The London Housing Design Guidelines


As Architects, we strive for the best possible design solution for both our clients and aldo the users of the buildings we design. This means that we look at each project on an individual basis and respond with a clear understanding of physical, cultural and legislative constraints. For residential developments, the key government guidelines are contained within four principle layers of design guidance.

1. The National Planning Policy Framework, the NPPF.

This is a national policy structure and sets high level targets for provision of  things like residential construction targets, development in the country side, employment, community engagement and the pre app process etc along with the performance of local authorities and their relationship with developers.

2. The London Housing Design Guide 2010. 

The London Housing Design Guide provides a detailed set of guidelines and is drawn from the criterial set on in the strategic documents as outlined in 1 to 3 above.

3. Housing – Supplementary Planning Guidance 2016

The Mayors SPG was published in 2016 and is a strategic view of current planning policy and performance in London. This document is an update to the 2010 Document listed below.

4. Local Level SPG and Design Guides.

Each Local Authority issues Planning Guidance as part of their own core strategy documents. The guidance varies from council to council but all must acknowledge the greater strategic design criteria set by central and regional government.

Whilst we have a profound understanding of government guidance within the hierarchy outlined above it is the 2010 publication, The Mayors Housing Design Guide (4) along with the 2016 update SPG (3) that are most referenced for specific design standards.

The Evolution of Standards

Standards in Architectural Design for housing provision have been set for many centuries. The cultural expectations have been set out by numerous Intellectual’s, Architects and Artists throughout history. Three examples of standards that have been influential in the evolution of modernist culture are noted below, there are many more prominent works through history particularly from alternative cultural backgrounds.


De Architectura – The Ten Books on Architecture (30 – 15 BC)

The Roman Architect Vitruvius published De Architectura almost exactly 2000 years ago. The treatise provides a wealth of information on the layout, technology and materials of buildings and structures for developers in antiquity.

Within book 3 Vitruvius studies human proportions and the relationship of human form with the built environment. Book 6 sets guidelines for private houses with information on response to climate and context, symmetry and proportions, exposure and type and goes on to look at good construction practice with particular notes on foundations and sub-structures.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man (c.1490)

Leonardo’s work demonstrates the blend of mathematics and art during the Renaissance. The work clearly illustrates the earlier De Architectura with Leonardo’s own measurements of human bodies. Leonard’s Vitruvian Man depicts a man in two superimposed positions and is sometimes called the ‘Canon of Proportions’.

It was Vitruvius that proposed that the human figure was the principal source of proportion used in classical orders of Architecture. Leornardo’s drawing was an investigation into the relationship of human form and the built environment.

The Modulor and Modulor 2 (c.1948)

The French Architect Corbusier published The Modulor in 1948 followed by Modulor 2 in 1954. The books profile an investigation that attempts to find understand the complex issues surrounding human form. The Modulor is a sequence of measurements which Le Corbusier used to achieve harmony within architectural compositions. The Modulor was intended as a universal system of proportions.