Adapting existing homes to be more accessible

Front cover of the report with blue and green background.From 2022, all new homes will be built to Silver level of the Livable Housing Design Guidelines. That was the decision by the state and building ministers last week. But what about existing homes? How will we deal with that? The Human Rights Commission published a study by Monash University on adapting existing homes to be more accessible.

The study concluded that there were two ways to increase the stock of housing that suits people with disability. One is to mandate accessible features in all new housing. That part is almost a done deal. The second way is “through some form of modification or adaptation, which may involve a substantial renovation”.

The focus of the report is on the second point – adaptation of existing stock. Renovations for home offices and multigenerational living are current examples of adaptation. The researchers wanted to see if there ways to design for flexibility and adaptation. The overall aim is to see if there is a way of improving current stock for the benefit of everyone. 

Monash University carried out the scoping study titled, Adaptable housing for people with disability in Australia: A scoping study. It has three parts. The first two cover current approaches to home modifications. The third part looks at the overall housing landscape for people with disability. The authors note that designers and architects are rarely involved in discussions on how best to adapt a home. Rather, it usually requires an occupational therapist to make recommendations. Quality of life and aesthetics are rarely factored into these assessments because of funding constraints.

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