Modern homes for Queensland

The Queensland Government is leading the way with their new Modern Homes Standard. Queensland will begin rolling out mainstream universally designed eco-friendly homes based on the new standards in the National Construction Code (NCC) from October 2023. While the energy efficiency requirements might cost more, the universal design features will cost little, if any, more.

The universal design features are a level entry, wider doors and corridors, a toilet on the entry level with extra circulation space, and a step-free shower. The Livable Housing Handbook has more detail.

new home construction site with timber on the ground.

The benefits to consumers are obvious, but the benefits to government perhaps less so. Consumers will eventually have homes that are suited across the lifespan that cater for most life events. Governments stand to save on unnecessary extended hospital stays, and early entry to aged care. They will also save money on government funded home modifications.

However, this has not stopped the housing industry from heavily lobbying against the universal design changes at state level. They claim that the industry has too many problems, it’s technically difficult and it would cost homeowners $40,000.00 more. Are these claims true or are they myths and misunderstandings?

Dispelling the myths

Here are some of the common claims by industry where the cost claims are confused with specialist disability housing or the old adaptable housing standard. So these claims are easily dismissed.

You can download a PDF of this list. 



You can’t do level entry to the home on steep sites or on small lots.

Steep sites are exempted from dwelling access requirements. Or you can make the entry via the garage.

You can’t do Livable Housing features in a studio apartment.

It’s often easier in studio because they only have 2 doors and no corridors.

These bigger bathrooms really add to the cost.

No big bathroom required because it can be achieved in less than 4sqm. See Livable Housing Handbook.

You can’t do it on narrow lots.

Narrow properties use space smartly with minimal corridors relying on shared circulation and open plan spaces.

Grab rails make the place look ugly.

Grab rails are not required. They can be added later if ever they are needed.

People just want a regular-looking home.

The design tweaks are not noticeable other than a level entry.

People don’t want a disability bathroom.

They won’t get one. The Standard asks for a small extra space in front of the toilet pan.

Some people want a traditional closet WC.

They can have one. Only one toilet pan on the ground or entry level needs to have some extra space in front of it.

People don’t want a front yard full of ramps.

They won’t have one. Access is from the street, parking space or garage.

The extra accessible parking places will add enormous cost to apartments.

There are no changes to parking requirements. Only the internal fit-out applies to apartments.

Door manufacturers will have to re-tool to make new products.

The door sizes are standard already.

Only a few people need these changes.

These provisions are for improving amenity and liveability for everyone. It’s about future-proofing a consumer’s biggest asset.

It’s going to be expensive.

The main cost will be some timber noggins for wall reinforcement in the bathroom.

There’s a cost of living crisis.

That’s why it’s even more important to build homes that protect families from future-shock – the cost of adaptation if life circumstances change. It makes them more sustainable.

I’ve built this kind of home before and I know it costs a lot more.

This is not Specialist Disability Accommodation or housing to the Adaptable Housing Standard. These do cost more. The Livable Housing Standard normalises these common design features. That’s why they are called universal design features. And there is little, if any, extra cost.

It’s bound to cost more because this is all new and we have to learn how to do it.

These features have been applied in seniors living since 2004 and specialist disability homes. Community housing associations apply these features. There is nothing new or onerous.

It’s not a good time for the industry to do this.

It is never a good time for industry. Meanwhile it is a very good time for people wanting to move into a home with no steps.

Why we need it

Building homes based on last century ideas of housing the population has to change and it has to be more than fashion changes. We are living much longer and want to stay put as we age. The pandemic has made people even less eager to go to aged care. People who use mobility devices want to visit family and friends in their own homes. In summary we want homes that are fit for purpose for all family members regardless of what life has in store.

The Livable Housing Design Standard is a tweak to existing designs, but it is these little details that make the difference to longer term liveability for all family members.

The size of Australian homes will easily accommodate all the new provisions in the Livable Housing Design Standard. We wait for Victoria, ACT, NT, South Australia and Tasmania to keep to their promises to follow Queensland’s lead. However, NSW still agrees with industry lobbyists and is saying “no”. ABC News has an article on Queensland’s commitment to housing fit for purpose in the 21st Century.

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