Accessible Eco Homes

Front cover of report.Can homes be both eco-friendly and accessible? If not, it means people with disability and older people are excluded from the benefits of an eco-home. Part M of the UK building regulations require a level threshold and a downstairs toilet. The Lifetime Home standard provides for more flexibility for adaptation. But what are the eco-home advocates and designers doing for accessibility?

A study by Amita Bhakta found the following issues with the eco home movement:

    • Sustainability has overridden accessibility in sustainable communities in the UK.
    • Disability requires greater understanding that it is more than mobility impairment. 
    • Space beyond the home should be included in the meaning of home.
    • Top-down policy is not enough – co-design is required.
    • Planners, architects and builders in eco-housing do not consider bodily differences.

The title of the report available from Academia.edu is Accessibility in Sustainable Communities. It includes a discussion about whether sustainable communities should cater for all needs. But Bhakta points out that sustainable communities cannot regard themselves as progressive if they are exclusive. The report concludes with a model for inclusive sustainable communities. See abstract below. 

There is a similar article, Making space for disability in eco-homes and eco-communities. The eco-home movement in the UK is underpinned by collaborative and communal housing and living. The aim of the movement is to minimise environmental impact and to be socially progressive. 

Abstract

There is continued failure to build homes for diverse and disabled occupancy. We use three eco-communities in England to explore how their eco-houses and wider community spaces accommodate the complex disability of hypotonic Cerebral Palsy. Using site visits, video footage, spatial mapping, field diary observations, surveys and interviews, this paper argues that little attention has been paid to making eco-communities and eco-houses accessible. There are, we argue, four useful and productive ways to interrogate accessibility in eco-communities, through  understandings of legislation, thresholds, dexterity and mobility. These have three significant consequences for eco-communities and disabled access: ecological living as practised by these eco-communities relies upon particular bodily capacities, and thus excludes many disabled people; disabled access was only considered in relation to the house and its thresholds, not to the much broader space of the home; and eco-communities need to be, and would benefit from being, spaces of diverse interaction.