Paper presented at the XXXIII IAHS World Congress on Housing, 27-30 September 2005,"Transforming Housing Environments through Design", University of Pretoria.
During the past centuries, human behavior in Europe was largely based on traditions; changes took place in a slow rate. Lifestyle and – consequently – requirements to housing conditions were changing in the same pace. Nowadays, societal development is accelerating; again and again new technical and relational challenges have an effect on housing requirements. It can be said that new technical developments and – in consequence – tenants’ requirements are changing faster than the more enduring state of the existing housing stock in The Netherlands. By now, at the beginning of the 21st century, though many buildings are technically in rather good condition, they do not match nowadays standard of living. Tenants make higher demands on a dwelling than before; they demand e.g. more square meters of living space. Demographic, socio-cultural, economic and other changes produce the effect that dwellings no longer meet the requirements. However, decisions to demolish buildings for others reasons than a lack of technical quality, are economically and with respect to sustainability, unprofitable. It is plausible that in the next years, new dwellings will be build with a limited functional lifespan; this seems to be a wasteful solution. Some residential buildings do have the capacity to meet changing requirements. Many authors have argued that more sustainable residential buildings can be designed by applying specific solutions for problems with respect to adaptability. The term “flexibility” is used to describe several kinds of adaptability. However, different authors define “flexibility” in different ways. Therefore, a theoretical study has been conducted in order to survey various definitions and various kinds of flexibility. Based on a broad range of publications, a theoretical framework has been developed, and according to this framework, new building projects have been evaluated . In the paper, this study is summarized, and, on the basis of some examples, the concept of flexibility and its value with respect to sustainability is discussed.
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