The 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.
A 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.
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.
While 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:
Home location and approach
Entering and moving around
Spaces for living
Elements and systems
The Design Guidelines complement Universal Design Guidelines for Homes in Irelandand 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.
Home design magazines now feature larger bathrooms with larger fittings, such as freestanding bathtubs. The room has gone from being a purely functional space to one of relaxation and wellbeing. Consequently the design of smaller bathrooms is somewhat ignored. Designing for Small Bathroomsby Sivertsen and Berg, of Oslo and Akershus University of Applied Sciences, Norway, seeks to address this. Their research question was how to achieve the same sense of wellbeing in small bathrooms using universal design principles. This article requires institutional access or it can be purchased for a small fee.
Abstract: This paper will focus on how to design a series of bathroom products that work well for small bathrooms using the principles of universal design. In home culture research, Quitzau and Rřpke has studied bathroom transformation from hygiene to well-being. Bathrooms are one of the rooms in apartments that do not have good solutions for small spaces. This is unfortunate since it is the bathroom that has the least amount of space in urban apartments. This leads many people to have too little bathroom space due to furniture, toilets, showers, etc. In today’s society, the bathroom is no longer just a purpose room. It is used for relaxation and wellness. This has led to a trend where large furniture, such as freestanding bathtubs, dominate today’s market. This in turn allows the few solutions that exist for small bathrooms to remain poorly conceived. The research question was therefore how to create solutions for small bathrooms to get the same sense of well-being as in larger bathrooms through universal design principals. The principles of universal design, observations and in-depth interviews were used in the study. This study can help to create a greater understanding of how to design small bathrooms. It will be relevant in a cross disciplinary field, including for professionals in plumbing, product design and technical solutions. This will also increase the well-being of users of the bathroom.
Several Australian developers are claiming that apartment living is now the top choice for older Australians who want to either downsize or have a home with level access in the front door. However, it’s arguably no real choice if all you have to choose from is a retirement village or an apartment. While apartments usually provide a level entry, the internal design of the dwelling may not in fact support people as they age. Apartment kitchen design is an important consideration and is tackled in an article from Korea. Although many older people will not need to use a wheelchair at home, the design parameters are geared around wheelchair circulation spaces. The article includes several drawings of different sized kitchen layouts based on the analysis of user reach range and other capabilities.
They conclude that there will still need to be specialised housing designs for people with specific limitations: “But a better alternative is to make common housing more accessible, usable, and universal for the highest number of people with varied capabilities…”.
Abstract: The purpose of this study is to suggest designs for apartment kitchens without major redesign for the elderly or the disabled, who are a fast growing population in Korea. According to the concept of universal design and the need to support various users as much as possible, five criteria for analysis were developed based on research on the mobility of wheelchair users: clear floor space, work flow, universal reach range, area for later use, and safety. Using the criteria developed, the accessibility and usability of five kitchen subtypes were investigated through the analysis of architectural documents. The result shows that kitchen layouts in Korean apartments are typically difficult to navigate for wheelchair users. Modification of the locations of the refrigerator, sink, and range was mainly required for appropriate clear floor space, work triangle, and countertops. Moreover, alternatives to five unit types were suggested without the need to increase the current kitchen size. For application of universal design to kitchen design, considerations for not only the size, the shape of the kitchen and its appliances but also for clear floor space, work triangle, countertop, reach range, and knee clearance formed by the location of each appliance are required.
KY Kang, KH Lee, Journal of Asian Architecture and Building Engineering.
Deborah Pierce writes that any construction project is a daunting endeavour, but illness and injury complicate everything. Ageing can be full of surprises, but asking others what to do can cause confusion when everyone has different advice. Also there are a lot of myths floating around and she addresses these well in the article:
Myth 1: Accessible equals institutional
Myth 2: Accessibility is expensive
Myth 3: Accessibility takes up space
Myth 4: Access upgrades detract from re-sale value
Deborah Pierce has written a great book on accessible homes. It is an American publication with an emphasis on wheelchair users, but the ideas are useful for anyone trying to re-think how they design homes to be more inclusively designed. Also good for anyone planning renovations in preparation for later years. One of the myths is that small can’t be accessible. Deborah puts this to rest with this 52 square metre design shown in the diagram. She notes that because ramps take up more space than steps, the assumption is that everything has to be bigger. Not having a ramp is of course part of the solution, but so is minimising corridor and hall spaces and having fitted storage and furniture where possible.
Dr. Birgit Dietz explains the background thoughts in the development of the age and dementia-sensitive washbasin, which she designed together with HEWI. She is a visiting lecturer in the Hospital and Health Sector Building department of Munich’s Technical University and has her own architectural firm in Bamberg.
Dietz claims that qualitative studies show that the colour red is most easily perceived by people with dementia. Red is also the most easily registered colour for people with age-related vision impairment or inoperable eye diseases, for example, macular degeneration. The dementia washbasin is therefore also suitable for people with low vision. Go to the Hewi webpage for more designs.