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Metabolic Cities: Home Economics

Think tank members mapped their own tenancies as a basis for unearthing tensions between the typically accepted necessities of a home and the way they actually live. They unanimously concluded that a private living room could be sacrificed for a larger shared space.

How can design improve the way we live in cities? Design Think Tanks (DTTs) at the LSA put forward proposals to help meet the targets set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Metabolic Cities proposes ‘Home Economics’; Increasing the supply of affordable housing by using advanced construction technologies and rethinking the balance between public and private space.

sites are clustered together and facilities are shared within a cluster. While every site will have a shared utility and garden, only the larger site will contain a shared community living space. Clusters are designed to work together, with minimal walking distance between properties and shared living space.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities


Between 1997 and 2016, London’s population grew by 1.7 million, an increase of 25 per cent – but housing capacity increased by only 15 per cent.The UK has seen a dramatic reduction in the social housing stock in the last decade, with the construction of homes for social rent dropping by 80 per cent. There is a 40,000-unit shortage in housing supply today.

Much of the housing we do build is delivered by a handful of volume house builders delivering a uniform product, which is ungenerous, inflexible, unsustainable, socially isolating and prohibitively expensive. The UN affordability standards state that each household should spend no more than 30 per cent of their income on housing for it to be considered affordable. In London, the average figure is more than 40 per cent.


A new planning use class, C5, is proposed to cover small dwellings that are supplemented with additional shared space. Below: average UK house price inflation between 1950 and 2010.
A new planning use class, C5, is proposed to cover small dwellings that are supplemented with additional shared space. Below: average UK house price inflation between 1950 and 2010.


An approach to increasing housing supply driven by small groups or individuals prepared to take responsibility for their own dwelling procurement and based on a five-pronged strategy to address construction cost, land scarcity, density, community and adaptability:

  • Introducing 3D printing construction technologies as an industry mainstream. The technology has the potential to deliver bespoke, precise and low-cost structures in a short amount of time.
  • Developing gap sites to repurpose unused space in urban areas as housing or civic infrastructure
  • Increasing shared facilities – including utilities and living space – to allow for a higher density of dwellings.
  • Providing a contemporary interpretation of the hearth to encourage communal life.
  • Offering adaptable and incomplete dwellings to allow customisation and offer residents scope to expand/retract their home rather than relocate.

We propose a new planning use class – C5 – that covers smaller dwellings supplemented with additional shared space.


Diagrams showing the construction process using 3D printing construction technologies with CAD manufactured timber floors and walls.
Case study proposal for an underused garage site close to the Lea Bridge roundabout.


For people with construction skills – and the means and will to acquire land and planning consent – this model provides a way of entering the housing market. Section 106 payments, contractors’ and project managers’ fees are deducted from project costs.

A group can form a trust to apply for loans from ethical sources, such as the GLA’s Innovation Fund, designed to aid affordable housing projects using modern methods of construction.The trust invests in 3D printing equipment, which can be rented out to generate income and reduces construction time and cost.

Once users move in, they pay 30 per cent of their income in return for equity in the trust. The trust, in turn, repays the loan for construction costs. Once a resident reaches the maximum equity share, they pay a reduced monthly contribution to cover ongoing maintenance costs.The trust gains additional income by renting out the communal living space for local community events.


When the users first move in, the development is at its maximum density and contains around 100 residents.
Dwellings after ten years. Over time the density fluctuates between 80 and 100 residents as internal partitions are removed to change the number of bedrooms.


Design Think Tanks are collaborative projects between students and leading architectural practices at the London School of Architecture. The UN Sustainable Development Goals address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. They are a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

Leaders: Yasir Azami and Andrew McEwan (Orms). Students: Daniel Barrett, James Clark, Luke Hughes, Calven Lee, Eira Mooney, Priya Nahal.