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$vuetify.icons.faPhone1300 650 620

No place like home

No place like home

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A range of different housing types are emerging that are being tailored to meet varying occupant needs – be it livable, accessible or Specialist Disability Accommodation. Housing explores these and product solutions to suit their designs.

Anne-Maree Brown

General Manager of Content

There’s a broad conversation taking place about housing Australia’s ageing and disabled population, and how we can comfortably age and live in place. Governments have also, through COVID-19 and recent state and federal elections, put a greater focus on social and supported housing.

In residential building, multi-generational design is also increasingly getting consideration as an option to help accommodate people through various life stages.

The new National Construction Code (NCC) 2022 livable housing provisions have brought this into a wider discussion on the different housing features for the potentially changing needs of occupants over their lifetime. The discussion also extended to other housing types specifically tailored to more assisted and supported living.

We outline what these are as well as some innovative product selections that you could offer your clients when they are looking for these inclusions.

NCC 2022 will include new requirements for livable housing features for all new homes and apartments
Häfele’s FlexiElectric benchtop doesn’t limit designers in their choice of benchtop material

Code changes

By now you may well know that the NCC 2022 will, for the first time, include new requirements for livable housing features for all new homes and apartments, in those states adopting the provisions.

The new provisions contain six core elements:

  • A step-free path from allotment boundary to 
    front door
  • An entrance door to the dwelling providing a 
    level entry and that entrance door providing an 820mm clear opening width
  • Wider hallways and corridors on ground level (1000mm minimum), and doors to habitable rooms and to a toilet on ground level providing 
    an 820mm clear opening width
  • A toilet on the ground or entrance level with minimum clearances
  • One step-free and hobless shower in the dwelling
  • Reinforcing to walls surrounding a toilet and shower.

HIA Executive Director – Building Policy and Services, Simon Croft, says these requirements will need careful design and construction consideration to meet the new provisions.

‘It will also mean in many circumstances changes to some products and construction systems that are currently commonly used,’ he says. 

The NCC 2022 changes have been developed based on the provisions from the ‘silver’ level of the livable housing design guidelines. These focus on the key structural and spatial elements to enable future flexibility and adaptability of the home – future proofing them rather than turning them into fully ‘accessible’ homes.

Swing door systems make it easier to pass through
Häfele’s FlexiElectric benchtop adjusts the working height at the touch of a button

Tailored and assisted housing 

Beyond the NCC requirements there is a range of other types of tailored and assisted living housing and/or tailored housing types suited to the specific occupant’s needs. Unlike the new NCC provisions, these are not mandatory but considered best practice. 

They may be built as part of having a house accredited and to be advertised as such, providing broader accessibility requirements to meet the homeowner’s specific needs or they may be built as part of funding arrangements or similar. 

These include:

  • Gold or Platinum level homes
    Under the livable housing design guidelines there are also ‘gold’ and ‘platinum’ levels which are optional additional voluntary measures that focus on accommodating those with higher mobility needs. These levels introduce additional design features in areas such as the kitchen, bedrooms and living rooms. 
  • Fully wheelchair accessible homes
    Where a homeowner may seek a fully wheelchair accessible home, these can be designed and constructed to meet the requirements of the SDA Guidelines as well as AS 1428.1 Design for Access and Mobility. Beyond AS 1428.1, builders can also look at customised homes to the specific occupant’s needs and incorporate features such as ceiling hoists. There is a range of different options available now, including where space may be limited, flexible kitchen solutions and smart bathrooms.
  • SDA housing
    Under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) there are provisions and funding criteria for SDA housing. SDA is designed for people with extreme functional impairment or very high support needs. SDA dwellings have accessible features to help residents live more independently and allow other supports to be delivered efficiently and safely.

There are brands in the market already catering to these tailored and assisted living housing types. Their innovative product offerings go beyond the NCC requirements and raise the bar in terms of flexible, aesthetically pleasing and clever design. 

If you’re interested in what’s possible – beyond the new mandatory standards – here are some options to take note of.

‘We believe quality bathrooms are a fine balance of form, function and aesthetics no matter your mobility needs’
‘Modifications, no matter how discreet, are designed to provide above industry standard solutions,’ says Caroma’s Senior Manager – Commercial Marketing, David Cole

Enter with ease

According to Gary Cahoon, Häfele National Marketing Manager, Häfele is a company that offers suitable and clever product options for projects that require flexibility in design, from SDA to aged care, education or specialised residential builds. 

‘As humans, we long for connection, inclusiveness, and for independence and freedom of choice,’ he says. ‘The Assisted Living Range by Häfele supports exactly that. We want to assist in helping people to live an independent life while also creating spaces that everyone can enjoy and work in together.’ 

