Standard formats don’t have to be obeyed but knowing those rules and when to break them makes it a whole lot easier to design, says Eleanor Young
The world is governed by invisible rules. You don’t have to understand the mathematical equation of gravity to feels its impact. I was a teenager abroad when I divined that UK balustrades had a regulation height – and that was why I felt I might pitch over one low international balustrade. Fitting a mattress to a bedframe or a kitchen carcass to cupboard door, you curse that you bought one that appears to fit a European or Scandinavian standard while the other seems to be based on imperial measures.
In IT they talk about standards ensuring interoperability. Can your system or device work with mine? We expect standard jacks to fit computer sockets; WiFi and Bluetooth are underpinned by patented tech and integrated circuit chips, all agreed by huge committees, which allow devices to connect to each other. And it makes sense. If we are investing in BIM we need to be able share it with the rest of the team and asset managers down the line.
Of course simple things go together simply. That doesn’t just mean you are limited to designing for 2x4 timbers or standard bricks (however satisfying that might be). It is exciting to see architects working to create new standard forms that will be easier and quicker to build with, whether it is Knox Bhavan with its OSB structural cassettes or the hempcrete panels developed by Practice Architecture and Material Cultures, which we spotlight next month as part of our Future winners section.
It is exciting to see architects working to create new standard forms that will be easier and quicker to build with
The rules of physics, of law and regulation and the rules of manufacture and industry agreement over standard sizes and formats define the world around us. Some rules need to be stuck to, as the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has shown. But knowing those rules and when to break them makes it a whole lot easier to design and make.
And often less wasteful and expensive. And think of the pleasure, and relief, when things fit together without extra complex calculations and workarounds.
Printing also has these invisible rules. As readers of our print edition will have seen, this month we have changed the magazine shape and size, adopting a format that works with standard 870mm-wide paper reel sizes, rather than having to order special paper reels that go to the maximum size of our Lincolnshire presses. This is less wasteful in terms of paper and packaging and has provided an opportunity to refresh the layout while ensuring clarity and readability.
Due to rising costs of paper, postage and energy, we also have taken the decision to combine magazine issues during holiday periods. In the meantime look out for the May issue with full coverage of all the RIBA Regional Award winners, which you can also see, region by region, as they are announced on ribaj.com.