London is currently in a housing crisis; demand is far outpacing supply resulting in increasingly unaffordable housing. To help meet the housing demand KPFui developed an ideal block typology and master planning principles to achieve higher densities  while balancing access to daylight.

Because a higher density than is typical throughout London is necessary, it is not possible to rely on existing block typologies to meet demand, a new typology is needed. We started by analyzing historic block typologies, most specifically looking at density, or Floor Area Ratio (FAR.) We found that the block typologies that Londoners were familiar with are typically between 1 - 3 FAR , while our target density to meet demand is 4 - 6 FAR. Next, we increased the heights of the historic block typologies to 6 FAR, the upper end of the target density, and analyzed them for daylight access to residential units (Vertical Sky Component,) sky exposure on public spaces (ambient daylight,) and site coverage (efficiency.) What we found was that all the typologies, except for the Barbican, performed poorly when taken to this density, while the block typology we were proposing, split courtyard building with towers, performed much better.

 Timeline of london block typologies

Timeline of london block typologies

 London block typologies at 6 FAR.

London block typologies at 6 FAR.

In the design of new neighborhood understanding the physical capacity of the site is crucial to being able to maximize density while creating an attractive, vibrant and livable area. Here we tested various block sizes deployed across a hypothetical London site, all developed to the target floor area. We were able to determine the range of block sizes that performed best. In the end, the dimensions of a London block, Bloomsbury, was best suited to the site and block typology and variations on it were developed in the design of the plan. 

 Analysis of block size capacity relative to daylight access.

Analysis of block size capacity relative to daylight access.

 Orientation tests to maximize residential daylight.

Orientation tests to maximize residential daylight.

Concurrent to the urban scale block study, we worked to optimize the performance of the proposed block typology for a number of criteria (outlined below,) but most importantly,  to maximize density while maintaining residential and public space daylight levels. 

 Performance criteria

Performance criteria

Once the performance criteria was defined we ran a series of optimizations, testing tens-of-thousands of block configurations, to determine not the single optimal solution, but rather, a range of high performing block configurations that allowed for flexibility in the design process. That range was then turned into a set of rules-of-thumb to be followed within the design of a master plan. 

 Testing of tens-of-thousands of options to determine a range of high performing block configurations.

Testing of tens-of-thousands of options to determine a range of high performing block configurations.

 Rules of thumb developed from top performing configurations

Rules of thumb developed from top performing configurations

 Transformation from dumb block to smart block.

Transformation from dumb block to smart block.

 Overview of ideal block configuration.

Overview of ideal block configuration.

Next we applied results of the optimal block study to a hypothetical site and varied the street grid to test out a range of street configurations to demonstrate how master plan can be calibrated within a specific context. 

 Iteration of street grid

Iteration of street grid

 Performance comparison of 155 iterations. Pink highlight indicates above average performance specific metric

Performance comparison of 155 iterations. Pink highlight indicates above average performance specific metric

In the end, the application of data rich models and analysis tools helped to develop block and master plan typology can help meet London housing demand while maintaining proper daylight access to  residential units and streets. Ultimately, the characteristics that will make  a lively and well functioning neighborhood will come from the architectural and urban design, but grounded on rigorous, data driven analysis.