Seeking best case examples in home design

Australian Network for Universal Housing Design is seeking good practice examples of universal design in housing, either as a new dwelling or a renovation to an existing dwelling. ANUHD will not be appraising these examples, but they should show how they meet the principles and features of the Livable Housing Design Guidelines or similar guidelines. ANUHD will collate these examples and will launch them on their website in March 2019 for visitors to see. 

If you know of or have designed a good example of universal design in housing, please complete the submission form in Word or in PDF, or send to ANUHD directly by email by 28 Februrary with the following information:

  • Name of Architect, Designer or Builder
  • Contact email/website
    (Website visitors can then contact you directly for more information.)
  • Type of building
  • Description (100 words)
  • Photo (that does not identify the residents or their location)

Latest bathroom trends include UD

Bathroom study front coverRenovations are an important part of the home building industry and it seems older people in the US might finally be realising that they need to choose designs that will allow them to stay put as they age. But are builders on board with this? It’s no good waiting until a client actually needs the features because by then, they will often not have the wherewithal to organise it. So it could be institutional care or a restricted lifestyle from there on. The 2018 Houzz Bathroom Trends Study is a comprehensive report that has some interesting statistics about the age at which people might start thinking of their future needs and doing something about it. It also shows what they are actually doing in terms of renovation design. An interesting and easy to read study which supports the idea that these features should be designed into the home in the first place. 


Ground floor bedroom is a UD concept

A double bed in a room with French windows to an outdoor area.The Colorado Builder magazine has an article that discusses the virtues of a ground floor master bedroom and ensuite in a two storey home. And it has advantages beyond those of finding the stairs difficult and staying home in later age. For this reason it’s argued that it’s a core element of universal design. The article goes on to say that in larger homes, two master bedrooms can be included and this then becomes a bonus feature for visiting relatives, or perhaps after a skiing accident. Here is the list of benefits from the article titled, First-floor master bedrooms: A trend with staying power:

  • As bones and joints age, a main-floor master eliminates the need to climb stairs. It also reduces the risk of falls.
  • As anyone who’s ever lugged a mattress up a narrow flight of stairs can attest, it’s much easier to move furniture in and out of a room on the ground floor.
  • First-floor bedrooms are usually close to the most frequently used spaces in a home, such as the kitchen, living room and entryway, making it easier for residents to catch all the action.
  • Even in a house with two stories, a master suite on the first floor can be constructed in addition to a second-floor master bedroom. This not only makes it easy for homeowners to change rooms as they grow older, but it also provides the perfect space for older overnight visitors. They may also elect to designate the upper floor for the kids’ rooms, a playroom or perhaps a study space, which helps to preserve the master bedroom’s peace and quiet.
  • Adding French or sliding glass doors to main-floor masters makes indoor/outdoor living a breeze.
  • Homes designed with a first-floor master bedroom or suite generally sell faster and for more money.
  • Aging in place becomes a real possibility, and that’s of paramount importance to most Americans.

Editor’s Note: Although this is a great idea for all the reasons above, I wonder how happy people will be about not being able to access their whole home. Another option is to include a storage cupboard arrangement on both floors that can be removed later to allow for a through floor home elevator. This would be closer to a universal design principles than being isolated on the ground floor. 


Self driving cars: trust and inclusion

Self driving vehicle on the road.The race is on for designing a self driving car that everyone trusts. While this is essential, it also needs to be a car that everyone can use. Mark Wilson writes for FastCompany about his test “drive” experiences of these vehicles. Reading his detailed experiences from a universal design perspective, there is still a way to go in the overall design. The developments so far show much thought about convenience, such as your smartphone linking to the car so it knows it’s you. They are using the phone to give instructions. This is a technology that needs to be followed closely as it has the potential to improve inclusion or inadvertently cause more exclusion. A very interesting article; “The fate of self-driving cars hangs on a $7 trillion design problem“.


