Housing design for a decent life

street scene at twilight with modern medium density apartmentsLiving a “decent life” depends on whether you have the capabilities to have a decent life. This is the proposition of Nobel prize-winning economist and philosopher, Amartya Sen. Doing the things we value, having freedoms and pursuing our goals are all part of having a decent life according to Sen (2009). But lack of money and freedom, and barriers to participation limit that capability. Being unable to live a decent life impacts on socialisation, mental health and general wellbeing. In their article Housing design for socialisation and wellbeing, Lai and Rios discuss direct and indirect factors in housing design that relate to mental health. They have produced a toolkit, Happy Homes: A toolkit for building sociability through multi-family housing design as a result of their research. The authors drew inspiration from the North Vancouver Active Design Guidelines for their toolkit. They have distilled their research into 10 key principles that relate more to the location and design of the neighbourhood rather than the home itself: 

  1. Doing things together: Provide spaces that increase opportunities for residents to interact and do enjoyable things together.
  2. Exposure: Define private, semi-private, and public spaces to enhance residents’ sense of privacy and control over their exposure to others.
  3. Tenure: Enhance design and policy measures that will allow residents to remain in their community, as social connections and trust are reinforced over time.
  4. Social group size: Social group size affects the quality of social interactions and relationships – use of private, semi-private, and public spaces, as well as the clustering of homes into groups.
  5. Feeling of safety: Environments that feel safe encourage people to build positive relationships with each other.
  6. Participation: Residents participating in the design and management of their living environment allow for social interaction and increased sense of belonging.
  7. Walkability: Neighborhoods with mixed-used spaces that encourage walking increase social interaction.
  8. Nature: Exposure to green spaces and residents participating in the care of green spaces promotes social wellbeing.
  9. Comfort: Pleasant and comfortable environments encourage people to socialize with each other.
  10. Culture and values: Places that reflect people’s identity, culture, and values enhances their attachment to places and increases their sense of belonging.



UD Supporters – take this survey

architectural plansA team at Deakin University are conducting a survey on universal design. Below is an introduction and the link will take you to the necessary long ethics document with a button at the bottom of the page that will then take you to the survey. The title of the study is, Evaluating Universal Design in the Built Environment.

“We are seeking input from individuals with an interest in or experience of applying &/or evaluating Universal Design in built environments. This research aims to identify approaches currently used to evaluate how Universal Design is applied to the built environment. Findings have the potential to increase uptake of Universal Design by industry professionals, governments and community members, and to enhance social participation for everyone, particularly people with disabilities.

The survey typically takes 10-15 minutes to complete. If you would like to take part in the survey, please click here.

The survey closes 31st August, 2017. If you have any questions contact Valerie Watchorn, Principal Researcher at valerie.watchorn@deakin.edu.au, or call +61 3 5227 8069.


Feeling welcome in public space

A woman sits on seat in front of a white weatherboard building. She is facing the road. There is another seat nearby and a small shrub in a pot set between the seatsHow does urban design make you feel? A survey of more than 5000 people carried out by Center for Active Design provides some answers. Using photos of public spaces respondents gave quantifiable answers about the welcoming feel of the space. Three of the key features were seating, plantings, and lighting. The full results are published under the title The Assembly Civic Engagement Survey. The findings are separated into three key areas: park design and maintenance, neighbourhood order and disorder, and welcoming civic spaces and buildings. The findings show how simple interventions can make a big difference in how people perceive their cities, and that having a place to sit is one of them. You can read the overview in an article by FastCoDesign, Science is Proving Why Urban Design Matters More Than Ever.

For more on what makes a place welcoming for older people (and therefore everyone), see COTA NSW Liveable Communities Age-Friendly Checklist.


Care, Bodies, Buildings and Cities

black and white photograph of an open terrace at the top of a building. It has a row of stretcher beds facing out to the view.Part of Care and Design: Bodies, Buildings, Cities, is now available on ResearchGate. The introductory chapter by Rob Imrie and Kim Kullman (editors) provides much food for thought. They suggest that care is a notion that should be considered from a societal perspective, not an activity in a separate environment. Hence designers, among others, are potential carers in the broader sense. Imrie and Kullman are interested in the intersection of design and care and “the ways in which the skills and sensibilities of caring can be expressed through design practice in order to enhance the conviviality and wellbeing among those who inhabit, and depend upon, cities.” The editors also discuss what makes good urban form, and how “urban objects and spaces are not necessarily sensitised to the diverse needs of bodies and collectives, thereby creating misfits that limit the caring potential of everyday environments.”

