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The challenge set out by the Leipzig Charter may seem vast; nevertheless, it is only through joint efforts that we can truly aspire to better new housing developments – good, green, safe, and affordable – which will eventually give birth to the cities we want for the future of our continent. Hopus Group brings together five universities and one city administration, each working on different aspects of housing: from the urban to the building approach, from building regulations to construction technology, from environmental quality to energy certification: a multi-faceted and interdisciplinary vision, trying to cover a wide range of different problems, joining theory and practice.
  • Governance Governance

1. Governance
In order to be successfully implemented, urban governance requires a number of basic conditions: firstly, a mutual trust between public and private, between citizens and government. Governance implies true participation of stakeholders at all levels, and consultations are needed to assess the needs of everyone involved. In some contexts, this participatory process is not well seen, since in the face of new ideas of urban democracy the city’s government is still a “top-down” process.
Furthermore, a balanced power relationship between local authorities and private investors is needed: in housing development, governance can be impaired by builders who exercise strong economic pressures on the city, and are therefore in the position to strongly influence the outcomes, imposing solutions which are based on profit maximisation only. In some contexts, public limitation to private undertaking is negatively perceived.
 
2. Design coding and guidelines on housing
Regulations, if drafted and applied in the wrong way, can stifle innovation, force architectural expression and produce monotonous outcomes by reducing possibilities, complicate bureaucratic processes and, in some extreme cases, even lead to illegal building activity. The aims of design coding are exactly the opposite: to speed up and guarantee the outcomes of the process by providing a shared document for both private developers and local authorities, who should use the codes to assess submitted designs.
 
3. Definition of quality standards for urban and architectural design in housing developments
Being based on quantifiable parameters, environmental efficiency can be quite easily measured, in terms of energy consumption, heating and cooling costs, water recovery, LCA, etc. Urban and architectural quality is more elusive, and, to promote it, it must become a shared and transparent factor, no longer pertaining to specialists only, but to the wider public also. End-users should be fully informed of what they are buying, no less than when they buy produce or meat.

1. Governance
Since design coding is a governance tool, it is likely that its implementation could only be feasible in contexts where urban governance is already an established way. One of the tasks of Hopus will therefore be that of outlining the basic governance conditions which need to be in place in order to attempt the implementation of design coding.

2. Design coding and guidelines on housing
Another task for Hopus will therefore consist in surveying how design coding and similar forms of project guidance have been successfully or unsuccessfully applied throughout Europe. This will take in special consideration the process through which the implementation has taken place, in order to form a critical understanding of the advantages and disadvantages which design codes actually present.

3. Definition of quality standards for urban and architectural design in housing developments
A further task which Hopus could thus set itself is to outline a system of European urban and architectural quality labelling for housing developments. This should take in consideration sustainability standards, but also specific parameters bound to standards of good urban and architectural design, variable depending on local contexts and understanding of quality.

What are the reasons which led to the birth of the Hopus project?
In 2007, the municipality of Rome gave CITERA - Faculty of Architecture "Valle Giulia", the opportunity to study in detail the factors and processes that determine the quality of urban housing. About twenty researchers at developed a code of practice for new public housing developments in Rome. The goal is to provide private construction contractors with a document that imposes the quality standards to be respected and that gives recommendations. It is an innovative project, not only for Italy, but also for Europe, where these types of guidelines have only been limited to isolated initiatives. Through Hopus, it will be possible to investigate the use of design codes and other forms of "smart" project guidance as they have been implemented in Europe.Which is the European added value in a working group like Hopus?
It is really fascinating to be able to compare the work and research done in different countries. Based on the observation that the idea of quality differs with one’s culture, Hopus focuses on the beginning of the development process, notably on governance and mechanisms to get private businesses adopt design codes. One of the main hesitations developers have is the fear that construction will cost more: in order to provide them with tangible benefits, Hopus is working on a quality labelling systems. The goal is for the buyer to be able to refer to precise criteria that guarantee quality.
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