Frank Lloyd Wright and UD

A view showing the large windows overlooking the gardenHouzz online magazine has an article about a 1952 Frank Lloyd Wright home that they claim is a model of universal design. The Chicago home was actually designed specifically for a “disabled homeowner” – a wheelchair user. This kind of presentation of universal design confuses people and adds to the notion that universal design is for people with disability and not a mainstream idea. The article by Gwendolyn Purdom describes the single-storey construction, A view of the open plan kitchen. The home has a lot of timber in the construction and the furniture.lowered doorknobs and light switches, wider doorways, drop down cabinets and sufficient turning space for a wheelchair. Pictures of work benches with nothing below are the wheelchair obvious features. Apparently the features blend seamlessly into the home. The article goes on to provide sound advice to others such as thinking about universal design from the beginning of the design. The original owners kept the home exactly the same until their death in 2012. This home has been open to the public since 2014. Several pictures illustrate the article. I doubt Frank Lloyd Wright took any of these design features into his future designs to make them mainstream. This was most likely a one-off. Frank Lloyd Wright designed the furniture too.

Thanks to Richard Duncan for finding this item.


Toronto magazine: The cities we need

front cover of the magazine showing two girls skipping on a concrete play space with tower buildings in the background.The University of Toronto Magazine is about cities. It has four feature articles and accessibility is one of them. The article is a personal story of a father who asks what would a city without barriers look like? The question comes because his daughter is a wheelchair user. He lists six disabling things apart from steps and stairs. First is the issue of garbage bins littering the walkway after collection; the second is finding someone who is responsible for operating portable ramps; help buttons in the wrong place or need excessive force; broken and uneven footpaths; a loose piece of carpeting; and narrow footpaths that don’t allow people to pass. The article is written by Professor Ron Buliung, who is a transportation researcher, and that is his research question: What would a city without barriers look like?  The article begins on page 24. Other articles on city living are about sustainability, having fun, and affordability. 


My Home or Care Home?

Queenie Tran stands in front of the large display screen, The words are Home is Home and Everything else is not home. That's the way the world is constructed.What kind of home do you want to live in? The comfortable and familiar home you have now? Or an institutional care home? Queenie Tran in a TEDx Talk, Designing the Castle – challenges the architecture and design professions to think about what designing for “the majority” really means. Who makes up this majority? The ABS statistics tell us that over one third of households have at least one occupant with a permanent disability. Not the majority, but not so much a minority either, and with an ageing population this will only increase. Time for architects and building designers to re-think what their majority really is and start designing for more than just two thirds of the population. They can make a big difference in our lives. The difference between being forced into an institution either in our later years, or by accident – just because our homes don’t fit us any more. 

Note: If you don’t have time to watch the full 10 minutes, skip to the 5 minute mark for the take home messages.


What is design?

Diagram showing the four orders of design: symbols, products, interactions, systems.For most people the word “design” conjures up thoughts of creativity, products, architecture, graphics, or the way something looks or functions. When it comes to innovation it is more than this.  What do we mean by design? on the Design for Europe website discusses the concept of innovation. Design has moved from traditional artifacts to designing processes, and orchestrating experiences, and even transforming systems. Design is also about generating fit across different elements so that it solves a The "fit" triangle with problem, citizens, government making policy. problem, fits the user and fits the provider of the solution. Interesting article that lists four principles to help make things fit in the best way possible. Anyone who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations is a designer. Seems we are or have been a designer!  


Typewriters: A device for vision loss

Close up of an old fashioned typewriter.Did you know that the typewriter was first invented by a woman who was losing her sight? This is a good example of how an invention for a disability can be good for everyone. The flexible straw and the touchpad are other such inventions. These are just three things in Kat Holmes’ book, Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design. You can read a review of the book published by MIT Press 
“Designing for inclusion is not a feel-good sideline. Holmes shows how inclusion can be a source of innovation and growth, especially for digital technologies”. It expands the customer base and boosts the bottom line. And this goes for any product or service, building or dwelling. 


Technology and smart cities for everyone

graphic showing hand drawn and coloured buildings in a child-like format.If you ignore the medical perspective of this article and the language, that starts with the title, “The future holds smart habitats for people with special needs”, there are some interesting ideas about smart cities and technology for everyone. The article provides some examples of how technology can enable the creation of smart living environments for people living a health condition or disability. The article is published in the Medical Futurist website, so the next step will be to have the journalist take a social view of people with disability. Special Needs? No, the same needs as everyone only designers aren’t inclusive with their designs. “Suffering from…?” No, living with …   “THE elderly”? No. Not an homogeneous faceless group. Need more talk of mainstream and inclusion instead of othering. However, for particular disabilities assistive technologies are necessary, but are often good for everyone.