Livable Housing Design Guidelines v4

Livable Housing Australia has released an updated version of their Guidelines. The latest version does not contain any real changes, rather it tidies up a few inconsistencies and resolves a few queries. With a move to performance criteria in the National Construction Code, it is good to see this highlighted in the document. Livable Housing Australia states, “We champion the adoption by 2020 of a Silver rating for all new homes”.  This is a design guide and as such it does not say how the 2020 target might be reached. Go to the Australian Network for Universal Design for more on this aspect.

For more housing design guidelines go to this section of the CUDA website.


Housing design for a decent life

street scene at twilight with modern medium density apartmentsLiving a “decent life” depends on whether you have the capabilities to have a decent life. This is the proposition of Nobel prize-winning economist and philosopher, Amartya Sen. Doing the things we value, having freedoms and pursuing our goals are all part of having a decent life according to Sen (2009). But lack of money and freedom, and barriers to participation limit that capability. Being unable to live a decent life impacts on socialisation, mental health and general wellbeing. In their article Housing design for socialisation and wellbeing, Lai and Rios discuss direct and indirect factors in housing design that relate to mental health. They have produced a toolkit, Happy Homes: A toolkit for building sociability through multi-family housing design as a result of their research. The authors drew inspiration from the North Vancouver Active Design Guidelines for their toolkit. They have distilled their research into 10 key principles that relate more to the location and design of the neighbourhood rather than the home itself: 

  1. Doing things together: Provide spaces that increase opportunities for residents to interact and do enjoyable things together.
  2. Exposure: Define private, semi-private, and public spaces to enhance residents’ sense of privacy and control over their exposure to others.
  3. Tenure: Enhance design and policy measures that will allow residents to remain in their community, as social connections and trust are reinforced over time.
  4. Social group size: Social group size affects the quality of social interactions and relationships – use of private, semi-private, and public spaces, as well as the clustering of homes into groups.
  5. Feeling of safety: Environments that feel safe encourage people to build positive relationships with each other.
  6. Participation: Residents participating in the design and management of their living environment allow for social interaction and increased sense of belonging.
  7. Walkability: Neighborhoods with mixed-used spaces that encourage walking increase social interaction.
  8. Nature: Exposure to green spaces and residents participating in the care of green spaces promotes social wellbeing.
  9. Comfort: Pleasant and comfortable environments encourage people to socialize with each other.
  10. Culture and values: Places that reflect people’s identity, culture, and values enhances their attachment to places and increases their sense of belonging.



Designing inclusively: Some examples

a man stands in front of a wall covered in bright coloured post it notes which have different ideas and actionsIt isn’t always easy to find examples of good practice in universal design, so it is good to see some on the the Design Council in the UK website. The video below has lots of examples of designing inclusively in the built environment. There are two key messages: get a diverse group of people together before you start designing, and think about all the extra people you can serve or sell to when you design with everyone in mind. While there are several videos around with a similar message, it is good to see the variety of environments covered – from transport to theatre. Rather than take an off-the-shelf ATM, Barclays Bank commissioned the design of their ATMs and came up with the idea of a niche to hang your walking stick – a key factor as if it falls to the ground, the owner may not be able to bend down to pick it up. The video is 8 minutes but worth the watch to the end.


Access consultants’ newsletter

The Association of Consultants in Access Australia (ACAA) has restyled their newsletter.  Access Insights is in a format where pages are read scrolling left to right. It has all the same type of information as previous newsletters, mostly relevant to access auditors and consultants, and those involved in the disability sector. This edition has articles on the three access award winners, the wayfinding standard, specialist accommodation, the conference, and more. There are lots of links to other information too. You can also download a copy from the weblink. Contributions are welcome and should be sent to Farah Madon


Microsoft and the Guatamalan challenge

A group of Guatamalan women sit at notebook computers in a village hallHow do you design computer interfaces for people who have never seen or used a computer? Or only ever used spoken language to communicate? That was the challenge for Microsoft when working with a group of Guatemalan women who only know their local traditional language. Microsoft developed a pilot program with the aim of teaching the women how to read and speak Spanish. The challenge was all the greater because modern technology hadn’t yet reached the women.  And there was the technology itself – the community didn’t have internet access – the key to so many established learning programs. Read the article for more of the story and to see the inventive solutions the designers came up with. The article on the FastCo Design website has several short video clips that help explain the process and the outcome. The best part is that Microsoft believes that they have designed something that could be useful for everyone. In an increasingly digitised world, these developments will help include everyone.


Engineers as designers

aerial view of three people at a desk looking at a set of construction drawingsIt seems engineers might have a reputation for going their own way on projects. Dame Julia King has some comments for engineers about design. “All engineers should be taught elements of design, marketing and psychology as part of their course,” she says, “as it is absolutely critical that they can communicate with other specialists and work with them in teams.” In an opinion piece by Faith Archer, King explains that the engineering discipline rarely uses words like imagination and creativity. She goes on to say that companies should combine engeering with user-centred design to drive success. Apparently engineers don’t get to interact with the users of designs. King cites Apple and Dyson where some of the best outcomes have come from people who have come from a design background and developed a passion for engineering. You can read more about King’s thoughts.


From the pixel to the city

A grey picture of the earth with raised areas symbolising citiesInclusive Design: from the pixel to the city features conversations with leading designers creating the next generation of products, graphics and vehicles designed to work better for everyone. The article features a video of  designers’ comments, using animated drawings with voice overs. This adds an interesting perspective to the topic of why we need to make everything inclusive – whether its about pixels or cities. It also shows that creativity need not be curtailed in designing information formats. The article also shows how the graphics for the video were created. The video has closed captions.

Editor’s note: It is good to see information and the reasoning behind inclusive, universal design being presented in more creative ways, and in ways that are not preaching.