When talking about the costs of including basic access features in new homes, we should also discuss the cost of NOT including those features.
Download an academic article from the Journal of the American Planning Association, by Smith, Rayer and Smith (2008) that spells out the economic argument using economic methodologies. The key point is that conservatively, a new home built today with a minimum of four different households over its lifetime is 65% likely to have an occupant with a permanent disability. If we include visitors the likelihood rises to 91%. It is often forgotten that people with disability live in families – not alone. This is an open access article.
Architect Guy Luscombe recently returned from a study trip in Europe focusing on living arrangements for older people. His comprehensive report featuring case studies from Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark and Netherlands, reveals eight key design features important to older people. Windows was top of the list. He says, “The traditional ‘nursing home’ and ‘retirement village’ are not only outdated, they can actually foster separation and ‘otherness’, isolating people from their family, friends and interests. The aim of this project is to explore how architects can design better environments for older people that improve their enjoyment of life. It starts with rethinking some of our design language.” Many in the universal design movement would agree with this.
This is a major work by Bruce Judd, Diana Olsberg, Joanne Quinn and Oya Demirbilek (2010). It challenges the often held assumption that older people are “taking up space” in big houses that they no longer need – assumptions that their homes are “underoccupied”. This qualitative research shows a very different picture. When people retire, they typically spend more time at home (about 85% of their time), so it makes sense to have “spare” space for home activities, including accommodating family members who live away. So downsizing isn’t the answer for everyone.
Edited transcript from live captioning of Kay Saville-Smith’skeynote presentation at the Australian Universal Design Conference 2014.
Synopsis: The Christchurch earthquakes which flattened much of the city provided an opportunity to start from scratch and implement some of the good design ideas, including universal design, that have been around for some time. However, this has not happened and there are many reasons for this, not least of which is the stance of the insurance industry. The issue of affordability is a complex one, as it is a market driven issue where the actual cost of the building is not the main issue. Universal design and affordability can co-exist, but there are many attitudinal barriers and well-worn arguments touted in the industry that say it cannot be done.
From the Editor: This academic paper and presentation was made at the 2011 State of Australian Cities Conference (SOAC). It raises the issues of housing an ageing population in a context of industry believing retirement villages and aged care are the places to put older people. However, the majority of people will age in their current home – a home that is not suitably designed for this purpose. Around 200,000 new homes are built each year – each one a lost opportunity. It remains to be seen if the Australian Building Codes Board will push ahead with regulations for accessible housing in 2020 – 2022.
From the Editor: I prepared a 2000 word version of my PhD thesis which is worth another look given the proposed changesto the National Construction Code for housing. Basically, my question was, why we are still building and designing homes as if none of us is ever going to grow old? The simple answer is that the industry runs on regulations to hold the house building system together, so nothing will change without regulations.Readthe paper to find out more about the complexities of the house building industry and why there is resistance to change from both builders and purchasers. You can also download the accompanying slide show from the 2011 FICCDAT conference.
(FICCDAT is, Festival of International Conferences on Caring, Disability, Aging and Technology.)