23 ways to benefit with UD

A modern kitchen with a bowl of fruit in the foreground and a stove and microwave in the backgroundAdaptive 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. 


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.


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.


Look here: Kitchen lighting refocused

A modern kitchen with a bowl of fruit in the foreground and a stove and microwave in the backgroundDoug Walter writes in ProRemodeller magazine about new research in kitchen lighting. He says, “Most kitchens are woefully underlit. Lighting is often an afterthought, yet even when it’s carefully planned, designers and lighting experts often don’t agree on which lamps work best in particular fixtures and where those fixtures should be located.” It seems housing standards aren’t much help and it is left up to the kitchen designer or the homeowner to work it out for themselves. The article offers practical and technical advice about lighting the kitchen so you can see what you are doing, safely and conveniently. 

Lighting is of particular importance to anyone with low vision – even people who wear glasses need good light to make sure the work-space and benches are hygienic and safe. And more light isn’t always better if it produces glare.  


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.