Working out the true value of good design

Atcost House, which won the "Best Design" award in this year's Yorkshire  Residential Property Awards.
Atcost House, which won the "Best Design" award in this year's Yorkshire Residential Property Awards.
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Ric Blenkharn

Bramhall Blenkharm Architects, www.brable.com

So, how much did all this cost? This seems to be the stock question asked by the presenter on numerous home renovating and building programmes showcased on television.

What we tend not to hear, is what potential value there is in creating something unique and compelling.

Clearly there is a cost in creating something individual for a homeowner in terms of fees, build costs and the time taken from inception through to completion of a project-but what value do we give to the end result in terms of enjoyment and potentially life affirming change?

It’s an intriguing question, and one that. without fail, is a topic of discussion when meeting a client for the first time to commission a project. Generally, costs are perceived as to what the local market considers appropriate. Unfortunately, if a scheme differs widely from its neighbours, then the market or mortgage companies can find it difficult to value. It is always intriguing therefore to see what values have been achieved in some of the many projects we’ve designed over the years.

A scheme we designed recently came onto the market, and I was fascinated to talk to the selling agent about the property. It was quite clear that it had attracted not only local, but national interest and the value was significant in comparison to neighbouring properties and also significantly greater than the build cost. It was heartening to hear that this was the case, which confirms that a well-designed building does indeed command significant financial value, let alone the benefit of a great place to live.

Our professional body the RIBA has struggled over the years to try and put some statistics to the value of design, but they are trying to establish some benchmarks.

They recently highlighted the Modern House estate agency, which deals solely in architecturally-designed projects across the country. Earlier this year, The Modern House published the results of research carried out with property market intelligence company Dataloft. It compared the underlying per-square-foot sale value of homes with “high design values” against homes in the mainstream market. H

The “high design” homes consistently commanded an average premium of 12 per cent over. Across the three-year period analysed (2014–17), the design premium was 19 per cent for higher-value sales of over £1m; while

in lower-value price bands the premium was a smaller but still significant 10 per cent.

Founding director Albert Hill of the Modern House noted: “Don’t play safe and offer diluted design because you risk falling between the design-focused and mainstream markets and impressing no-one by not being interesting enough. Ambition, and sometimes naivety, can be just what is needed in a risk-averse market.”

Several years ago, Sir Stuart Lipton noted in a paper about the value of good design that. “We cannot afford not to invest in good design. Good design is not just about the aesthetic improvement of our environment, it is as much about improved quality of life, equality of opportunity and economic growth.”

A new commission has now been launched to champion beautiful and better-designed buildings. The “Building Better, Building Beautiful”. It should ensure new developments meet the needs and expectations of communities and is a welcome initiative.