Attractiveness and Density: A study of the four-family house area Sjøveien
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The popularity and expansion in the number of detached dwellings in Norway is one of the most important reasons for the Norwegian housing sector’s high consumption of energy and other resources. Despite a general societal trend towards embracing urban values, the detached single-family house remains the most popular housing alternative in Norway. Families with children are particularly responsible for the high demand for detached dwellings. Despite an attempt to make the detached housing areas more compact by exploiting the plot as much as possible, detached housing still cannot compete with more concentrated building structures when it comes to demographic density and efficiency of resource use. With this as a background, the goal of this research project was to develop knowledge about dwelling types that are more concentrated than the traditional detached dwellings, but that are attractive to families with children. A desire on the part of authorities to promote concentrated housing has been an important topic for Norwegian housing researchers in recent years. Both suburban and urban residential areas have been investigated with the aim of determining how to protect critical housing qualities even when plot development increases. Central research issues have been the relationship between measured density and experienced density, the regulation of neighbor contact and privacy in dense situations, the experience of spatial density versus spaciousness and how the residents’ background and life situation influence their experience of density. Dwelling qualities that may enhance the attractiveness of concentrated housing have also been sought, as well as the reasons for why the majority of dwellers, despite all governmental efforts, still seem to prefer detached dwellings. Nevertheless, the trend among dwellers is not entirely negative. For example, urban apartment buildings have grown in popularity during the 1990s. But the inhabitants of these new urban flats are mainly childless. Qualitative investigations put faces on the statistics that show that families with children prefer suburban residential areas built with different types of small-scale housing. Housing qualities that appear to be important to families seem to be safe surroundings for their children, a green environment suited to children’s activities, and plenty of space both indoors and outdoors. As long as suburban homes are available and parents don’t see any great advantage to living in concentrated, urban flats with a central localization, their predilection for suburban homes will continue. Thus the biggest potential for decreasing the housing consumption of families with children may be by further developing suburban types of concentrated small-scale housing as alternatives to detached dwellings. On the basis of this, an example of concentrated small-scale housing in suburbia was chosen as the case study for this thesis. In Norway, a great deal of research has been conducted concerning areas with row houses and linked houses on small plots that follow a linear building pattern with high densities. The emphasis has been on developing areas with housing qualities that are more traditionally found in detached dwellings, where privacy is a main concern. New information regarding what is considered ideal housing, however, suggests that the time may be ripe for residential areas based on a higher degree of common use of space, thus challenging the traditional view that “everyone” wants a private screened garden and entrance in order to protect privacy. The choice of the case area for further study was based on a desire to develop more knowledge about this phenomenon. Finding a case that could successfully represent areas that are built with a higher percentage of collective space became desirable after a survey of previous research in the field. Additionally, the area had to be popular for families with children and had to have a potential for demographic density that was higher than in a detached dwelling area. The four-family house area Sjøveien has a high percentage of families with children among its inhabitants. None of the flats have private gardens, and the buildings have only one entrance and a central staircase, which gives access to all the flats. There are no balconies. The four-family house requires a great deal of cooperation among the dwellers. Maintenance of the house and garden is a common responsibility for the families living in each house.