Tomorrow’s Homes: A sustainability perspective

Tomorrows Homes front coverUniversal design in housing faces the same policy and industry challenges as the sustainability movement. Consumers are unclear about their choice, and confused by terminology and rating systems. Home builders are locked into supply chains that limit innovation, and financial institutions can’t see the value of such designs. 

The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) has devised a policy framework for transitioning to sustainable homes. It identifies five key actions:

    1. National leadership
    2. Benchmarking and upskilling
    3. Building a foundation of leading homes
    4. Engaging consumers
    5. Leveraging finance

Tomorrow’s homes: A policy framework outlines how the structure of the housing industry creates restrictions on doing anything differently. It also has suggestions for appealing to consumers by using language they relate to. Comfortable, healthy, affordable, easy to use – in short, appealing to their aspirations. Consumers don’t frame their aspirations in words such as sustainable, accessible, or universal design. And they don’t aspire to ageing or disability.

The document concludes with a call for home builders to engage in the sustainable housing market now rather than wait for regulation. However, a voluntary approach hasn’t turned out well for accessible housing. 

Anyone interested in the housing market and housing policy will find this a useful document. Easy to read and well laid out it argues the case for policy reform in housing design. 

For a crash course in housing policy, sign up to CUDA’s free housing policy online learning: Home Coming? Framing housing policy for the future

Comprehensive Universal Design

Indian hotel swimming pool at sunset.Comprehensive Universal Design is a concept from India. It refers to the classic principles of universal design, concepts of sustainability, and culture. It takes a “country-centric approach which considers poverty, caste, class, religion, background both rural and urban”. Weaving in cultural aspects such as poverty and religion takes universal design thinking another inclusive step forward. 

A Conceptual Framework for Barrier Free Hotels in Smart Cities covers most of the basics written in many other papers about universal design. It links it to the hotel and tourism industry and all the economic benefits that can bring. The article proposes a conceptual framework to explain.

Abstract: Cities are key for business, Job creation, and the growth of society. The Government of India planned to develop smart cities which are sustainable, inclusive and act as a reference for other aspiring cities. Smart cities in India will work on four principles such as wellbeing of habitants, equity, foresight and efficiency. Existing laws and design principles can act as a hurdle in achieving the four principles laid down. The principles of Universal Design (UD) are user centric, work on the social goals of inclusion, equality and independence. Universal Design India Principle (UDIP) is a set of design principles that focus on a country centric approach which considers culture, caste, poverty, class, and religion. There is an overwhelming need for environmentally sustainable designs for hospitality services. Considering the current requirements, a conceptual framework ‘Comprehensive Universal Design (CUD)’ has been proposed which includes principles of UD, UDIP and environmental sustainability. Adopting comprehensive universal design principles in the hotels in smart city will help the planners to realise equity, quality of life, social inclusion and environmental sustainability.

The article is by Partho Pratim Sea*P. Senthil Kumaran

Can universal design create social sustainability?

aerial view of a big city with skyscrapersApplying the principles of universal design at the formation stage of planning can lead to harmonious, accessible, sustainable and healthy cities. This is the conclusion of a European study.

The study looked at the design and development of city space from the perspective of the varying levels of human capabilities. The overall aim of the research was to raise the quality of urban planning, and to develop tools for healthy cities compatible with the principles of sustainability. You can download the PDF of Sustainable Urban Development: Spatial Analyses as Novel Tools for Planning a Universally Designed City, by Joanna Borowczyk.

Forgotten social sustainability 

Downtown Calgary showing a pedestrian mall with tall buildings on each side. The sun is shining.When it comes to sustainability, how many people think about social sustainability as well? Environments and people are inter-linked. The Sustainable Development Goals make this clear and one unifying factor is universal design. A new book chapter investigates the issues further. 

The title of the chapter is, Forgotten sustainability: A socially conscious paradigmatic shift in design. The title of the book is Situating Design in Alberta. You can request a copy of the chapter from the authors who are from Queensland University of Technology. The webpage has this synopsis:

“In this chapter, Rieger and Iantkow discuss socially sustainable design, especially its emphasis on universal and inclusive design. They argue that social sustainability is often left out of sustainability discussions, but that there has been a history of this work in Alberta. They present a history of thinking on accessible design in Alberta, which has moved toward greater inclusion and a greater recognition and response toward complexities and paradoxes in human needs. They also explain the incorporation of these concepts in design education and a greater social consciousness toward the need for accessibility. However, they stress that this isn’t enough.

Local environments aren’t adequately accessible, which will become increasingly clear with the aging population. Like many other authors in this anthology, Rieger and Iantkow discuss local mind-sets toward design. They note that Albertans are becoming increasingly aware of accessibility issues and expect accessible environments, but that this could go even further. It is also important to encourage the population to adopt new ways of understanding the built environment and demand innovation and forward thinking in design.”

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