It is often quoted that the kitchen is the heart of the home, and that part probably won’t change in the future. But what people might doing in the kitchen could change significantly. A blog on a product website lists five key design features trending for the future: connectivity, sustainability, ease of use for all, the rise of professional products, and the kitchen is more than just cooking. Below is a video where researchers and designers from around the world were asked how they thought kitchens will evolve. Their ideas on the future are worth looking at. There are some neat ideas at the end of the video. One of the designers, Patricia Moore, says,
“We must be able to choose at all times what suits us. Some people have to work sitting down or in a wheelchair. A small child should be able to help Mom and Dad prepare food. And our grandparents, who will experience reductions and have less physical strength and mental capacity, should be able to prepare a meal with comfort and safety.”
“The livable and adaptable house” is a chapter in Your Home Technical Manual published by the the Australian Greenhouse Office. If you still want use the Adaptable Housing Standard AS4299, and not the Livable Housing Design Guidelines, this guide will be useful. There are many detailed diagrams to help explain design features and floor plans. For those who are not familiar with AS4299 it is worth comparing this outdated standard, which has not been revised since it’s inception in 1995, with the more relevant Livable Housing Design Guidelines. The full book chapter is publicly available through ResearchGate and was written by Jasmine Palmer and Stephen Ward.
Abstract: Many people, when building a new home, anticipate spending a number of years, if not decades, living in it. Others may conceive of a shorter stay. Whatever the intention, any new home is likely to have to accommodate changing needs over its lifetime. A livable and adaptable house is one that is able to respond effectively to these needs without requiring costly and energy intensive alterations. Australian demographics are changing rapidly, with average households becoming both smaller and older as an increasing number of people live independently in their later years. The balance between home and work life also places altering demands on our houses as many people choose to work from home. A single space may act at different times as a home office, a teenage retreat, a family study or a bedroom for an elderly relative. An adaptable house accommodates lifestyle changes without the need to demolish or substantially modify the existing structure and services.
A shiny floor may not be wet but it could look that way to someone with dementia. A black mat isn’t a hole in the ground either. And shadows of lattice through a window can look like steps. Mono coloured features are hard to distinguish too. These design details can easily be overcome with some extra thought about perception at the early design stage, or adapted in existing homes and buildings. The Guardian has an excellent article about these issues. It discusses how virtual reality software can bring more awareness to designers about these issues as well as the concepts of universal design.
Editor’s note: taking photos of places and seeing them in two dimensions instead of three really highlights the perception differences.
The latest newsletter from Lifemark in New Zealand points out how many people fall and injure themselves at home. They also cut and burn themselves badly enough to need hospital treatment. How could such injuries be avoided? The newsletter article on Better Design, Safer Homes, has tips for stairs, bathrooms, kitchens, and entrances. There are more universal design tips in the Homescore self assessment tool. The article concludes, “A safer home benefits all occupants (and visitors), not just older people. Children, in particular will benefit from a design that recognises and addresses risk areas and by doing so creates a more liveable space for everyone”. There is more in their June newsletter.
Dementia Australia has produced an app for tablets and smartphones to help with creating a dementia-friendly home. It uses interactive 3D game technology which provides carers with ideas on how to make the home more suitable for people living with dementia. Most people with dementia live in the community and many enjoy everyday activities and stay engaged with their communities. Suitable home design is key to staying active and involved.
The App is based on the ten Dementia Enabling Environments Principles and prompts carers and others to think about many of the small inexpensive ideas that can make a big difference. Technology solutions such as sensors for lighting are also covered. Tips include removing clutter and changing busy patterned wall or floor coverings to help with perception and confusion. You can also see some of the research underpinning the Dementia Enabling Environments Principles. To see what it is like to live with dementia, have a look at the Virtual Dementia Experience.
Here is another set of guidelines for housing to add to your collection. This one is by Master Builders Association ACT. Although ten years old the principles still hold. Apart from the usual attention to access and circulation spaces, it includes thermal comfort, security, lighting, operating controls and maintenance. Lots of diagrams and drawings help with explanations. There is also a handy metric conversion chart for people still using imperial measures. The guide was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Other handbooks include:
Go to the Housing Design Guidelines section on this website for more about kitchens, bathrooms, lighting and other aspects of home design.
For anyone not familiar with the movement for universal design in housing, Introduction to Housing has a chapter that gives a really good overview of how to incorporate UD into the design. It covers each of the design features and explains that they can be factored into moderately sized homes. The chapter addresses each of the classic principles of universal design and how they apply to housing design. A case study illustrates the features. As with many Google Books, many of the pages are freely available, but for the full chapter you will need to contact the authors, Hartje, Ewen and Tremblay or purchase the book.
Introduction to Housing, 2nd edition, is edited by Katrin B. Anacker, Andrew T. Carswell, Sarah D. Kirby, Kenneth R. Tremblay.
Inhabitat website has a feature about the Wheel Pad. The 200 sq ft (18.5 sqm) residence is designed to be an add-on to an existing home. It comes on a trailer and stays on the wheels. This means it can be taken away again if the “house” isn’t needed any more. The original idea arose out of a need to incorporate someone after an accident that made them dependent on a wheelchair for getting around. The explanatory video on this website is almost ten minutes long, but well worth the watch. It covers the design process, the features, and finally two wheelchair users who visit and give their feedback about the design. This idea could be adapted in Australia as long as the existing home has a yard big enough to take it, and they claim it can be built in a day. A must see for anyone involved in providing home modifications. Also suited to bringing a parent close to home.
Editor’s note: I found the trial by the two wheelchair users at the end very informative. The ramp was a bit steep and long so they used the wooden rails to pull themselves up (splinters were mentioned), and one had difficulty coming over the threshold. They discussed what worked and what might not and how things could be changed to suit.
The latest Habinteg Wheelchair Housing Design Guide has input from several specialists at Centre for Accessible Environments and the Royal College of Occupational Therapists. It is good to see a separate guide for wheelchair users. Not all wheelchair users need the same features as their abilities vary greatly from part time users of a manual chair to those who are fully dependent on a large powered chair. And more importantly, when it comes to the concept of “accessible housing” designers tend to think only of wheelchair users when there are many other types of disability that need consideration. Wheelchair housing is not the same as universal design in housing. There are instructions on how to purchase in the UK, and you can also access a copy via Angus and Robertson.
“The clear explanations and the reasoning behind the technical standards will help practitioners gain a better understanding of how to maximise the independence of residents – and will be particularly useful to those who wish to go beyond basic minimum standards and help create inclusive and cohesive communities”
Habinteg’s mission is to champion inclusion by providing and promoting accessible homes and neighbourhoods that welcome and include everyone. We do this in three ways: providing homes and services, demonstrating our expertise and influencing decisions.
Adaptive Environments is a Canadian website with design ideas. Good design means functionality while remaining nearly invisible. This is one of the difficulties of showcasing universal design – it is not always obvious until it is pointed out. It is more obvious when something is poorly designed. It is about being thoughtful in the design process. The kitchen and bathroom get good attention with great tips in this article on the Adaptive Environments webpage – 23 Ways you can benefit from universal design. There are lots of nice pictures too.