The book is published by Wiley, but the chapters can be accessed via ResearchGate. Understanding the notion of care from this broader perspective is another way of understanding universal design. It shows how universal design is an attitudinal concept and more than just resolving inclusion issues in the design process. 

Table of Contents

  1. Designing with care and caring with design. Rob Imrie and Kim Kullman
  2. Age-inclusive design: a challenge for kitchen living. Sheila Peace
  3. Curating space, choreographing care: the efficacy of the everyday. Daryl Martin
  4. ‘I don’t care about places’: the whereabouts of design in mental health care. Ola Söderström
  5. The sensory city: autism, design and care. Joyce Davidson and Victoria L. Henderson
  6. Configuring the caring city: ownership, healing, openness. Charlotte Bates, Rob Imrie, and Kim Kullman
  7. ‘Looking after things’: caring for sites of trauma in post-earthquake Christchurch, New Zealand. Jacky Bowring
  8. Empathy, design and care – intention, knowledge and intuition: the example of Alvar Aalto. Juhani Pallasmaa
  9. Architecture, place and the ‘care-full’ design of everyday life. Jos Boys
  10. Ageing, Care and the Practice of Urban Curating. Sophie Handler
  11. Caring through design: En torno a la silla and the ‘joint problem-making’ of technical aids. Tomás Sánchez Criado and Israel Rodriguez-Giralt
  12. Design and the art of care: engaging the more than human and less than inhuman. Michael Schillmeier
  13. Afterword: caring urban futures. Charlotte Bates and Kim Kullman

Excellence Award for UWA

Picture taken from the website with the title of the project and a picture of a residential streetThe University of Western Australia’s RESIDential Environments research project has won a major excellence award. This longditudinal study comparing 19 “liveable”, 44 “conventional” and 10 “hybrid” developments has informed the WA Liveable Neighbourhoods Policy. Two thousand new home owners planning to relocate to one of 73 new housing developments were surveyed over a 9 year period. The project was specifically looking at movement network, urban structure, residential diversity, public open space and schools.

You can read the award overview on the Center for Active Design webpage, and more detail on the project itself from the UWA RESIDential Environment Study page. The project has produced more than 50 publications and a new project is underway. Guidelines and other documents can be downloaded from this site.


Using social marketing to promote UD principles

A white ball with text related to marketing printed on it in orange and yellowThe goal of social marketing is to change behaviour – a goal shared with those promoting universal design principles. While the consumer or individual is placed at the centre of the project in both cases, social marketing needs to use different tools. Most change takes place when campaigns, such as reducing waste, use personal contacts within a community to communicate and influence. A case study undertaken by Siripan Krasaesan in Thailand, shows how using a TV Program, architecture students and community members can make positive change. The title of the paper is The ‘Muang Jai Dee’ TV program: the use of community based social marketing to promote universal design principles. Here is an extract from the abstract:

“The objective of the study was to consider how several communities in Thailand applied Community-Based Social Marketing (CBSM) to Universal Design (UD) principles to renovate their living spaces to make them more accessible to the disabled and the elderly. The researcher used qualitative methods to gather information by collecting data from documents, from many episodes of the TV program, and from in-depth interviews with those who played a leading role in the program.  The data was then analyzed to identify examples where UD principles had been successfully applied to renovation projects.


Advances in design for inclusion – book

Front cover of the book: yellow background with dark blue text.This book is practice-orientated and covers many fields of design.The overview of this publication states, “This book focuses on a range of topics in design, such as universal design, design for all, digital inclusion, universal usability, and accessibility of technologies independently of people’s age, economic situation, education, geographic location, culture and language. … Based on the AHFE 2016 International Conference on Design for Inclusion, held on July 27-31, 2016, in Walt Disney World®, Florida, USA, this book discusses new design technologies, highlighting various requirements of individuals within a community. Thanks to its multidisciplinary approach, the book represents a useful resource for readers with different kinds of backgrounds and provides them with a timely, practice-oriented guide to design for inclusion.” You can download the promotional flyer or go to the link allows you to download the Table of Contents.