Housing Quality: Can UD boost it?

A large free standing home in the last stages of being builtIt seems that when the Norwegian housing industry is called upon to build more homes faster and more cheaply, they ask for accessibility requirements to be “relaxed”. This is while the overall quality of the homes is dropping in this market driven environment. Norwegian building regulations have gone further than most other countries in applying universal design across planning and building codes and policies, even if the actual response has been patchy. In the abstract of Universal Design as a Booster for Housing Quality and Architectural Practice, the author, Karine Denizou states, “Many architects understand guidelines as minimum requirements, and are thus reproducing the identical solutions without considering the context and the needs of the users. They see accessibility as another regulatory pressure and requirements as restrictions rather than positive incentives. However, there are examples of designers who have internalised the regulatory framework and thus are able to create and integrate inclusive design in their daily work.”

Editor’s note: It is disappointing to see that in spite of many years of advocacy and support by the central government (since 1999), the home-building industry in Norway is still stuck in old ways. Denizou’s paper is comprehensive with examples, discussion and conclusions. With the push for regulation for accessible housing in Australia, it is a cautionary tale. This paper indicates that regulation alone will not achieve the desired outcomes.