Custom or standardized design —
Advantages and disadvantages. Emergence of standardized design solutions and their judgment in Hungary today
Author: Péter Müllner, Project year: 2019
Summary of the research
Designing family houses is a special and ambivalent area of architecture, so in this paper I am dealing only with a smaller segment of this complex topic, i.e. with the standardized-plan-based complex construction projects of private investment. What are the features or technical properties for which this practice performs at least as well or possibly better than custom design? For whom and why a standardized sample plan is more attractive than traditional custom design practice, and how it affects the current balance of power? What are the factors where, due to its nature, this area is lagging; and what are the tools and methods that can represent future development trends?
I used the PEST analysis to discuss the topic. The points raised by the analysis helped to create a questionnaire giving the basis for interviews made with market players. When examining historical examples, I present innovative solutions given to specific problems (post-war world housing situation, industrialization, growth of population) until the complex architectural investments appearing at the turn of the millennium, which can provide complete service to their customers from customized designs to turnkey delivery. Recent political and legal measures – e.g. Family Housing Allowance, the simplified declaration procedure and tightening energy regulation – are all steps that may directly or indirectly promote the spread of type designs, not to mention the creation of the National Sample Plan Catalog announced by the Government of Hungary. From an economic point of view, using sample plans are very beneficial both for the buyer and the seller, as due to the reduction of works it is cheaper, faster and more predictable than the traditional design service. However, the proliferation of sample plans does not necessarily have a negative impact on traditional design practice, as it may eliminate the price competition between architects producing individual designs. From a social point of view, there is a fundamental difference between the two practices. Namely, while in case of sample plans listing or formulating the requirements can even be the end of the process, this is only the initial step of the traditional design process, and the customers are assisted by an expert in clarifying their needs. The development of technology, especially the development of information technology facilitates the acceptance and sale of type designs. One of the two main reasons for this is that the photorealistic visuals rendered to sell such designs make the plans much more interpretable than just floor plans or section drawings. The other is that the filtering conditions can be modified on basis of the estimated construction costs until the customers are able to adjust the demands to their own budget.
During the evaluation, I examined the issue of sample plans from the perspective of the participants in the process. Regarding the quality of construction, complex investments are one step ahead of houses built with traditional design practice. The reason for this is that a company selling sample plans has the opportunity to choose the contractor most appropriate for performing the given task, the sub-contractor must prove its capability to the main contractor too, and finally, sample plans are usually standardized solutions that rarely put a hurdle on the contractor. From the architects’ point of view, if considering the plans in question as the zero steps of the design process, they can start planning from a position where the expected costs are known, the appearance of the house is defined, and the design program is available, which results in a very comfortable situation not only for the customer but also for the designer. In this case, the architect's task differs from the usual design practice only in the amount of data incoming at the beginning of the design. Nevertheless, no matter how much the application of sample plans is considered to be competitive both from the constructor's and from the architect’s point of view, if the customers dislike the solution. So, the success of this practice will be determined by the willingness of customers to choose this form of house construction.