Designing homes for inclusion and independence

Front cover of the guidelines showing three people standing and one in a wheelchair looking out over a beach sceneThe aim of the NDIS is to create independence and inclusion, and that includes providing suitable homes in mainstream settings. So no more segregated group homes – more homes in regular neighbourhoods. Federal funding for NDIS recipients has increased demand for specialists in the accessible housing field. To assist designers and builders produce specialist housing, Summer Housing has produced design guidelines, Designing for Inclusion and Independence – An Explanatory Guide to support the Briefing and Design of Accessible Housing. They are keen to build sector capacity and share knowledge and resources.

This guide serves as a practical tool to develop the brief, design and specifications of high quality accessible housing. Key considerations are social inclusion, usability, homelike environments, amenity and cost-efficiency. The guide includes checklists as well as practice tips and includes current design benchmarks such as the Livable Housing Australia Guidelines, and Specialist Disability Accommodation Design Category requirements. The guide is made up of six parts:

  • Introduction
  • Part A: Spatial Planning – Typology
  • Part B: Spatial Planning – Accessible Dwelling Elements
  • Part C: Construction and Detailing – Building Elements
  • Part D: Construction and Detailing – System Elements
  • Appendices

Summer Foundation also published a report, New Housing Options in November 2015. The learning from their early projects informed the new guidelines.

SDA Consulting has a free checklist for Specialist Disability Accommodation.


Kitchen remodel with universal design

Picture of a large kitchen with lots of storage and an island bench at two heights. There is a second sink lowered and with access underneathWhile the design and build remodel blog site is a commercial venture, it provides some good tips for things to think about when fitting a new kitchen. Learn the Characteristics of a Universal Design Kitchen Remodel emphasises both functionality for the whole family and aesthetics. Space, Layout, Doors, Traffic Patterns, Workstations, and well designed fittings are all covered – that includes lighting. There are links to three more blog pages. Thanks to Lifemark NZ for this one. 


What you see and what we see

LifemarkLifemark logo. White text on magenta strip with turquoise circle behind with five white stars above the magenta strip and the word HOME below has taken designers to task in its October newsletter. It has a segment that points out that what looks like a dream bathroom or kitchen could turn out not so dreamy after all. A quick look at most of the design features and it is easy to see that a little more forethought could go a long way. The pictures below have the comments embedded. To see the full newsletter and other articles go to the Lifemark website.

Picture of a bathroom where there is no reinforcement in the walls, a toilet pan positioned where no future grab rail could be placed, and a poorly accessible shower because it is placed over the bath and with no grab rail to help get in and out for everyone's safety.


The bathroom above has a shower over the bath, the mirror is placed for a tall person, and the peninsula pan means there is no wall on which to place a grab rail if needed. (However, an over the toilet frame could work). The kitchen below has ineffective lighting, difficult to reach high cupboards, difficult to grab knobs and handles, and an unlit work area. You can also access this item on Lifemak’s Facebook page.


Picture of a kitchen showing some features that do not meet the principles of universal design: ineffective lighting, difficult to reach cupboards, difficult to grab knobs and handles, and dark corners.


Gold and Silver for Grocon!

Aerial view of the park with a helix shaped sculpture circling a multicoloured saucer shaped water feature. Blocks of apartments surround the park. Each block is a different colour - yellow, orange, red.Grocon has finished building the Parklands project which will be the athlete’s village for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018. All the apartments are to the Livable Housing Design Gold Level and above, and the townhouses are to Livable Housing Design Silver Level. And Grocon says it cost no more to do it. Grocon has also factored in environmental considerations. This means the development is both socially and environmentally sustainable.  So time to get going and do it for all new dwellings in Australia! 

Photos courtesy Grocon are of the bathroom, kitchen and the lever door handle. You can see more pictures of the development site on the Grocon Parklands website including a video of a fly through and a time lapse video. All dwellings will be available for rent after the Games in 2019.  

Editor’s note: I have it on good authority from the registered assessor that the dwellings do in fact meet the LHA Guidelines, give or take a centimetre here or there.


Apartment Guidelines from Victoria

front cover of the guidelines showing a view through an apartment room through the window to the outdoorsReference to apartment accessibility is the last item in the list of design considerations in this latest guide from Victoria. It is frustrating that such documents go through all the design considerations and then put accessibility at the end. The document takes the familiar route through the design considerations starting with siting. As a case in point, siting may well impact on accessibility. Still a way to go in terms of thinking inclusion first and building designs around that. Nevertheless, this is another well laid out document taking the reader through all the necessary steps. The document can be accessed through the landing page of the government website or you can download the document directly.  


Liveable Homes Guide from WA

Three photos in one block showing a bathroom, a bedroom and a kitchenThe hiatus in progress towards rolling out basic access features in all new homes has spawned a series of guides by different government authorities in attempts to encourage progress. The West Australian guide to liveable homes is yet another publication basically promoting the same design features as the Livable Housing Design Guidelines that were agreed by COAG and the housing and construction industry back in 2010.

This web resource has CAD images, house plans, checklists, a photo gallery, technical specifications, and other useful links. The floor plans are particularly useful as they cover differing frontage widths from 7.5m to 17m lots. The checklists have essential criteria and desirable criteria listed.  You can also download the full manual in one document.

You can find other housing design guidelines under the built environment tab in the left hand menu of this website.


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.