A rose by any other name…

Desert Rose house showing solar panels on the roof, plain pale yellow walls with out windows but with fenestrated pattersLiveable, Livable, Lifetime, Accessible, Universal – no matter what you call it, all homes need to be designed to suit people across their lifetime and across generations, and that means catering for diversity. A team at University of Wollongong have come up with another name, Desert Rose. But this home is designed to include people with dementia. It is based on research carried out jointly by students from University of Wollongong Australia-Dubai and TAFE NSW. A three minute video gives an overview of the design. It is not clear if the aim of the project is for one-off specialised homes, or designs that can be incorporated into mainstream housing. If all new homes were accessible/universal/liveable now, adding dementia-friendly features, such as colour contrast wouldn’t be a major drama. You can read more in the Aged Care Insite article.

Editor’s Note: It is a pity to see a ramp – perhaps it is just for the prototype. Many people don’t like to signal that their house has a person with disability. Unless or until ramps become commonplace, this will cause people to shun the design. In terms of aesthetics, it would be good to landscape a grade to the entrance so it doesn’t need rails. Alternatively, landscape the rails so they are not so prominent. In any case, the walkway to the entry should be the shortest route possible from a car drop off or parking space.


Housing and neighbourhood: perceptions of age-friendliness

UPicture taken at twilight of a building with the name New Town Plaza with Chinese characters underneath. There is a large paved area in the foreground and a few people near the buildingsing focus groups and a survey, researchers looked at perceptions of age-friendliness in an established Hong Kong new town, which may not be that new as they started building them in 1950s. They looked at homes and the neighbourhood. The title is: A study of housing typology and perceived age-friendliness in an established Hong Kong new town: A person-environment perspective. Perceptions of the built environment can make a difference in terms of feeling welcome and able to get out and about, and to prevent isolation. You will need institutional access for a free read from Science Direct.

Abstract: Our study examines older people’s perceptions towards the urban environment and their spatial experiences through a person-environment perspective. We argue that Person-Environment (P-E) fit is critical to older people’s quality of life: positive environmental stimuli and personal adaptation competence have been held to influence this fit, and quality of fit will eventually affect interactions between older people and place. In a mixed-methods study, a context sensitive place audit was applied to a new town in Hong Kong, with a view to identifying strengths and weaknesses in the built environment and older people’s own strategies of living. Through 302 questionnaires and three focus groups with older participants, the results revealed high appreciation of outdoor spaces, transportation and social participation. The findings also indicate a strong association between housing typology and perceived age-friendliness. People accommodated in public housing estates tended to accord higher scores to their living environment although social exclusion was identified among oldest-old respondents in particular. Older people’s affective links with their living environment across time and their unique life-course experiences may help to explain their relatively relaxed attitudes when they face changes and hardships.  


Seeking info on accessible housing

new home construction site with timber on the groundDo you have information about the need for accessible housing in Australia? Australian Network on Universal Housing Design is seeking any research and information  that shows:

  • The need for access in private housing
  • The failure of the housing market to provide it
  • The consequences of this market failure for Australian society, including residents, communities, and services 

Please forward any documents to anuhd@anuhd.org by 15 December 2017. The information will be sent to the Australian Building Codes Board who are looking into this and developing a discussion paper.


Flexibility and adaptability in housing design

a blue glowing house icon is held in the handsThe house is an eco-system, not just a building. This is what Hassan Estaji proposes in  A Review of Flexibility and Adaptability in Housing Design. The author discusses terminology, some history, and different approaches taken by various architects over time. “House as an eco-system consists of three main parts: Environment, users and system (building).” The article concludes with a useful table of definitions of flexibility and adaptability (accessibility and universal design) in housing design from across the globe. 

From the abstract: “This paper presents a comprehensive review of all significant research about flexibility and adaptability in architecture with particular focus on housing design. A summary of different
definitions from different points of view is given. A matrix compares these definitions from social, economical and environmental aspects. In the analysis part, strengths, weaknesses and limitations of each study are compared with other researches.”

