Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Avi Friedman's Book: Decision Making for Flexibility in Housing

Decision Making for Flexibility in Housing by Avi Friedman,
ISBN 1 - 8 7 2 8 1 1 - 1 1 - 6, Urban international Press 2011, Gateshead, United Kingdom. 


From the back cover
The rapid pace of social evolution, emerging economic realities, technological innovation and environmental constraints require a design approach that permits greater flexibility in housing. First occupants or subsequent users should be able to easily modify their dwellings according to their ongoing needs throughout the residency. In the book, award-winning architect and professor Avi Friedman offers an approach to decision-making for flexibility in residential design. The author guides the reader through a series of steps whose outcome helps identify users’ needs, to which architects and builders can fit a proper level of flexibility. The book is illustrated by case studies which apply those methods to “real world” residential projects.

Book Review

Jia Beisi,
Department of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong  bjiaa@hku.hk

The author has demonstrated considerable knowledge and has revealed deep insights in the Open Building movement. This is not surprising, considering that in the last 40 years, the movement has attracted theorists, researchers, designers, builders, and architectural students working mainly on two directions – architectural design methodologies and techniques of infill components, which are separated from the base building construction.

Although experimental buildings have been built around the world, the difficulties of implementation on a larger scale prevail. Only a few efforts have been made to organize the knowledge and to formulate the implementation strategies for the builders and designers. The research on flexible buildings address the technical components, but the possibility of integration with the current housing market is overlooked. Thus, this book is a significant contribution in the effort to fill the gap “between theories pertaining to flexibility and the reality of housing market” not only for North America, as the author explained, but also for the rest of the world. The publication of the book is a significant addition to the literature on flexible housing.

The objectives of the book are premised on the understanding that flexibility has not been generally accepted in North America because of the problems of implementation. It intends to develop a project based decision-making model to assist designers and builders in determining the relevant level of flexibility which is best fit to their particular projects. It addresses the implementation problems of flexibility. It attempts to formulate a decision-making tool as a guide for the builders of flexible buildings in the selection of both the design and implementation strategies that conform to the objectives and the organizational structure of a specific building firm as well as the needs of the user. The essence of the book lies in the belief of the author that it is possible to introduce a process that will enable designers to create provisions that will facilitate internal flexibility.

After a brief introduction on the concept of flexibility which explains that a building needs to be divided according to the hierarchies of control – a concept inherited from Habraken, the book relates to the readers the multi-disciplinary nature of housing and the decisive role of demographic and socio-economic factors in shaping the supply of housing. The book argues that economic factors largely influence the decisions of builders to provide flexibility systems. The author believes that a selected strategy for flexible building depends on the intentions of the builder, as well as the socio-economic characteristics of the users. “The introduction of flexibility in a manner which will confront mainstream traditions will not be welcome and will most probably fail.” Moreover, the approach to flexibility must be compatible with market-dominated efficient design and marketing.

To achieve its objectives, the book is structured as follows.

The introduction presents the key issues addressed in the book. Chapter 1 comprises a brief report on European flexible buildings and demands of flexible housing in North America. Chapter 2 identifies the characters of all the participants in the housing process: governments, financial institutions, builders, designers, project executors, suppliers and real estate agencies, and the users. Chapter 3 explains the process by which demographical change leads to the needs of the dynamics of multi-unit housing and flexibility. The essential issue of flexibility implementation is economics. Thus, by using monetary indicators, Chapter 4 demonstrates the importance of convincing builders that flexibility could be a valuable marketing device. Moreover, the chapter explains to users that the systems have long- and short-term economic benefits. Incorporated in the chapter is an explanation on the User Cost and Life Cycle Cost (LCC) analyses as techniques that allow the user and designer to look into the merit of investing in flexibility over time.

Chapter 5 compares and analyzes several styles of flexibility design management. Chapter 6 demonstrates the importance of identifying the users prior to initiating a project. The five major factors which can be used to identify the users of projects are sub-populating category, life cycle stage, rate of mobility, level of income, and housing behavior. The chapter also provides instructions on formulating building objectives, finding sources of data, processing information, and determining strategies. A choice of the type of flexibility by builders and designers is based on the synthesis of social economic characteristics of users.

Chapter 7 introduces the criteria for selection of design alternatives, which include cost estimation, economic attributes, regulation, and execution time. Chapter 8 finalizes the decision-making model by describing and making choices from the alternatives of flexibility. Selecting alternatives is performed by using the previously established criteria, including User Cost and LCC techniques. Instead of using a real design project to demonstrate the effectiveness of the decision-making model, the author presents an analytical simulation of a conceptual project. The simulation is based on a survey of 10 condominiums in Montreal, Canada.

The book is informative and serves as a conceptual instrument for the housing decision makers, including governmental housing organizations, private housing developers and builders, designers, and other promoters who want to design flexibility projects. It is useful for programmers, housing researchers, and students of architecture and building management. It can provide inspiration to residents and the general public who are interested in new living styles as well as in benefits from monetary savings and better living standards during their residency.

The book is illustrated with clear and well placed line drawings for all the building cases, especially for the Western European flexible housing design in Chapter 2. A large number of diagrams are found in strategic parts of the book, making the abstract concepts, analysis, and instructions highly visual and easy to understand.
The price is 40 USD in addition to shipping and handling and can  be ordered through either me direct on nicholaz.wilkinson@emu.edu.tr or through www.openhouse-int.com
Architecture-Urbanism is dedicated to a) those who are interested in creating livable and sustainable environments and buildings that meet socio-cultural and socio-behavioral needs of people, environments that are responsive to historical, traditional and physical constraints, b) to those who are interested in finding panacea for the ills of our globalized world, and c) to those who are interested in regaining what cultures and societies have lost by the acts of architects. ____________________________________________________________________________