Abstract: The Livable Housing Guidelines, a lifecycle housing approach to residential design and construction, encourages us to imagine a sustainable model of living where we can reframe sustainability through the integration of economic, social and environmental building practices. Australia’s population is projected to reach 42 million by 2060. Of that, one quarter are expected to be over our current retirement age. The global phenomenon of population ageing is one that is to the forefront of national interest with potential policy implications. Aged care costs have been projected to rise from 0.8 per cent of GDP in 2009-10 to 1.8 per cent in 2049-50 with residential care accounting for up to 85 per cent of that figure.
Cynthia Banham explains universal housing to be “building a house to last its occupants’ lifetimes so whatever happens, should they get injured or grow old, they will still be able to live independently.” However the success of universally designed houses rests on the design being one where it is “more capable of easy and cost-effective adaptation”. How does one quantify ease of adaptation and low-cost? Are architects and builders’ understanding of ‘ease of adaptation’ and ‘low-cost’ the same as someone who has just been in an accident and is finds themselves a wheelchair user?
This paper addresses the different compromises faced by architects, builders and developers in addressing the key ideas of ease of adaptation and low-cost through case studies of projects and design solutions in order to achieve a universally designed home. Universally designed homes should be safer homes that are flexible, inexpensive in adaptation but still marketable. Through a series of scenarios, this paper initiates the comparisons in understanding the differences between retrofitting and purpose built universal homes through a long-term perspective of economic, social and environmental sustainability. This paper takes the perspective of an access consultant using case studies.
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