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ASSESSING DESIGN QUALITY

Access

When considering whether the access to a place is appropriate, you need to ask:

1. How will people be able to get to and move around the place?

2. Are these arrangements appropriate and will they respect desire lines and the number of people using the place?

3. Will they be easy to maintain?

4. Are the streets pedestrian, wheelchair, buggy, cycle and vehicle-friendly for all users?

5. Does the design ensure an appropriate level of safety for all users?

6. Is car parking well integrated so it supports the street scene, or do roads and parking spaces dominate too much?

7. Is there access to good public transport facilities?

Click here to access our lesson on Assessing the design components

Amount

When considering whether the amount of development is appropriate, you need to ask:

1. How much will be built?

2. How intensively will it be used?

3. Is this right for the area?

4. Is the design efficient – that is, does it use all land properly or does it waste land/space?

Click here to access our lesson on Assessing the design components

Appearance

When considering whether the appearance of a place is well-designed, you need to ask:

1. What will the place look like?

2. Will it look good?

3. How will this relate to the area?

4. Does the scheme feel like a place with a distinctive character?

5. Is the design specific to the scheme – was it designed for this place?

6. Do buildings and spaces exhibit architectural and design quality?

7. Will the appearance be maintained?

Click here to access our lesson on Assessing the design components

Assessing the design components

Thinking about the individual components of a design can help you to assess the quality of a scheme. A good way to do this is by asking questions about each of the individual components: how do they work, do they fit in, what are they for?

The components you need to consider are divided into eight categories.
  • access
  • amount
  • appearance
  • landscape
  • materials
  • scale
  • use

Click here to access our lesson on Assessing the design components

Assessing the quality of a place

When presented with a scheme, it's important to be able to think objectively about how good the place will be. To do this you need to think about the following questions:

1. Is it designed to fit well with its surroundings? Does the scheme exploit existing buildings, landscape or topography?

2. Will it meet the requirements and aspirations of present and future users?

3. Does the scheme respect the historic environment (it should maintain or enhance existing historic elements/environments)?

4. Will it create a place everyone, regardless of physical or other abilities, can access and use easily?

5. Will the scheme ensure optimum resource efficiency (in terms of energy, water and land)?

6. Will it create a healthy and safe place to be in (no undue risk of accidents, comfortable temperatures, protection from flooding, opportunities for fresh air, exercise, peace and relaxation)?

7. Will the scheme enable travel, reducing congestion and accidents?

8. Will the place be maintained to a high standard, and will it continue to be somewhere people will value, appreciate and use?

Click here to access our lesson on Assessing the quality of a place

Balancing your assessment

What happens when you find a scheme is good in some ways but bad in others? This happens all the time as designers look to meet potentially competing objectives.

For example, we used to think cul de sacs were successful because they offered a lot of security – nobody went into them who was not going to one of the buildings they served, everyone could see who was coming and going and so on. BUT, the safety in the middle of the cul de sac was at the expense of dead and unsafe areas around its outside.

Click here to access our lesson on Balancing your assessment

Building for Life

Building for Life provides assessment criteria in the form of a series of questions. These questions relate to big housing schemes only and are grouped into four sets (each containing five questions):
  • environment and community
  • character
  • streets, parking and pedestrianisation
  • design and construction
Building for Life is a partnership between several national agencies. It is led by CABE and the Home Builders Federation.

Click here to access our lesson on Building for Life

Cycling

Not all cyclists may require the same help when considering street design. There is a distinction between sports cyclists, keen on long distances, children going to school and people who use a bike for short journeys.


Click here to access our lesson on Quality audits for highways schemes

Function

Here are some issues to look out for when considering Function:
  • If you want to your street to allow space and time to stop amid a busy town centre, site market stalls and accommodate street entertainers, for example, you will need to design in wide pavements and other considerations. These functions can all attract local residents and visitors and add vitality to the area, but you must design for this type of use, otherwise the street might not work as you want it to.
  • Level access crossing for deliveries helps small shops that don’t have one big supplier, helping to sustain local distinctiveness.
  • Regular cleansing helps reduce anti-social behaviour
  • You may need a range of seats to cater for different age groups (walls with flat tops can be used as occasional seats, but elderly users might prefer benches), but everyone likes an interesting outlook.
  • An outdoor café in a quiet backwater is pleasant place to relax away from traffic, however to be viable it needs to be visible from a busy area and be on a pedestrian route.

Click here to access our lesson on Quality audits for highways schemes

Inclusive access

Thinking used to focus on the physical conditions of individuals and access for those with disabilities. This 'medical model of disability' took the perspective that the person has the problem and ‘disabled’ themselves because of their situation. Today however inclusive access is thought of rather differently, using a social model which turns things around and says that it is not the person who has disabled him or her self, it is the environment which disables them because it does not meet their needs.

Click here to access our lesson on Quality audits for highways schemes

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