REHAU: Wellbeing at risk when converting shops into flats

  • 27 May 2021

Building specifiers and contractors must champion a healthy approach to M&E solutions when converting shops into flats according to REHAU. This follows claims from campaigners that this latest trend could lead to ‘low quality homes’.

The move towards turning commercial premises into housing is already underway. Thinktanks like the Social Market Foundation suggesting turning collapsed retail businesses into residential space could create 800,000 new homes.

While new Permitted Development Rights ensure space standards will be upheld and extremely small ‘rabbit hutch’ flats avoided, polymer supplier REHAU is exposing further concern. This is in regards to wellbeing being ‘value-engineered’ out of these buildings later on.

Designing Healthy Apartments

The warning comes off the back of REHAU’s recent report ‘Designing Healthy Apartments‘. In this, 44% of architects and specifiers identifying this issue of later ‘value-engineering’ as a concern during the design process. Over 500 respondents took part in the independent research, with 125 specialising in multi-residential projects.

Steve Richmond, Head of Marketing and Technical for REHAU Building Solutions, comments: “The new Permitted Development Rights put forward by the housing secretary are a welcome move. But it’s not just space utilisation that impacts an occupant’s wellbeing. It’s temperature control, water provision, acoustics, air quality and so on.


“The worry is that because retrofitting and repurposing existing space can be seen as a less expensive option, there could be pressure to cut corners on fundamental components that improve occupant wellbeing. These actions could also impair a building’s also lifespan, raising further concerns.”

Overheating in summer, excess cold in winter, privacy and lack of daylight are also potential issues according to Julia Park.

Julia is the head of housing research at the architects Levitt Bernstein and one of the Mayor of London’s design advocates.

Steve continues: “All the issues raised by Julia Park are synonymous with the findings in our latest research, and then some. While we fully support the drive to refurbish and repurpose the abundance of empty office and retail units across the country, there’s a plethora of considerations to take into account when repurposing a building. M&E solutions need to sit at the heart of this rather than being an afterthought.”

Designing Healthy Apartments is the first in a series of reports. These highlight the challenges and opportunities to improve the UK’s commercial buildings by sector.

To download Designing Healthy Apartments, visit:


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Ross on Wye,

Email address: [email protected]
Tel: 01989 72600

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