Home Today, Home Tomorrow Design Challenge

AARPLogo for the design challenge. Orange background with white text.* recently ran a competition to design a home renovation that was both affordable and accessible and suitable for all ages. The competition, Home Today, Home Tomorrow, aimed to do two things: to raise awareness that just one percent of homes are suited to ageing in place, and to produce a toolkit, one for professionals, and one for home owners. In the video below the architects explain how they incorporated the principles of universal design in an affordable design. The homeowners toolkit overview says, “Aging in place allows homeowners to stay in their home and community safely, independently and comfortably. To do so will require some relatively modest renovations. Explore these universal design ideas, small and large, to get inspired about accommodating all family members from young children to aging adults.”

The professional toolkit overview states, “As the U.S. population ages, architects, engineers, designers and builders can make a difference in helping families and individuals age in place. Explore these innovative universal design ideas that are aesthetically sound and provide accessibility for any age.”

*Association of American Retired Persons


DIY home renovations app

Home Mods App logo with stylised spanner looking like a person with their arms in the air.DIY (Do It Yourself) is a popular activity for home-owners especially with places like Bunnings that have everything you could possibly need to make a renovation or modification to the home. But what renovations should people think about for their later years? UNSW has come up with a free App to answer that question. Builders and building supply businesses should also find this app very useful. Indeed, anyone of any age thinking about renovations should have a look at this app before they go ahead – you also have to think about your visitors!

Outline drawing of two smartphones giving an indication of the app.It is well-established that people want to stay put in their family home where everything is familiar, but the design of the home isn’t always suitable for some of the physical aspects of ageing. With more people taking up in-home care in the later years of their lives, the home also has to be suitable for staff to assist people with activities such as cleaning and personal care. This is where home renovations come in – but what design features should homeowners and builders consider?  The App shows how to select products and how to install them in an easy step-by-step way that allows homeowners to choose the cheapest options that suit them best. 


Missing Middle – Medium Density Housing

Housing affordability within Australian cities is resulting in greater levels of multigenerational living.  Increasingly, developers are responding to this market by designing “houses with flexibility, a universal design for all ages,” Makoto Ochiai, Sekisui House.

In NSW, a draft Medium Density Design Guide has been developed to encourage supply of housing between apartment and free-standing dwellings.  Read more from the NSW Minister for Planning, Housing and Special Minister of State, the Hon. Anthony Roberts MP.


Livable Housing Design Guidelines

Front cover of the Livable Housing Design Guidelines showing a modern house facadeThe Livable Housing Design Guidelines are a great resource for individuals purchasing or renovating a home, builders – small and large, and building design professionals. It can serve as a rough checklist, but much of the information is a common sense guide. It advises what to consider in home design to make it more comfortable, easy to use no matter what your age or level of ability. Not all homes will be able to apply all the good ideas, but just doing what you can is a good start for both occupants and visitors alike.

The original idea behind these guidelines was to have them applied to all new housing by 2020. However, it is difficult to apply voluntary guidelines in an industry governed by mandatory building codes and standards. These Guidelines were endorsed by COAG and are cited in government policy documents. Note the spelling of Livable is particular to these guidelines and is considered a brand name by Livable Housing Australia.


Bathroom Renovation: A case study

Picture of an old bathroom vanity with a section of a corner bath tubThis bathroom case study comes from South Carolina. The home renovation was brought about by one of the occupants being diagnosed with ALS (Motor Neurone Disease). The update is an example of full accessibility, and shows how design and construction issues were overcome. Not all aspects will be relevant to Australia, or to universal design, as some design features, such as a ceiling track, are disability specific. Before and after pictures and a floor plan help explain what was achieved.

This online case study is featured on This Old House website. Unfortunately the website obviously relies heavily on advertising which makes for much scrolling.


Useable kitchens

View of a kitchen showing white drawers with D handles, an oven at waist height and a small breakfasr barA useable kitchen is a must and it is often the details of the design that make the difference. Once the overall working space has been thought through, the fittings become the focus. Lifemark in New Zealand has partnered with Blum kitchen products and fittings that help make any kitchen more functional regardless of level of capability to open, grasp, or carry things. Drawers instead of cupboards are now almost standard in kitchen design, but storing items logically and tidily is another matter. Lifemark’s article covers all this and more. Go to the link to see How to make your kitchen more useable.


Whole Building Design Guide

wheel diagram showing all the elements of building designThe Whole Building Design Guide has a web-based guide of design objectives for the built environment that includes universal design alongside and within other elements such as health, aesthetics, safety and security, and sustainability.
The Whole of Building Design is a program of the National Institute of Building Sciences based in Washington. This is a comprehensive guide covering all aspects of major building projects. The Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access has contributed to the Guide. There are examples of how to apply the classic 7 principles and 8 Goals of universal design in the design process.

Banner for the design guide title



Neat ideas for the kitchen

The latest newsletter from Todd Brickhouse Associates includes some good kitchen design ideas. Scrolling down the page, you can see a picture of a pull-out table that nests neatly under the kitchen bench and over the storage drawers when not in use. Colour contrast is mentioned as an important feature. Another idea is a dual height island bench which has multi functional use. The newsletter includes other items that are probably more specific to north America and also some disability specific items.

Editor’s note: I included a pull-out workboard in my kitchen. It is at a height for sitting to prepare food, for a child to make a sandwich, and for stirring a large mixing bowl at a more convenient height for my arms and shoulders than the bench.


Dementia friendly homes

Front cover of UD Dementia Friendly homesWhile this set of guidelines is focused on Ireland, there are some good ideas that are not country specific. The online resource produced by the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design is divided into separate downloadable sections: 

  1. Home location and approach
  2. Entering and moving around
  3. Spaces for living
  4. Elements and systems

The Design Guidelines complement Universal Design Guidelines for Homes in Ireland and are intended as a first step in raising awareness. They provide a flexible framework for designers to apply the guidelines creatively to all new home types through incremental steps. The Home Design Guidelines are informed by research, a literature review of national and international best practice and guidance and a consultation process with key stakeholders.  

Guy Luscombe has also tackled this topic and developed a toolkit for designers. He presented this work at the 2nd Australian Universal Design Conference in 2016.


10 Stereotypes about accessible homes

Shows a living room with easy access to the verandaThere are several lists around that debunk myths about universal design. Lifemark in New Zealand has produced an excellent version related to housing. Their 10 stereotypes about accessible housing includes great examples of convenience for people who consider themselves to be without disability.  For example:

  • You break your leg during your holidays: what a joy to have a shower without having to go up the stairs!
  • You just have had a child: How practical it is to be able to easily enter the front door with the stroller or to help your children get into the car without scraping your car door on the walls of a narrow garage.
  • Dinner time! You have several glasses in your hands, how easy it will be to open the doors because they have lever door handles.
  • You have slept badly and have a terrible back pain: fortunately, your power points are high enough to avoid bending down too far.
  • You cook and have your hands wet or oily: lucky you! Your kitchen drawers are so easy to open!

The list includes examples of trendy fittings, dealing with steep sites, and the inevitable cruncher – busting the cost myth.

You can go to the Lifemark website to subscribe to their newsletter.