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Agyefi-Mensah, S, Kpamma, Z E and Hagan, D E (2020) Residential adaptations as users' tacit means of communicating spatial needs in housing design. Journal of Engineering, Design and Technology , 18(06), 1593–613.

  • Type: Journal Article
  • Keywords: Ghana; Activity theory; Lefebvre; Housing design; Residential adaptations; Spatial needs;
  • ISBN/ISSN: 1726-0531
  • URL: https://doi.org/10.1108/JEDT-03-2019-0073
  • Abstract:
    Knowing and understanding the spatial needs of users is imperative for the design of livable and sustainable houses. However, the practical and theoretical difficulties associated with this, especially in social housing, create a shortfall in design knowledge known as user needs gap. To bridge this gap, design researchers over the years, have sought to provide feedback for design decision-making through post-occupancy evaluation studies using preferences and residential satisfaction as constructs. In view of their limitations, this study aims to explore residential adaptations as residents’ tacit means of communicating their spatial needs, and a pathway to understanding residents’ housing requirements. Design/methodology/approach The study was exploratory in nature and a case study by design using a convergent parallel design within the mixed methods tradition. Activity Theory as used as a conceptual framework. The study involved three strands of research as follows: estimation of the floor areas of the rooms and spaces of the case study designs using the International Standards Organisation intramuros method; a survey of households and their activities using questionnaires; and observation of residents’ adaptations captured photographs and drawings. In all, 43 households out of the 66 apartments in the two case designs were surveyed. Findings The study found that while the units were theoretically large, they were practically inadequate when average household sizes were taken into account in a space per person analysis. In response, particularly to sleeping requirements of children, residents make different forms of adaptations – normative, such as house sharing, compositional and organizational, as well as add-ins and add-ons including and illegal alterations. Originality/value The paper presents residential adaptations as an empirically grounded, contextually embedded and practically useful means of exploring and understanding users’ spatial needs in housing design. Residential adaptations provide a means through which residents communicate their housing needs, albeit tacitly – a means for self-expression, self-extension and self-determination. To theory, the study shows that residential adaptations can be useful as a construct for understanding residents’ spatial needs, though fuzzy. It also helps understand how the tensions in an activity system, may result from contradictions produced by the lurking effect of contextual factors. This makes contextual knowledge, particularly cultural knowledge, critical to the design.