Your Home guide – 6th edition

Front cover of Your Home 6th edition. Your Home is in its 6th edition (2022) published by the Australian Government. It has a section on the livable and adaptable house. This guide is especially helpful for home renovations and modifications as well as new builds.

The National Construction Code has introduced accessible features for all new housing in 2022 and the guide is yet to catch up. The old Adaptable Housing Standard (AS4299) continues to be referenced alongside the Livable Housing Design Guidelines. 

The web version is easy to navigate and covers every aspect of design including adaptation to climate change. It can also be purchased in hard copy. 

There are many detailed diagrams to help explain design features and floor plans. The chapter makes distinctions between liveable and adaptable designs. Drawings and floor plans provide sufficient information for designers, renovators and homeowners alike. 

From the introduction:

Many of the homes we build today will still be in use in 50 or even 100 years. Ensuring our homes are both liveable and adaptable is a key challenge for all communities.

Liveability means ensuring our homes are comfortable, healthy, efficient and connected to the community. But it also means the home is functional, safe, secure and attractive for current and future occupants.

Adaptability means that our homes can cope with changes to our households and to the climate. Making homes that are flexible, adaptable, and resilient helps us to respond to both predicted and unexpected change. It also means that we limit our environmental footprint to ensure that our communities remain sustainable.

London’s inclusive design standards

The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) is similar to the Sydney Olympic Park Authority. They are both focused on maintaining the benefits of hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Sydney claimed the title of “most accessible games ever” and then the title went to London. Inclusive design is now a priority in all developments related to the Olympic precinct, and London’s Inclusive Design Standards are designed to show the way.

“Venues excelled in their inclusive design and the story could have ended there. However, LLDC embraced this approach and made ‘Championing equalities and inclusion’ one of their four corporate priority themes.”

Broness Grey-Thompson LLDC Board Member
Two people walk either side of a woman using a wheelchair. They are on a wide path in a parkland area. Inclusive Design Standards front cover.
Front cover of the Standards

Inclusive design is the favoured term in the UK while other countries and the United Nations use universal design. They mean the same thing – creating inclusive societies.

The Inclusive Design Standards begin with all the relevant legislation and standards followed by a page on how to use the document. The standards have four key parts: inclusive neighbourhoods, movement, residential, and public buildings. Each part has two sections – the design intent and the inclusive guidelines. The guidance is just that and design teams can create solutions that achieve the same outcomes.

The document is comprehensive in covering every aspect of development and design in great detail. Each section lists the intent of the design – the why – and then lists actions. Each section includes case studies and photographs illustrate ideas. The bibliography has additional resources.

This is clearly a standards document and not a guide. It has numbered clauses for designers to reference. As such, it is not an accessible document itself. The language and size of text makes for detailed reading. A summary document with the key points would be useful as a starter.

Universal design and existing homes

Modifications are different to renovations and they are not usually chosen willingly. Modifications are often work-arounds – a ramp here, a grabrail there and a rubber wedge for good luck. These tacked-on fittings fail to add value to a home and that’s why they are removed after they are needed. So we need universal design in existing homes when thinking about modifications.

Home Mods App logo with stylised spanner looking like a person with their arms in the air.DIY (Do It Yourself) is a popular activity for home-owners especially with places like Bunnings that have everything you could possibly need.  But what renovations should people think about for their later years? UNSW has devised a free App to answer that question.

Builders and building supply businesses should also find this app very useful. The App shows how to select products and how to install them in an easy step-by-step way that allows homeowners to choose the cheapest options that suit them best. 

Home Mods – costs and gains

A man in a bright yellow T shirt is painting and archway in a wall inside a home. The wall is grey and there are tools on the floor. Accessible housing, costs and gains.The need for all new homes to have basic universal design features will continue to increase as the population ages. Evaluating the costs and gains of modifying homes is the subject of an article from Europe, Improved Housing Accessibility for Older People in Sweden and Germany: Short Term Cost and Long -Term Gains.

The authors claim that even if the costs are large, they are one time costs. Whereas costs for home services will continue. This article by Slaug, Chiatti, Oswald, Kaspar and Schmidt was originally downloaded from ResearchGate.

The personal value of home modifications is measured in quality of life and health outcomes. Research by Phillippa Carnemolla found that home modifications reduced care hours substantially. 

Costs? or Savings?

A man kneels on the floor, he is laying floor tiles.Lesley Curtis and Jennifer Beecham claim that the expertise of occupational therapists can help save money in health budgets as well as improve the lives of people needing assistance at home. Their article is about home modifications and identifying the hidden savings in providing home adaptations. They argue that significant savings can be made if you tally all aspects into the calculations. The article is available from Sage Publications. You will need institutional access for a free read. The title is, “A survey of local authorities and Home Improvement Agencies: Identifying the hidden costs of providing a home adaptations service”. Or try ResearchGate and ask for a copy. 

