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Adaptability of mass housing: size modification of flats as a response to segregation

Satu Huuhka (School of Architecture, Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, Finland)
Sini Saarimaa (School of Architecture, Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, Finland)

International Journal of Building Pathology and Adaptation

ISSN: 2398-4708

Article publication date: 15 August 2018

Issue publication date: 7 September 2018




When dwellings fail to respond to residents’ needs, housing will suffer from segregation and buildings will possibly be demolished ahead of their time. This paper focuses on the lack of variation in the sizes of dwellings as a factor in residential segregation. It examines this issue in the context of Finnish mass housing built in the 1960s and 1970s. The purpose of the paper is to review how mass housing layouts can be adapted to produce the currently absent flat sizes.


The paper operates at the intersection of human geography, building stock research and adaptability research. First, statistical data are utilized to investigate how dwellings and households of different sizes are distributed over the Finnish housing stock. Second, the building layouts of mass housing are examined in detail. Third, the potential that flats in mass housing have for size modification is reviewed.


There is a disparity of available dwelling sizes between different housing types, and statistics show that the proportion of large households has decreased significantly in blocks of flats over the last decades. The lack of large dwellings in mass housing may contribute as one factor to the segregation of the neighborhoods built in the 1960s and 1970s. The findings show how the variation of apartment sizes can be increased in mass housing.


The housing stock is rarely examined in detail in segregation research, even though it is a major determinant for a city’s social structure. This paper argues that to address segregation sustainably, it is necessary to understand the housing stock better and to view it as an adaptable asset.



This study has been a part of the research project MuutosMallit: Lähiöasuntojen ja -kerrostalojen muutossuunnittelun mallit (Modification Models for Mass Housing Blocks and Flats). The Housing Finance and Development Centre of Finland (ARA) has supported the project from the funding program Asuinalueiden kehittämisohjelma 2013–2015 (Development Programme for Residential Areas 2013–2015). The authors would like to acknowledge the influence of the background studies conducted for the aforementioned project by Hanna Achrén (2015) and Tapio Kaasalainen (2015). In addition, the authors wish to thank Achrén, Kaasalainen and Jani H. Hakanen for their valuable contribution in collecting the research material and Achrén for the preliminary processing of that material. The authors also wish to express their gratitude to the anonymous reviewers for their constructive criticism, and to Adrian Benfield for the language advice.


Huuhka, S. and Saarimaa, S. (2018), "Adaptability of mass housing: size modification of flats as a response to segregation", International Journal of Building Pathology and Adaptation, Vol. 36 No. 4, pp. 408-426.



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