A Mass Personalisation Model to enhance Added Residential Value in Social Housing

By Victor Bunster

It is a major challenge in developing countries to ensure access to quality social housing. Standardised mass housing is still ubiquitously used when addressing pressing shortages, regardless of well-documented problems with this form of provision.

Although strategies based upon participation and self-help action may offer significant benefits, these delivery approaches are difficult to scale up and thus offer a feasible alternative to mass housing. There might be many reasons for this, but one is readily evident: mass production simplifies design and development, thus a more efficient housing delivery system. This thesis acknowledges the challenge and explores mass personalisation as an alternative approach to reconciling quality and quantity within the constraints of current social housing regulation and mainstream production systems.

Mass personalisation is a particular approach to mass customisation in which the attributes of a product or service are tailored towards the implicit requirements of individual users. If mass customisation seeks to offer enhanced variability with costs close those of mass production, mass personalisation seeks to meet the requirements of individual users more closely than is possible through traditional product specification approaches. This thesis demonstrates that mass personalisation can inform the delivery of cost-effective dwellings capable of facilitating the changing residential requirements of individual households and thus enhance their residential value throughout their life cycles.

Mass personalisation may reconcile quality and quantity in social housing.

The Chilean social housing program is used here as a case study context to explore current qualitative problems and to propose a mass personalisation model focused on the co-creation of residential value. A significant factor in household satisfaction is identified as the ability of occupants to personalise their home, influencing both user expectations and their perceived quality of the residential environment. Data gathered revealed that thermal performance was a key factor, reflecting expectations of the relationship between occupants and providers (i.e., personalisation as a service) as well as the impact that self-construction (i.e., personalisation of the product) can have on energy consumption for space heating. These insights are formalised and used as a conceptual foundation to structure a mass personalisation model that represents housing delivery as an ecosystem of users, products, and services in which the continuous provision of personalised user experiences is enabled. In support of the co-creation process, the proposed model draws upon on web personalisation and data mining techniques to profile household requirements using public datasets and direct user input, to automate the generation of housing alternatives using modular housing components, and to identify discrete solution sets of enhanced residential value. This model has been implemented as a proof-of-concept configurator with a particular focus on the provision of energy efficient dwellings and then evaluated under the Chilean program using simulation and scenario-based testing.

Overall, the main contribution of this thesis is in introducing mass personalisation principles to social housing as well as in demonstrating its potential and limitations when used as a strategy to enhance added residential value under current mass production-oriented regulation and production systems.