The dilemma of regulating privacy : planning regulations, privacy and house form : the case study of low-density single-family dwellings in Saudi Arabia
The object of this research is the exploration of the effects of planning regulations on house form and privacy in low-density single-family dwellings (villas) in the context of Saudi Arabian cities. The research explores two main issues: firstly, the importance and the effects of privacy violation between neighbouring villas through overlooking on their residents' behaviour and use of house spaces; and secondly, to investigate the residents' preferred house form. To assess these two issues practically, seven suburbs from three different cities, representing large (Riyadh), medium (Tabuk) and small (Haqil) urban centres in Saudi Arabia were selected for carrying out a questionnaire survey. The selection of these suburbs was intended to represent, as far as possible, the different social groups in Saudi Arabian society. The population of the survey was the villa residents in these suburbs, who were asked questions regarding their use of house yards and windows, and tested on their awareness of planning regulations, and the effects of these regulations on house form and degree of privacy. The respondents were also asked about their preferred house form. The results indicated that privacy is considered an important issue by residents, and the effects of privacy violation, through neighbours overlooking each others' houses, were very clearly seen on the residents' reduced use of overlooked yards, compared to those not overlooked, as well as through the construction of extra fences to block overlooking from neighbouring houses. Although the residents showed a high degree of awareness about the effects of the villa house form on the high degree of overlooking, they showed a far greater preference for living in villas rather than attached courtyard house forms. The final conclusion of the research demonstrates the failure of the present planning regulations to promote an acceptable house form that allows for a reasonably sufficient degree of privacy protection. While some research and housing schemes have promoted house forms different from that of the villa, these have proved to be unacceptable and were rejected by residents. The recommendation of the current research is that efforts to find a solution to the problem should instead focus upon means to reduce the effects or degree of privacy violation between neighbouring houses, while maintaining the popular house form of the villa.