Livable Housing Design ABCB Standard - a welcome addition: RMIT's Dr Nicola Willand

The Standard includes obligations for corridors and sanitary areas in houses to be wide enough to accommodate walking aids

Livable Housing Design ABCB Standard - a welcome addition: RMIT's Dr Nicola Willand
Livable Housing Design ABCB Standard - a welcome addition: RMIT's Dr Nicola Willand

"Liable Housing Design ABCB Standard is a welcome addition to the introduction of minimum accessibility requirements the Building Code.

“The Standard includes obligations for corridors and sanitary areas in houses to be wide enough to accommodate walking aids and structural reinforcements in bathroom walls that allow future installations of mobility and lifting aids. These features will make housing safer for everyone and raise awareness for the need for universal design to accommodate people with varied abilities.

“The inclusion of these minimum accessibility requirements is a significant step towards progressing the health and psycho-social benefits of a home by providing better independence for people with certain physical disabilities and older people. It increases much needed supply of housing for people with impaired mobility – about 2.7 million people in Australia. However, it focuses on disability as a physiological condition that is expressed in impaired mobility and is insensitive to the needs of people with mental or sensory impairments.

“This new requirement promises to have economic benefits for householders. Having minimum accessibility requirements built at the construction phase – about $4,000 for a new detached house – removes the need to find suitable accommodation if one is injured or develops impairments as they age.

“This new requirement will also have economic benefits for society at large. Considering that Australia’s population is ageing and ageing in place is the preferred (cheaper) form of housing older people under the My Aged Care system, the Livable Housing Design ABCB Standard will also future proof new housing and save later modifications costs that are covered by the public health system.

“The minimum accessibility requirements will be adopted in Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, the ACT and the NT. The rejection by the NSW government is a lost opportunity to help normalise the need to design for all abilities and reinforces social exclusion.”

Dr Nicola Willand is a Lecturer in the School or Property, Construction and Project Management at RMIT University, where she teaches a transdisciplinary Housing and Health course. Her research aims to develop strategies that will minimise environmental impacts and life cycle costs while maximising health and social equity in the built environment. She is a member of Health, Place and Society research team, the Healthy Liveable Cities Lab and the Sustainable Building Innovation Lab.

Jonathan Chancellor is the Editor in Chief at Urban. He has been writing about residential property since the early 1980s.

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