The article is featured in the International Journal of Contemporary Architecture ”The New ARCH“ Vol. 4, No. 2 (2017)


Accessible housing: costs and gains

A man in a bright yellow T shirt is painting and archway in a wall inside a home. The wall is grey and there are tools on the floor.The need for all new homes to have basic universal design features will continue to increase as the population ages. The costs of modifying and renovating homes to facilitate ageing in place are borne by both governments (that is, taxpayers) and homeowners. However, we are yet to have a policy to make these cost-efficient features mandatory in mass market housing. Evaluating the costs and gains of modifying homes is the subject of a new article from Europe, Improved Housing Accessibility for Older People in Sweden and Germany: Short Term Cost and Long -Term Gains.

This is a technical paper showing the detail of the methodology, the results and a discussion section where the authors claim, “Even if the costs for the new policy of barrier removal are large it should be kept in mind that these are one-time costs, while costs for home services are likely to be repeated over time and potentially increase with deteriorating health.” They add that the initial cost for the new policy would have paid off after one year in Sweden and two and a half years in Germany. It would be interesting to know if similar modelling has been done in Australia. The costs could be offset, of course, over time, by introducing accessible housing in all new housing stock where modifications were few or unnecessary. We build at least 200,000 homes a year – that’s 2 million over ten years.

This article by Slaug, Chiatti, Oswald, Kaspar and Schmidt was originally downloaded from ResearchGate.


Urban renewal and healthy ageing

Aerial view of high rise buildings in Hong KongNew urban developments are often discussed, but what about urban renewal projects?  Yung and Chan sought to find out more about the impact of urban renewal on older people who make up the majority of residents in established communities in Hong Kong. Their paper is a literature review in preparation for their study on healthy ageing and quality urban planning. 

Many large cities are facing similar issues – older districts house older and more marginalised residents. However, “… the urban renewal projects are often beset with social problems such as destruction of existing social networks, expulsion of vulnerable groups and adverse impacts on living environments. In response to the aging needs, it is recognized that the elders affected should provide with rehousing arrangement in the same district so that they could stay in their familiar community and maintain their social network. It is believed that urban renewal should play a vital role to support the other policy instruments to sustain healthy aging. In broad view, a much broader policy framework for the overall urban design in tackling the needs of the elderly in urban renewal projects is urgently needed”. Public housing renewal in Australia is grappling with this issue too.


Housing Quality: Can UD boost it?

A large free standing home in the last stages of being builtIt seems that when the Norwegian housing industry is called upon to build more homes faster and more cheaply, they ask for accessibility requirements to be “relaxed”. This is while the overall quality of the homes is dropping in this market driven environment. Norwegian building regulations have gone further than most other countries in applying universal design across planning and building codes and policies, even if the actual response has been patchy. In the abstract of Universal Design as a Booster for Housing Quality and Architectural Practice, the author, Karine Denizou states, “Many architects understand guidelines as minimum requirements, and are thus reproducing the identical solutions without considering the context and the needs of the users. They see accessibility as another regulatory pressure and requirements as restrictions rather than positive incentives. However, there are examples of designers who have internalised the regulatory framework and thus are able to create and integrate inclusive design in their daily work.”

Editor’s note: It is disappointing to see that in spite of many years of advocacy and support by the central government (since 1999), the home-building industry in Norway is still stuck in old ways. Denizou’s paper is comprehensive with examples, discussion and conclusions. With the push for regulation for accessible housing in Australia, it is a cautionary tale. This paper indicates that regulation alone will not achieve the desired outcomes.


Lifetime Homes: A critical review

Logo of lifetime homes in purple Home building standards in the UK have mandated basic access features in all new homes since 1999 (Part M of the building code). More recently there has been a move to improve on this with a new standard, Lifetime Homes. This is because the original Part M* requirements only allow for visitability and not liveability. With an ageing population it has become apparent that a higher level of accessibility is needed if people are to remain independent in their own homes. The 2013 review by Hadjri and Craig,  Assessing Lifetime Homes Standards and Part M Building Regulations for Housing Design in the UK, provides some parallels to the issues we experience in Australia and the current voluntary implementation of accessible housing in Australia. 