 

What an accessible home looks like

The changes to the housing standards in the National Construction Code will come into force in May 2023. These changes are in line with the Livable Housing Design Guidelines Silver level. That means some basic access features will be mandatory in all new homes. That is, unless you live in NSW and WA because the state governments refuse to adopt the changes. 

The design features have been around for more that twelve years. And as more builders and designers get the hang of the features, the more creative the designs will be. Too many people associate accessibility with ugly public bathrooms, but the pictures below show that’s not the case. They show what an accessible home looks like. 

Good examples of universal design are difficult to find. Because universal design is invisible until pointed out, pictures alone do not tell the story. 

Thanks to Taylor’d Distinction for allowing the use of their pictures. They are based on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. Looking forward to the day when there is no need to have a separate section for “accessible housing”. It should be considered mainstream. After all, how many of us can invite a wheelchair basketballer into our home? See more on the quest for mainstream universally designed housing

Kitchen with white benches contrasting with the light brown floor.

Contrast between floor and benches

Kitchen island bench with timber finish giving colour contrast.
Timber finish contrast with kitchen bench

Bathroom design with dark tiles and floor and white bath and vanity bench.
Vanity bench has easy access

A white Labrador dog lays at the opening to the level access alfresco.
Level access alfresco

A stainless steel level handle.
Lever handles good for poor dexterity

Shower recess with half screen and hand held shower.
Shower recess with half screen

View into the bathroom through a wide door.
Wide doors throughout

Level access to the outdoors.
Level access to the outdoors

Light switches with large rockers.
Larger rocker switches easy to use

Laundry with white fittings. Washer and Dryer raised up.
Raised washer and dryer good for all backs

A view of the kitchen showing the bench height over and access to another room.Circulation space and bench height oven

Timber staircase with handrails both sides.
Handrails both sides for safety

A person with a four-wheeled walker rolls over the level threshold.
Level threshold gives access for all

 

Adaptable Housing Guide

Front cover of Your Home 6th edition. Your Home is in its 6th edition (2022) published by the Australian Government. It has a section on the livable and adaptable house. This guide is especially helpful for home renovations and modifications as well as new builds.

The National Construction Code has introduced accessible features for all new housing in 2022 and the guide is yet to catch up. The old Adaptable Housing Standard (AS4299) continues to be referenced alongside the Livable Housing Design Guidelines. 

The web version is easy to navigate and covers every aspect of design including adaptation to climate change. It can also be purchased in hard copy. 

There are many detailed diagrams to help explain design features and floor plans. The chapter makes distinctions between liveable and adaptable designs. Drawings and floor plans provide sufficient information for designers, renovators and homeowners alike. 

From the introduction:

Many of the homes we build today will still be in use in 50 or even 100 years. Ensuring our homes are both liveable and adaptable is a key challenge for all communities.

Liveability means ensuring our homes are comfortable, healthy, efficient and connected to the community. But it also means the home is functional, safe, secure and attractive for current and future occupants.

Adaptability means that our homes can cope with changes to our households and to the climate. Making homes that are flexible, adaptable, and resilient helps us to respond to both predicted and unexpected change. It also means that we limit our environmental footprint to ensure that our communities remain sustainable.

Designing homes with dementia in mind

Graphic showing the design process.
The design process

In most cases, designing homes with dementia in mind does not mean a special type of design.  It’s not news that people prefer to live at home as they age. So, universal design for dementia-friendly dwellings helps people live at home for as long as possible. However, for some people with dementia this can prove challenging for them and their family members.

Once basic accessibility features are considered, as they should be in all homes, it’s about the details. The research that underpins the guidelines for dementia friendly dwellings found four key design principles:

      1. Integrated into the neighbourhood
      2. Easy to approach, enter and move about in
      3. Easy to understand, use and manage
      4. Flexible, safe, cost effective and adaptable over time

Heading for the Dementia Design GuideThe Dementia Friendly Dwellings Guideline is from Ireland, but the good ideas are not country specific. The online resource produced by the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design is divided into separate downloadable sections: 

      1. Home location and approach
      2. Entering and moving around
      3. Spaces for living
      4. Elements and systems

The Dementia Friendly Dwellings Guidelines complement Universal Design Guidelines for Homes in Ireland and 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.

 

Good Design for Social Housing

Front cover of the social housing brochure. A woman sits on the edge of a raised garden bed.Good design for social housing creates neighbourhoods where people feel they belong. The NSW Government has produced a four page brochure outlining their goals for social housing. Wellbeing, Belonging, Value and Collaboration are keywords. There is no explicit mention of universal design principles in this document, but there is in the one that links with it. This is the one on dwelling requirements for good design in social housing.

