Custom Build and Urban Design

Custom Build and Urban Design - Image supplied by Dr Silvio Caputo
Image by Dr Silvio Caputo


The aim of this project is to investigate how the definition of frameworks for the design and delivery custom build housing can be interrelated with urban design codes in order to achieve recognised qualities of place and organisational coherence. The work is a partnership between Portsmouth School of Architecture and Radian Housing. The key research questions are:

  1. What are the benefits and drawbacks of promoting custom build in the UK context?
  2. How to ensure that on promoting custom build the resultant development is more than a collection of adhoc building projects with no regard for each other or for the quality of the spaces created by the collective whole?
  3. What are the combined roles of architectural and urban design codes in ensuring both cohesiveness and diversity?
  4. What is the economic return to the different stakeholders involved in the custom build process (i.e. government, developers and home owners)?

The project is timely and seeks to help fill a gap in academia and construction industry regarding the relationships between custom build, place-making and urban design coherence. The government intends that 200,000 homes be built per year. As a mechanism to help achieve this target, the government is promoting custom build as a means of increasing the supply of new homes by enabling individuals to acquire plots of land and procure their own home. Whilst elsewhere in Europe, custom build is relatively commonplace, to date in the UK, it accounts for less than 10% of overall new housing supply.

One of the challenges for a potential enabler/ investor is how to ensure that the resultant development is more than a collection of adhoc building projects with no regard for each other, for the quality of the spaces created and for the collective whole. Research in the relationship between custom build and urban design codes is incipient. Although there has been some advancement in these fields as isolated topics, there is a need for a better understanding of the articulation between them for the creation of more cohesive proposals at neighbourhood and city scales.

Key Details

  • PI: Dr Fabiano Lemes de Oliveira
  • Funding: HEIF Innovation Fund + Radian Housing, £8K
  • Collaborators: Dan Blott, Dr Silvio Caputo, Andrea Smith (Radian), Rebecca Cooper (Research Assistant)
  • Status: Ongoing
  • Impact: The project report will provide a set of guidelines for developers, architects and urban designers for the integration of custom-build into urban design frameworks, contributing to improving quality of place-making in future developments.

The project involves a review of academic and non-academic literature, the selection an analysis of case studies in the UK and abroad, field visits and interviews with the different stakeholders involved in the construction process.

Outputs will include a report, a journal paper and a conference presentation.

Final Report

DescriptionFile Size
Custom Build and Urban Design – Final Report 9.7MBKB

For more information

Please contact Dr Fabiano Lemes. You can also follow him on Twitter (@lemes_f) or consult our research pages.