Extract from the abstract: “The aims of this article are to examine Lifetime Home Standards (LTHS) and Part M of the UK Building Regulations and to discuss how relevant and successful they are. The UK government expects all new homes to be built to LTHS by 2013. This is increasingly important with an ageing population. The home environment can enable independence and provide a therapeutic place for everyone. … This review suggests that the standards should be improved and that designers and architects face challenges to creatively incorporate them into housing design.”

Note: The Australian Network for Universal Housing Design advocates for Gold Level of the Livable Housing Australia Guidelines, which allows for ageing in place and future adaptations for people with increased disability. Margaret Ward, Convener of ANUHD, recently attended a hearing of the inquiry into outcomes of the National Disability Strategy and spoke about the issues in Australian housing and why regulation is needed. She also wrote a paper Livable Housing Design: Is it Likely to Work?

*You can read more about the updated Part M (2016) and the three conditions from the UK Architects’ Journal, and you can download the UK Government document about dwellings (Category 1: Visitable, Category 2: Accessible and adaptable, and Category 3: Wheelchair user dwellings). Only category one is mandated for all new dwellings, the other categories are “optional requirements” and can be called up by a planning authority.


Housing features to suit neurological conditions

shows roof tops of a development in a greenfield area. Photo taken from the top of a hill looking downA new study from Griffith University looks at the issues of inclusive housing and neighbourhood design and the features required to include people with higher health care needs. The title is, What housing features should inform the development of housing solutions for adults with neurological disability?: A systematic review of the literature.  

Abstract: Despite the recent emphasis in Australian political, academic, and legislative narratives to more actively promote real housing choice for people with high healthcare and support needs, there is a lack of understanding regarding the specific housing features that might constitute better housing solutions for this population. Inclusive housing provision in Australia rightly emphasises safety and accessibility issues but often fails to incorporate factors related to broader psychosocial elements of housing such as dwelling location, neighbourhood quality, and overall design. While the importance of these broader elements appears obvious, it is not yet clear what specific housing features relate to these elements and how they might contribute to housing solutions for people with high healthcare and support needs. For individuals with complex neurological conditions such as brain injury or cerebral palsy, who require maximum support on a daily basis yet want to live independently and away from a primary care hospital or health facility, a more detailed understanding of the housing features that might influence design and development is needed. Thus, in order to clarify the broader factors related to housing solutions for this population, a systematic review was conducted to identify and synthesise the current research evidence (post-2003) and guide future housing design and development opportunities.

You can also access this article through Research Gate 


Home design and later life

Front cover of the publiacation Innovatin in Aging. White top border and orange bottom borderTwo interesting poster presentations on home renovations in later life are available in the published program abstracts from the 21st International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics World Congress. The first is about the outcomes of planning (or not) to move to a more suitably designed house in later life, and the second is about academia working with consumers and the construction industry to introduce universal design features into home renovations and repairs.

Planning for moves in late life: who plans and how does planning influence outcomes?, shifts the focus from staying put to moving so that people can age-in-the-right place. Poor health was the main reason for not planning a move, and wanting to live closer to children was the main reason for a planned move. The abstract ends, “The current study illustrates the relative benefits of planned moves among older adults. While planning is not always possible, as in cases of sudden illness situations, older adults should be encouraged to engage in planning for residential moves by healthcare professionals to help them better adjust to a new living environment.” Read more by going to the link above.

architecture blueprint with rule and pencilEducating home contractors on universal design modifications: an academia and corporate collaboration, investigates whether educating homeowners about universal design influenced any repairs they made following a home insurance claim. The researchers found that almost all homeowners included UD features and this lead to a voluntary 6- week online training program to educate contractors who work with customers to discuss and promote UD with policy holders at the time of a claim. Read more by going to the link above.