Tessellar Blog

Thursday, October 27, 2016

4 Reducing the Cost of Land

A key reason why the the developer of Nong Chik Heights agreed to experiment with Honeycomb housing was that we were able to convince him that our proposal was not only better in terms of quality, but that it was also cost-effective. In this  section, we will address the issue of cost.

TERRACE HOUSING

Terrace housing has long been considered the densest form of landed property development possible. Indeed, of all the types of housing in Malaysia, it is the terrace house that predominates . The typical lot varies from 16’ x 50’ to    24’ x 100’, but the most common lots now are 20’ x 65’ and 22’ x 70’. The ubiquitous terrace house plan has been designed   and re-designed many times but always within the same restrictive framework without much scope for innovation.

The housing layout has also become stereotyped. In the typical estate, the terrace houses are lined up along grid-lines with 40’ service roads in front and much narrower back lanes and side lanes. Communal areas for schools, civic and religious buildings, as well as open areas for children’s playgrounds and parks, are also provided. Despite the infrastructure provided, it can be said that the design of many housing estates does not really meet the practical needs of the average resident. 

Apart from the aesthetic boredom of rows and rows of houses, among the drawbacks of the terrace house layout is the lack of public security and any genuine sense of community. With the rising price of land in urban areas, many people are resigned to apartments. The terrace house, for all its drawbacks, has been elevated to the status of a dream-home.

HONEYCOMB HOUSING

In “Honeycomb Housing”, instead of rows of terrace houses, we are proposing that every house is in a cul-de-sac with a garden in the middle where giant shady trees will be planted. The courtyard in the middle of the houses is not just a street for transit: it is a place safe enough from speeding cars and strangers, for even pre-schoolers to play on.

Our aim is to recreate the best elements of kampong and small-town life: where children can play outside our homes with friends without fear from crime and traffic, in a community where people know and talk to each other. We are trying to create a more suitable environment for the “kampong boy of the future” – something better than our existing terrace houses. And honeycomb housing can deliver all the benefits of the cul-de-sac housing environment.

For all the benefits that Honeycomb housing may have over conventional terrace houses, it would be less likely to be adopted if the new layout was more expensive and less affordable. 
We will first deal with the issue of land-use here. The following post will address the issue of infrastructural cost.

SMALL-SCALE COMPARISON WITH TERRACE HOUSES

A honeycomb neighbourhood comprising 5   units of quadriplexes and duplexes is compared with a terrace house arrangement of an equivalent 5   units. Although the land size of the houses is the same, when we analyze the breakdown of land-use, we find that the area used up for roads (yellow) in the honeycomb layout is much less than that in the terrace house layout. Because we have made the green area to be of the same size, therefore there is more saleable land.

Figure 1  Five units Honeycomb vs. five units terrace houses


Table 1 Five units Honeycomb vs. five units terrace houses


A COMPARISON OF 5 UNITS

HONEYCOMB HOUSE
TERRACE HOUSE

(SM)
(%)
(SM)
(%)
ROAD
334
26
611
41
GREEN
93
7
103
7
HOUSE
861
67
761
52
TOTAL
1288
100
1475
100

We then compared a honeycomb neighbourhood comprising 16   units of quadriplexes and duplexes against a terrace house arrangement of an equivalent 16 units. It is demonstrated in the table shown that the honeycomb layout is more land-use efficient.


Figure 2 Twelve units Honeycomb vs. twelve units terrace houses



Table 2 Five units Honeycomb vs.five units terrace houses












A COMPARISON OF 16 UNITS

HONEYCOMB HOUSE
TERRACE HOUSE

(SM)
(%)
(SM)
(%)
ROAD
879
23
1323
35
GREEN
264
7
269
7
HOUSE
2721
70
2190
58
TOTAL
3864
100
3782
100

A similar exercise comparing 2 and 8 detached houses laid out in rows an against the same numbers of equivalent honeycomb houses comes to the same conclusion.


Figure 3 Two units Honeycomb detached houses vs. two units linear detached houses


Table 3 Two units Honeycomb detached houses vs. two units linear detached houses



HONEYCOMB DETACHED HOUSES
LINEAR DETACHED HOUSES

(SM)
(%)
(SM)
(%)
ROAD
334
26
426
33
GREEN
93
7
90
7
HOUSE
861
67
761
60
TOTAL
1288
100
1275
100

Table 4 Eight units Honeycomb detached houses vs. eight units linear detached houses

HONEYCOMB DETACHED HOUSES
LINEAR DETACHED HOUSES

(SM)
(%)
(SM)
(%)
ROAD
879
23
818
25
GREEN
264
7
235
7
HOUSE
2721
70
2190
68
TOTAL
3864
100
3782
100



Figure 4 Eight units Honeycomb detached houses vs. eight units linear detached houses


















MEDIUM-SCALE COMPARISON WITH TERRACE HOUSES

We then made a comparison between a ‘honeycomb’ layout comprising 258 three-bedroom low-medium cost double-storey houses of 1200sf built-up area on 15.6 acres of land, and that a terrace-house layout consisting of 288 equivalent 3 bedroom low-medium cost double storey houses of also 1200sf with 18’ frontage on 21.74 acres. Both layouts are efficient are theoretically efficient with the land size and shape suited to the requirements of the retilinear and honeycomb geometry. The size of land and number of units are not exactly the same, but this is acceptable because we are interested in the ratios.