The more detailed document of dwelling requirements leads with legislation and codes. It follows with Universal Design Principles. They require all new stock to apply a minimum level of Silver as outlined in the Livable Housing Design Guidelines. Each development may require a percentage of Gold level as well.

The document goes on to provide unit and room dimensions. If the NSW Government can design Silver and even Gold into these relatively small areas then everyone else can too. There’s more detail in this 5 page document that covers siting, gardens, utilities and more. 

The documents are titled, Good Design for Social Housing, and Dwelling Requirements

The NSW Government Architect has also introduced a universal design approach into its overarching document, Better Placed. While the term “universal design” is not used explicitly, it is inherent in the way the document is written. 

 

Better Apartment Design Standards

Front cover of standard with internal view of an apartment.The Victorian Government has updated the Better Apartment Design Standards. The aim is to make surrounding neighbourhoods better as well as the dwellings. There is also a section on accessibility at the end. The policy’s main aims are:

      1. More green space
      2. Designing for families
      3. More durable and better quality materials
      4. Attractive and safe street frontages

A community fact sheet gives a good overview and there is a separate one for industry and councilsThere is a short video on their website explaining the changes.

The final draft report has more detail, and as always with these guideline documents, accessibility is tacked on at the end. However, it has some useful guidance and encourages 50% of dwellings to have the following:

• A clear opening width of at least 850mm at the entrance to the dwelling and main bedroom.
• A clear path with a minimum width of 1.2 metres that connects the dwelling entrance to the main bedroom, an adaptable bathroom and the living area.
• A main bedroom with access to an adaptable bathroom.
• At least one adaptable bathroom.

Some of the floor plans look to be based on the old Adaptable Housing Standard (AS4299) rather than the more flexible Livable Housing Design standard. 

Case studies of universally designed homes

Max and Tricia stand at their doorway which reflects their love of Japanese design.Lifemark in New Zealand has several good case studies of universally designed homes. Some are modest homes and some are more upmarket.

The latest edition of their newsletter features a spacious home with great views. The owners, Max and Tricia have an interesting story to tell. Max is a mechanical engineer who taught environmental and spatial home design to architecture students. He knew about accessibility but not heard of universal design. Turns out that one of Max’s students in 1995 became the designer of their new home. The story of Max and Tricia has some nice detail and pictures in the article. 

Not everyone has money to spend on a “grand design”, but it doesn’t have to be grand to be universally designed and suitable for everyone.  Lifemark has a gallery of homes designed with universal design principles on their website. There’s also some examples of retrofits. 

delete page https://universaldesignaustralia.net.au/case-study-of-a-ud-home/

Apartment Design Guides: Victoria, NSW & SA

Front cover of standard with internal view of an apartment.Here are three apartment design guides: Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. 

Reference to accessibility is the last item in the list of design considerations in the 2021 better apartment standards from Victoria. However, it is a good reference with technical advice. Victoria says 50% of apartments should have as a minimum:

    • A clear door opening of at least 850mm at the entrance and main bedroom
    • A clear path of 1200mm between entrance and main bedroom, bathroom and living area
    • A main bedroom with access to an accessible bathroom
    • At least one accessible or adaptable bathroom

New South Wales

front cover of the apartment design guide.The NSW Department of Planning Apartment Design Guide includes a small section on universal design (P 118). In the design guidance section, it refers to the Livable Housing Design Guidelines (Silver Level, equivalent to visitability).  However, it suggests a proportional number (20%), which means universal design is not universally applied. Consequently, this becomes specialised housing rather than mainstream housing. The old Adaptable Housing Standard (AS4299) is also referenced. The new apartment guide replaces the NSW Residential Flat Design Code. The guide was published in 2015.

South Australia

Photo used for front cover of guide. It shows an outdoor area similar to a veranda.The Housing for Life: Designed for Living guide was developed for the South Australian Government. Population ageing and ageing well polices underpin the report and guide. The features and factors that older people identified as important are documented as well as industry perspectives. It also outlines the economic arguments for considering the housing needs of older people. Examples of floor plans are included in the 2019 report which is 16 pages in PDF.

The West Australian Guide to Liveable Homes is no longer available. However, it was basically promoting the same design features as the Livable Housing Design Guidelines that were agreed by COAG and the housing and construction industry in 2010.

Note: In October 2022, the National Construction Code will make Silver level mandatory in all new dwellings. However, as at August 2022 NSW has not agreed to adopt the nationally agreed standard. The government claims it is doing sufficient housing for ‘those who need it’. However, Victoria, ACT and Queensland are keen to implement the new standard. 

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