having to get up at 3 am to attend one of the training sessions that unfortunately wasn't scheduled in the afternoon).   I am convinced of the immense potential of this project that just started, the possibilities are infinite, comparable to our ambitions. There is a lot to be done, but we have the best team to make it happen. 

Workshops

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Vocabulary

Contributions to the vocabulary

Participatory approaches

Area: Community participation

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, participation is “the act of taking part in an activity or event”. Likewise, it can also mean “the fact of sharing or the act of receiving or having a part of something.” It derives from old French participacion which in turn comes from late Latin participationem, which means “partaking” (Harper, 2000).  References to participation can be found in many fields, including social sciences, economics, politics, and culture. It is often related to the idea of citizenship and its different representations in society. Hence, it could be explained as an umbrella concept, in which several others can be encompassed, including methodologies, philosophical discourses, and tools. Despite the complexity in providing a holistic definition, the intrinsic relation between participation and power is widely recognised. Its ultimate objective is to empower those involved in the process (Nikkhah & Redzuan, 2009). An early application of participatory approaches was the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) which exerted a significant influence in developing new discourses and practices of urban settings (Chambers, 1994; Friedmann, 1994). In the late 1970s increasing attention was paid to the concept by scholars, and several associated principles and terminologies evolved, such as the participation in design and planning with the Scandinavian approach of cooperative design (Bφdker et al., 1995; Gregory, 2003). Participation in design or participatory design is a process and strategy that entails all stakeholders (e.g. partners, citizens, and end-users) partaking in the design process. It is a democratic process for design based on the assumption that users should be involved in the designs they will go on to use (Bannon & Ehn, 2012; Cipan, 2019; Sanoff, 2000, 2006, 2007). Likewise, participatory planning is an alternative paradigm that emerged in response to the rationalistic and centralized – top-down – approaches. Participatory planning aims to integrate the technical expertise with the preferences and knowledge of community members (e.g., citizens, non-governmental organizations, and social movements) directly and centrally in the planning and development processes, producing outcomes that respond to the community's needs (Lane, 2005). Understanding participation through the roles of participants is a vital concept. The work of Sherry Arnstein’s (1969) Ladder of Citizen Participation has long been the cornerstone to understand participation from the perspective of the redistribution of power between the haves and the have-nots. Her most influential typological categorisation work yet distinguishes eight degrees of participation as seen in Figure 1: manipulation, therapy, placation, consultation, informing, citizen control, delegated power and partnership. Applied to a participatory planning context, this classification refers to the range of influence that participants can have in the decision-making process. In this case, no-participation is defined as designers deciding based upon assumptions of the users’ needs and full-participation refers to users defining the quality criteria themselves (Geddes et al., 2019). A more recent classification framework that also grounds the conceptual approach to the design practice and its complex reality has been developed by Archon Fung (2006) upon three key dimensions: who participates; how participants communicate with one another and make decisions together, and how discussions are linked with policy or public action. This three-dimensional approach which Fung describes as a democracy cube (Figure 2), constitutes a more analytic space where any mechanism of participation can be located. Such frameworks of thinking allow for more creative interpretations of the interrelations between participants, participation tools (including immersive digital tools) and contemporary approaches to policymaking. Aligned with Arnstein’s views when describing the lower rungs of the ladder (i.e., nonparticipation and tokenism), other authors have highlighted the perils of incorporating participatory processes as part of pre-defined agendas, as box-ticking exercises, or for political manipulation. By turning to eye-catching epithets to describe it (Participation: The New Tyranny? by Cooke & Kothari, 2001; or The Nightmare of Participation by Miessen, 2010), these authors attempt to raise awareness on the overuse of the term participation and the possible disempowering effects that can bring upon the participating communities, such as frustration and lack of trust. Examples that must exhort practitioners to reassess their role and focus on eliminating rather than reinforcing inequalities (Cooke & Kothari, 2001).

Created on 17-02-2022

Author: M.Alsaeed (ESR5), L.Ricaurte (ESR15), A.Pappa (ESR13)

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