Figure 5 258 terrace houses on 15.6 acres
Table 5 Comparing the terrace houses above with Honeycomb houses below













HONEYCOMB HOUSE
TERRACE HOUSE

(%)
(%)
ROAD
33
47
GREEN
9
9
HOUSE (Sellable area)
58
44
DENSITY (No of Units per acre
15
15
AVERAGE LOT SIZE
1658
1261


Figure 6 288 Honeycomb houses on 21.74 acres




























We find that ‘honeycomb’ housing produces here greatly increased land use efficiencies. These advantages are summarized in the mathematical table comparing the terrace housing   against quadruplex/sextuplex  honeycomb housing. The density is the same but the amount of road for the ‘honeycomb’ is only 33% against 47% for the terrace. Consequently, the average size of each lot is 30% larger!

REAL SITE COMPARISONS

We have done several comparative studies, comparing actual terrace-house layouts to alternative ‘honeycomb’ layouts,  to illustrate how honeycomb layouts are more efficient than conventional rectilinear grid layouts. We have done several comparative studies to illustrate how honeycomb layouts are more efficient than conventional rectilinear grid layouts. The study of alternative layouts at Demak Laut, Kuching in Sarawak iis one example. 
Figure 7 Terrace house layout in Demak Laut site



Figure 8 Honeycomb house layout in Demak Laut site

Table 6 Comparing the terrace house with Honeycomb house layouts in Demak Laut


HONEYCOMB HOUSE
TERRAC HOUSE

(%)
(%)
ROAD
33
47
GREEN
9
9
HOUSE (Sellable area)
58
44
DENSITY (No of Units per acre
15
15
AVERAGE LOT SIZE
1658
1261

In this example, there is the same number of units. The green areas and provisions for amenities are about the same. The terrace alternative yields only about 40% sellable residential land. This yield is quite common for any landed property development. However, the honeycomb layout can yield about 56% saleable land. The reason for this can be seen in the reduction in road reserve – from 38% to 23%.

Another example, for a project in Sungai Lunchoo, Plentong in Johor Bahru, shows again how the ‘honeycomb’ layout reduces the amount of road and improves the ratio of saleable land.


Figure 9 Honeycomb house with terrace house layouts in Sungai Lunchoo
Table 7 Comparing the Figure 9 Honeycomb house with terrace house layouts in Sungai Lunchoo





HONEYCOMB HOUSE
TERRACE HOUSE

(%)
(%)
ROAD
35.2
41.2

Fewer Roads
GREEN
10.9
7.6

More Green Spaces
HOUSE (Sellable area)
43.3
40.7

Larger Sellable Land
NO OF UNITS
224
224

Same number of Units


WHY IS THE HONEYCOMB LAYOUT EFFICIENT?

First of all, the back-lane in the terrace house situation is wasteful – this feature is totally eliminated in honeycomb housing.

Secondly, we can reduce the amount of circulation space in a through road by cutting it off at the end. The final length is replaced by paved area designed for turning.


Figure 10 Cul-de-sac vs. through road


















Given a fixed area and number of houses to access, the shorter the cul-de-sac, the less the area taken up by the road. A square cul-de-sac neighbourhood has less road area than a long rectangular one. A circular one by itself would be the most efficient. However, as shown below the circle does not tessellate.


Figure 11 Cul-de-sac layout of a square piece of land vs. a circular one







Figure 12 Circles do not tessellate




















However, hexagonal neighbourhoods interlock without gap or overlap.

The third consideration is the length of the distribution roads that encircle a precinct. The perimeter of a hexagonal precinct is 7% shorter than the perimeter of a square one of the same area.




Figure 13 The perimeter of a hexagon is shorter than that of a square
All of the above factors combine in honeycomb housing to produce greatly increased efficiency of land use. A terrace can be seen as a row of houses surrounded by roads. In contrast, honeycomb houses surround the road. It is easy to understand intuitively that roads accessing internally are more efficient than roads accessing houses from the external boundary. This accounts for the efficiency of cul-de-sacs in general, and partly explains the efficiency of ‘honeycomb housing’.

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