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Mr Tobias Vokuhl

Mr Tobias Vokuhl

Highly Commended Winner 2015
Room to Swing a Kid? An Exploratory Study Into End-User Engagement With “Spatially Constrained” UK Family Homes

Research Abstract

At a time when UK house building is once again gaining momentum, and ‘Garden Cities’ and ‘Eco Towns’ feature on Government and construction industry agendas, this study questions to what extent ‘spatially constrained’ new housing developments are in fact a socially sustainable solution. A significant number of studies have highlighted both the extent of consumer dissatisfaction with the space on offer, and also the high percentage of ‘under-sized’ properties. 


The iterative process of data capture employed here renders valuable insights into family user engagement with the housing on offer. Primary research included the narrative interviewing of 10 couples in the early family life stage. Secondary research provided a socio-cultural framework, within which findings could be explored. It was shown that houses shape cultural and social practices, and that we re-shape our houses as cultural practices change. Emerging from this study is an insight from the building user which challenges the current industry model of providing small houses with dense internal layouts on small plots. Research participants offer a different, and arguably more sustainable, vision of a family home. Such allows for a staged spatial expansion, taking into account financial position, personal taste, and timing, and fosters the longer term integration of individuals within a ‘locale’, allowing the development of vibrant local communities.

Winner's Bios

Mr Tobias Vokuhl

Oxford Brookes University, UK

Tobias has gained international construction experience in Germany, Israel and the UK. Prior to completing his MSc in Project Management in the Built Environment at Oxford Brookes University, he managed teams and sites for McCurdy & Co, and was engaged in building conservation and reconstruction projects for clients such as Historic Royal Palaces and English Heritage. Following his graduation with Distinction in June 2015, Tobias now works for Beard Construction in Oxford as Assistant Contracts Manager. He continues to maintain a research interest in sustainable construction, with a particular interest in localised and wider sociological implications of the built environment, as it shapes the lives of end-users.


Judge's comments

“This is a highly topical piece of research which addresses an unusual but important topic.  It draws well from a number of detailed case studies and interviews with house occupants.  The occupants’ views are extremely well presented, and the conclusions are thoughtful and provocative. The dissertation deserves to be read more widely.”