There are five key areas for healthy housing and accessibility is one of them. The WHO guidelines on housing and health and accessibility takes into consideration ageing populations and people with functional impairments. It recommends an “adequate proportion of housing stock should be accessible.
In the remarks section it argues that living in an accessible home improves both independence and health outcomes. Although the guidelines argue for only a proportion of housing stock, it has put the issue on the agenda. It shows it is as important as all other factors. However, the notion of proportion can lead some agencies to think that means specialised and segregated housing.
The other key areas are crowding, indoor cold, indoor heat, and home safety. For more detail there is an additional document showing method and results of the systematic review that underpinned this section of the Guidelines – Web Annex F. and includes interventions such as home modifications and assistive technology.
The Healthy Home
Joining the dots between all aspects of physical and social sustainability is important for a healthy life and a healthy planet. Central to this is the design of our homes. The Healthy Housing Design Guide from New Zealand says they need to be durable, efficient in size and cost, and friendly to the occupants and the environment.
The three bar menu icon on the landing page of this online resource takes you to the content of the Guide. Universal Design leads in the table of contents. This is pleasing as most other guides leave it to a last thought at the end. The design detail features wheelchair users for circulation spaces, which, of course are good for everyone. Among the interesting images is a lower storage draw doubling as a step for child to reach the kitchen bench. The case studies focus on energy efficiency and sustainability.
This is a comprehensive document beginning with universal design, site and location, through to air quality and acoustics and ending with certifications. The Guide characterises a healthy home by the acronym HEROES:
- On purpose:
The style of the website is pleasing but the landing page gives little idea to navigation. It says “Welcome” and then asks visitors to stay super involved. There is a bar with an arrow to go to the Foreword. The navigation is via the three bar menu icon at the top left of the page.
The video from the launch of the guide takes you through the content. Universal Design gets a mention at the 25 minute mark. It is introduced by Henry McTavish.
Tomorrow’s Homes: A sustainability perspective
Universal 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:
- National leadership
- Benchmarking and upskilling
- Building a foundation of leading homes
- Engaging consumers
- 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.
Inclusion and efficiency in home renovations
The concept of comfort can be used to join the dots between inclusive design and energy efficiency. This is the suggestion from Hasselt University in Belgium. The authors conclude in Merging Inclusive Design and Energy Efficiency as a disruptive approach to housing renovation that:
“When the concept of comfort is expanded to include the a full range of spatial, usability, and cognitive aspects, the merging of ID and EE can offer inhabitants a more complete sense of comfort, and by doing so increasing adoption of both types of measures, in line with wider governmental and societal goals.”
Abstract. There is a pressing need for housing renovations that both accommodate lifelong living and significantly increase energy efficiency. Much research has been done on both Inclusive design (ID), particularly in the context of accessibility, and energy efficiency (EE). However, they are treated independently and faced with limited adoption. A simultaneous renovation for ID and EE might lead to renovation concepts that better fulfil the residents’ desire for comfort in addition to savings in money and time. Comfort is an important driver for both types of renovations. As a result when the concept of comfort is expanded to include also spatial/usability, social, cognitive and cultural aspects, the merging of ID and EE can offer residents a more complete sense of comfort, thereby increasing the adoption of both ID and EE.