Houzz 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, 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.
With 28% of the population over 65 years, suitable housing is a critical policy area for Japan. In his latest article, Satoshi Kose argues for ageing in place and compares Japan with UK and US housing policy from an ageing perspective. Voluntary guidelines for new housing has not worked and Kose says in his conclusion that viewing housing construction as a booster for economic growth where quality of design is out of question means that “Japan must pay the cost of that ignorance as the country grows older and older.” Australia should heed this warning. The title of the article is, “Housing Design for the Ageing: Struggle Toward Supporting Age-in-Place Instead of Special Housing for Seniors”. The article discusses the attempts made in Japan, UK and US to introduce universal design features but with little success. He concludes we need both carrot and stick approach – regulations and incentives. The housing industry is complex in all three cases and this is why we need both carrot and stick (for our housing donkey?)
Satoshi Kose has been writing and researching housing design over many years. He is Emeritus Professor at Shizuoka University of Art and Culture. This paper was presented at the UDHEIT2018 Conference.
The IDeA Center at Buffalo is a research institute set within the Architecture faculty. It has a good website with publications and other resources. Here are just four of the books. They can be purchased online. Go to the IDeA website for detailsof books and where to purchase.
Inclusive Design: Implementation and Evaluation.
The book focuses on the direct application of universal design concepts with technical information. Good for designers, contractors, builders, and building owners.
Accessible Public Transportation: Designing Service for Riders with Disabilities
This book is about public transit systems with a focus on inclusive solutions for people with disability and older people. Includes best practice examples.
Universal Design: Creating Inclusive Environments
Readers are introduced to the principles and practice of designing for all people. Includes best practice examples.
Inclusive Housing: A Pattern Book
A book for designing homes with everyone in mind. Includes disability specific information.
Because the majority of our homes are designed as if we are never going to grow old, most of us will need to modify our home as we age. That’s if you want to stay put, which is what most older people say is their preference. An easy to read and nicely presented report from Centre for Ageing Better in the UK gives an excellent overview of how home modification improves quality of life, mental health and overall independence. All good reasons for universally designing our homes from the start for the whole of our lives so modifications aren’t needed or are at least easier to do. Dwellings might be a “product” to property developers but for the rest of us a “home” is the pivot point for living our lives.
A great quote from a study participant to reflect upon, “You don’t get taught, at any point in your life, how to become an older person. It just sort of happens, you know…”. So waiting for consumers to ask for universal design isn’t going to work.
If you want to know what people think about accessible housing, the findings from a recent surveywill give you a good idea. With the prospect of a Regulatory Impact Assessment of accessible housing on the horizon this is a timely report. There are four narratives that frame the report: the housing industry view; the government view; prospective buyers’ view; and the perspective of people who need mainstream accessible housing. The survey was initiated by Australian Network on Universal Housing Designand the data were collated, analysed and discussed by Courtney Wright and Jacinta Colley from Griffith University. It is a lengthy but detailed report. Essential reading for anyone interested in this topic and/or who wants to know the history behind the universal design in housing campaign that goes back nearly 20 years. Dr Courtney Wright will be presenting the findings at the 3rd Australian Universal Design Conference in Brisbane 4-5 September.
My Home Space is an interactive online tool that takes you through the design details of all parts of the home including spatial requirements. The website has a video explaining how to use the guide. The tool is enhanced by references to assistive technology. The information in the tool takes the form of “things to consider” and is provided in the context of the NDIS. However, some of the design tips are useful for most homes. There is a companion paper, Government perspectives on housing, technology and support design within Australia’s National Disability Strategy that explains the background and the methodology for developing this tool. This is the work of Libby Callaway and Kate Tregloan from Monash University who will be speaking at the upcoming Australian Universal Design Conference 4-5 September 2018.
Here is another set of guidelines for housing to add to your collection. This one is by Master Builders Association ACT. Although Housing for Life is more than ten years old the principles still hold because it is good design. Apart from the usual attention to access and circulation spaces, it includes thermal comfort, security, lighting, operating controls and maintenance. Lots of diagrams and drawings help with explanations – it is a builder/designer perspective. There is also a handy metric conversion chart for people still using imperial measures. The guide was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Other handbooks include:
Go to the Housing Design Guidelines section on this website for more about kitchens, bathrooms, lighting and other aspects of home design.
Note: this document is not readily available. I have posted a copy I found in my files. It is available through the National Library of Australia (Trove) if you want hard copy. Or you can try the MBA ACT. The references to the Adaptable Housing Standard are less relevant now – see more recent guidelines.
While this set of guidelines is focused on Ireland, there are some good ideas that are not country specific. The online resource produced by the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design is divided into separate downloadable sections:
Home location and approach
Entering and moving around
Spaces for living
Elements and systems
The Design Guidelines complement Universal Design Guidelines for Homes in Irelandand are intended as a first step in raising awareness. They provide a flexible framework for designers to apply the guidelines creatively to all new home types through incremental steps. The Home Design Guidelines are informed by research, a literature review of national and international best practice and guidance and a consultation process with key stakeholders.
Several Australian developers are claiming that apartment living is now the top choice for older Australians who want to either downsize or have a home with level access in the front door. However, it’s arguably no real choice if all you have to choose from is a retirement village or an apartment. While apartments usually provide a level entry, the internal design of the dwelling may not in fact support people as they age. Apartment kitchen design is an important consideration and is tackled in an article from Korea. Although many older people will not need to use a wheelchair at home, the design parameters are geared around wheelchair circulation spaces. The article includes several drawings of different sized kitchen layouts based on the analysis of user reach range and other capabilities.
They conclude that there will still need to be specialised housing designs for people with specific limitations: “But a better alternative is to make common housing more accessible, usable, and universal for the highest number of people with varied capabilities…”.
Abstract: The purpose of this study is to suggest designs for apartment kitchens without major redesign for the elderly or the disabled, who are a fast growing population in Korea. According to the concept of universal design and the need to support various users as much as possible, five criteria for analysis were developed based on research on the mobility of wheelchair users: clear floor space, work flow, universal reach range, area for later use, and safety. Using the criteria developed, the accessibility and usability of five kitchen subtypes were investigated through the analysis of architectural documents. The result shows that kitchen layouts in Korean apartments are typically difficult to navigate for wheelchair users. Modification of the locations of the refrigerator, sink, and range was mainly required for appropriate clear floor space, work triangle, and countertops. Moreover, alternatives to five unit types were suggested without the need to increase the current kitchen size. For application of universal design to kitchen design, considerations for not only the size, the shape of the kitchen and its appliances but also for clear floor space, work triangle, countertop, reach range, and knee clearance formed by the location of each appliance are required.
KY Kang, KH Lee, Journal of Asian Architecture and Building Engineering.