Introduction: Houses were among the first structures that were built, and remain the most common type of building today. The design of housing has been the subject of architecture, while from a psychological point of view the meaning of home has been a major subject of research. These two different viewpoints are combined in this research, in order to give designers a more scientifically based background for designing with meanings. Could human values (Schwartz, 2000) be used to relate activities and spaces in the home to a preference matched with a personal value-profile?

First a quantitative study (app. 30 ptcps) was carried out to match activities and spaces in the home to human values. This resulted in a design-tool that consists of the ten values (hedonism, self-direction, universalism, benevolence, conformity, tradition, power, and achievement) associated activities and spaces, and hierarchical graphs based on space syntax. Lastly opposing spatial features were laid over the two dimensions (openness to change vs. conservation and self-transcendence vs. self-enhancement). Subsequently this tool was used to design seven houses which were used to find out whether the values designed in the houses were also recognized as such, with interviews (12 architecture-students).

When comparing both activities and spaces with values, activities seem to show more distinctiveness than spaces, and some spaces are more value specific than others. Thus depending on the value that is associated to the room, the meaning or use of the room is still different.

Houses designed with specific values using the value-design-tool were mostly preferred by those who adhered to those values. The combinations of two neighboring values however is not always similar to the value-profiles of the persons choosing the house, which leads to less optimal choices. Nonetheless, either strongly adhered to values or strongly opposed to values do give an indication of housing preference based on human values.

The values that lie at the basis of this tool are cross-cultural, but the activities and spaces that relate to them are less universal. For a group with different associations between activities, spaces and values, the value-tool would need to be adjusted for that particular culture. Some activities or spaces might not be specific enough to clearly link to a value, or some values might not be expressed as much in the spatial features but more in the furnishings. If that is the case, then the spatial lay-out should give the residents the opportunity to do so. The tool can be used as an addition to the program of requirements or to shape the program of requirements. Guidelines for minimum spaces already exist, as do guidelines for installations and services. Using the value-design tool as an addition, gives direction for the variance in housing designs without limiting the creativity of the designer. As an advantage, the differences between houses can be based on specific residents, or residents with a certain value profile while at the same the reasons for doing so can be validated.