UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Privacy as an aspect of the residential environment Scarth, David St. Clair


It is usually contended that it is in the interest of the community to require certain minimum space standards between and around buildings to achieve safety and minimum health standards; to control the architectural design of buildings; to protect "amenity"; to limit the density of population; to reduce traffic congestion, and so on. Although safety, livability and appearance are generally accepted as the main purpose of site and space regulation, this study suggests that privacy can be accepted as suitable for control by site and space regulations. The underlying purpose of this study, therefore, is to investigate visual, auditory, olfactory, and physical privacy within the single-family residential environment. Of particular interest to the study are the methods of achieving privacy in the open space within the dwelling yard. On this basis, the specific purposes of the study are two-fold; first, a review and analysis of-existing site and space standards as they are found in the various types of land-use controls in order to determine their effect on privacy in the residential environment; and second, the formulation of a technique for site and space planning for privacy, based on a performance standards system. The basic methods of land-use control in North America are zoning and subdivision regulations. Research shows that current techniques of zoning and subdivision regulation in low-density residential areas do not achieve the benefits originally intended as the inflexible nature of the controls lead to a visual monotony in residential development. Worthy as some of the principles may have been at the outset, they have largely miscarried by such preoccupation with the tools of regulation that basic needs have been forgotten. One of these basic needs is privacy, which should he ensured, rather than adversely affected by site and space regulations. An owner should be able to protect his privacy without sacrificing light, air, or usability of any of the open space of his lot. The research demonstrates that adequate space around and between buildings for functional and aesthetic purposes can be achieved with greater' flexibility and without further restricting the individual's wishes in siting and building, his house on the usual single-family lot, through the use of performance standards. These measure space between and around buildings in relation to the variety of functions that they are to perform, and in relation to the size and dimension of land and buildings in a given situation. The investigation concludes that with few exceptions, present site and space standards for building and site planning are arbitrary and rigid, and that the spatial separation of buildings and yard areas resulting from the application, of these standards do not encourage privacy. Further, through the existence of such regulations as those concerning enclosure limitations, the resident is restricted in his means of minimizing the opportunities for infringement of his privacy by neighbours or those passing in the street. With regard to the statement of the hypothesis concerning performance standards, it can be concluded that in fact a technique for site and space planning for privacy as such, can not be evolved. However, regulations that are directly or indirectly related to privacy can be formed, based on a performance standards system in order to achieve a similar end result. To this end the hypothesis is advanced: That existing site and space standards adversely affect the privacy of open space within the residential environment; and that a technique for site and space planning for privacy can be evolved, based on a performance standards system. Most zoning and subdivision regulations are a reasonable and fair attempt to deal with a complex problem, but the results of residential development under present controls leave much to be desired. It is probably impossible to prohibit "bad" design or to pass legislation that a certain design must be followed. However, it is desirable and highly possible that -what controls we have could be more "positive" in effect to encourage and facilitate good imaginative design. This new approach to controls, with the necessary flexibility, is a must if we are to .take advantage of the past, present and future technological developments; to keep up with and give expression to the ever-changing and improving "way of life"; and to maintain as much as possible the individual's freedom of choice and expression, within his own residential environment.

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