Gary adds that Häfele’s auto door solutions for accessibility prevent doors themselves from being a hindrance. Swing door systems make it easier to pass through whenever manual operation is too cumbersome or exhausting.

‘They are distinguished by their reliability and safety, as well as by a clear modern design line,’ he says. ‘Additional products provide ease of use for wardrobes, bathrooms and sliding doors.’

Flexible kitchens

In terms of assisted living housing projects, those that require adjustable working heights would benefit from Häfele’s ergonomic FlexiElectric benchtop, a discreet product that provides 300mm range of motion to adjust working height from 720mm to 1020mm at the touch of a button. 

‘By meeting SDA guidelines, the FlexiElectric benchtop doesn’t limit designers in their choice of benchtop material and is easily integrated into any interior design scheme, with installation details, legs and hardware cleverly hidden,’ Gary explains. 

As well as benchtop options, Häfele provides overhead wall cabinet fittings that lower to you in the seated position, such as the Verti Electric, Verti Inside and Verti Diagonal – which are all controlled with the touch of a button. Gary says that all electronic driven fittings are supplied with safety stop plates to avoid the risk of trapping.

‘The safety strips ensure benchtops and overhead mechanisms don’t just stop but reverse their movement immediately when the safety strip is activated. These are all supplied as standard equipment as a duty of care,’ he says.

The range also includes kitchen storage accessories, pull out corner units and pantries, integrated waste bins, soft close and opening drawers, appliances, sinks and taps, ergonomic furniture handles and LOOX LED lighting systems for intelligent and wireless lighting control.

‘We believe quality bathrooms are a fine balance of form, function and aesthetics no matter your mobility needs’
‘Modifications, no matter how discreet, are designed to provide above industry standard solutions,’ says Caroma’s Senior Manager – Commercial Marketing, David Cole
Stylish and strong bathrooms 

Much like Häfele, Caroma has an innate and detailed understanding of not just the basics in accessible product design but has proudly been working at an optimal level for some time in the assisted living arena.

From a research and design development perspective, Caroma reached out to researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Built Environment to build an understanding of the diverse needs of people in bathrooms to help guide the design and development of superior independent living products. 

According to Caroma’s Senior Manager – Commercial Marketing, David Cole, the LiveWell Care collection was designed to deliver optimal useability without compromising aesthetics. ‘Modifications, no matter how discreet, are designed to provide above industry standard solutions,’ he says.

Caroma’s Opal collection, for example, provides premium design and aesthetic flexibility to independent living. These include toilets, basins, tapware, showers, support rails and accessories in chrome, black and brushed nickel finishes to allow the creation of beautiful, tailored and supportive bathrooms. Innovative products include adaptable left or right-handed shower supports, integrated but removable armrests for toilet suites, and discreet folding shower seats.

The LiveWell Care collection comprises an extensive selection of AS 1428 compliant products designed to enable safety and independence for people with a wide variety of needs.

For people living with cognitive issues such as dementia, there are options for tapware with extra-large colour indicators. 

‘We have recently extended our LiveWell Care range to include matte black support rails and accessories to enable broader design and coloured options for independent living, with more options to come in 2023,’ David says. ‘We believe quality bathrooms are a fine balance of form, function and aesthetics no matter your mobility needs.’

Caroma’s aged care solutions not only look great, but the GermGard® protection integrated into the product surfaces helps control the spread of infection by killing 99 per cent of bacteria, making infection control easier.

For more information, plus planning support such as the Häfele TEC service for standards and instructions, visit Häfele.
And find out more about Caroma’s LiveWell and Opal collections.

  • Brand promotion: This article was compiled with contributions from Häfele and Caroma.
Brent Fletcher, Ausbuild Planning and Design Manager
The NCC 2022 requirements are easier to accommodate than those that we have experienced, and we can now draw on this knowledge to forge our methods for compliance 
Brent Fletcher, Ausbuild Planning and Design Manager 
Getting ahead of the game

HIA member Ausbuild offers silver and platinum-level livable housing solutions, with a range of different housing types in its portfolio from which homeowners can choose.

Planning and Design Manager Brent Fletcher explains: ‘We were initially looking for opportunities that can be championed and provide a point of difference. This resulted in a division in the business that was equipped with standard designs that met the AS 1428 requirements, with a display dwelling for the consumer to touch and feel.’ 

Brent says that any segments in business where you are ahead of the market will always provide some form of benefit. ‘The NCC 2022 requirements are easier to accommodate than those that we have experienced, and we can now draw on this knowledge to forge our methods for compliance,’ he says.

In Brent’s experience, the consumer who requests accessible features in their new house has usually experienced an injury or have a degenerative condition that highlights how standard housing can actually be a hindrance for the simplest of tasks. 

Published on 28 November 2022

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