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.