Planning policy for accessible housing: costs and benefits

picture of Habinteg's report with two older people standing by a tree against a block of units in the backgroundHabinteg is a provider of accessible homes in the UK. They have developed a Web-based Toolkit for Planning Policy that includes accessible housing. There are several tabs including one on the cost benefit arguments. 

A review of Part M of the UK building code was commissioned to see what the costs would be to upgrade Part M of the building code. It habinteg logo - accessible homes, independent liveswas calculated at an additional £521, which is about 0.2% of a new house. Habinteg claims that no attempt was made to weigh any additional development costs against cost savings in other areas. For example, avoidable hospital admissions due to falls, impact on social care costs, and long stays in hospital due to no suitable home to return to. The calculated additional £521 for improved access standards would be more than met by avoiding one week in residential care. 

You can download Habinteg’s response to the review from the Toolkit webpage. The website also has some informative videos.

Dementia friendly home design

Front cover of UD Dementia Friendly homesThe Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland has a comprehensive set of guidelines for creating dementia friendly dwellings, both new and existing. They have also published the extensive research that underpins the guidelines. Although the resource has a focus on conditions in Ireland, there is good information for everyone. It includes useful examples and design checklists. The key point is that dementia friendly dwellings are not exclusive – taking a universal design approach means that anyone can live in them.

There are five sections to the guidelines that can be downloaded separately: Introduction, Location and Approach, Entering, Exiting and Moving Around, Spaces for Living, and Elements and Systems. Or you can download the sizeable guide in one go.  

Apart from some of the other issues of ageing (although dementia can be experienced at any age), here are some of the key factors that need to be considered in the design:

● Impaired rational thinking, judgement, and problem-solving.
● Difficulty with memory (initially short-term but progressing over time to long-term memory difficulties).
● Problems learning new things.
● Increasing dependence on the senses.
● Fear anxiety and increased sensitivity to the built and psycho-social environment. 

UD principles for Australia’s aid program

DFAT UD guidelinesThe Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade stipulates that all overseas aid programs must follow the Principles of Universal Design. They have produced a comprehensive guide to all types of development projects including water, health, education and the built environment. It is useful to see how thinking universally about design can produce such a clear guide to inclusive practice and accessibility. This document was updated with a 2016 brochure with ten tips for promoting universal design in aid projects. There is also the companion document Development for All: 2015-2020 Strategy.  

Heavenly stairways

A man sits on the stairs in a home. The stairs are timber but there are no handrails only glass sides. The stairway is open to the living area.There is much to think about when designing and fitting stairs in a home, whether a new home or a renovation. Denver architect Doug Walters has 12 tips for safer stairways in his web article, “Beautiful Hazard”. Home stairway design should be both good looking and safe. The article uses photos to illustrate points.There is a link to some elegant solutions. I note that nothing is said about extending the handrail to the final tread in some examples.

UD in housing: Better Living Design webinar

A single storey home with a footpath out front. Caption underneath says, " Change how consumers perceive great design".Richard Duncan from the RL Mace Universal Design Institute presents a 50 minute webinar on universal design in housing. The first 20 minutes covers the basics such as demographics. At the 19 minute mark he starts to show the misconceptions about how some people think UD might look in a home and then goes on to show what UD should really be about. It’s a bit long winded, but you can forward the video to the parts you want. One of the key messages in the video is the comparison of wheelchair specific design, which is what some people think UD is, and mainstream family home design with UD features. This is part of their Better Living Design project.

 

Accessible Housing Options Paper

Front cover of the Options Paper. Dark blue with white text. The Australian Building Codes Board’s (ABCB) Options Paper on Accessible Housing is open for comment. The document is about including accessible features in the National Construction Code for new-build mainstream housing in the future to make them mandatory. Submissions close 30 November 2018. Visit the ABCB webpage to get an overview and download the Options Paper in either PDF or Word. Community forums will be held in capital cities between 15 October and 1 November. For more information see the Australian Network for Universal Housing Design Webpage and Facebook page. 

Editor’s Comments: The term “accessible” is currently used in building legislation specifically for people with disability in the public domain. In my opinion, the same assumptions are underpinning this proposed review of housing – it is focused on people with disability. As a follow-on, it discusses the issues in terms of a problem that might or might not need to be resolved rather than a community need with benefits for everyone.

This approach makes the benefits for others invisible and consequently discounts them. This leaves it open to interpretations such as a the demands of a few outweighing the choices of the many. Considering the costs and benefits is an important part of the Options Paper. There are several research papers on this topic that have previously been ignored and this is an opportunity to put them before the ABCB. Please read the Options Paper carefully and consider the holistic view of accessible, universally designed housing for all when making a submission. Case studies are also welcome along with personal stories. Jane Bringolf, Editor. 

 

Housing Design Guidelines from South Australia

South Australia Housing Design-Guide-2_3With the upcoming ABCB Options Paper for Accessible Housing about to be released, the South Australian Housing Trust Housing Design Guidelines. are worth a visit. It points out that the Adaptable Housing Standard (AS4299) is now outdated and can be replaced by the Livable Housing Design Guidelines as both of these are voluntary. There are detailed drawings to show dimensions of circulation spaces and placement of fixtures and fittings. 

 

 

Home Renovations Tool

Front cover of the publication with the title of a way to stay.Scope Home Access has developed a Home Modification Assessment Tool, which is mainly for specialised home adaptations, but there are some useful mainstream ideas, particularly for ageing in place. For older people who are thinking ahead about how to stay put as they age, the checklist, although long, does give some good things to think about. However, not everyone wants to think ahead to a time when they might need these designs. That’s the problem. The tool is good for builders who want to know what to think about in their designs and client renovations. There is also a health and ability checklist at the end. It is the kind of tool best used in conjunction with an occupational therapist.  

4 Built environment resources for practitioners

The IDeA Center at Buffalo is a research institute set within the Architecture faculty. It has a good website with publications and other resources. Here are just four of the books. They can be purchased online. Go to the IDeA website for details of books and where to purchase.

Inclusive Design: Implementation and Evaluation

Inclusive Design: Implementation and Evaluation. 

The book focuses on the direct application of universal design concepts with technical information. Good for designers, contractors, builders, and building owners.

Accessible Public Transportation: Designing Service for Riders with Disabilities

Accessible Public Transportation: Designing Service for Riders with Disabilities

This book is about public transit systems with a focus on inclusive solutions for people with disability and older people. Includes best practice examples.

Universal Design: Creating Inclusive Environments

Universal Design: Creating Inclusive Environments

Readers are introduced to the principles and practice of designing for all people. Includes best practice examples.

Inclusive Housing: A Pattern Book

 

Inclusive Housing: A Pattern Book

A book for designing homes with everyone in mind. Includes disability specific information.

 

Case study of a UD home

Sliding doors opening to a decked area but also having level entry.There’s a nice case study in Lifemark’s latest newsletter on a home built with universal design in mind. This is a key phrase, keeping it in mind. That means you can be creative with the design without focusing on a particular type of design or standard. The family home was also designed and built with wheelchair access in mind. When asked to name a favourite space, the wheelchair user said he didn’t have a favourite place, but he did like the “flow-through – in the morning it is bedroom, bathroom, dining table, without any sharp turns or back-tracking up hall. That would not be possible in any other house.” However, the flush level entry was greatly appreciated as well as level entry to the alfresco. Lots of pictures in the article and a note that it cost no more than a standard build. The title of the article is Everything Works Better for Everybody. There are more case studies on the Lifemark website. Photo courtesy Michael Field.

Auckland Council will be holding their universal design conference 6-7 September. Find out more on their conference website.