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Universal Design: What does it mean?

Universal Design means designing a house to meet the changing needs of occupants across their lifetime. It recommends the inclusion of key easy living features that can help to make a home easier and safer to use for everyone, including: people with disability, ageing Australians, people with temporary injuries and families with young children.

What are the features of a universally designed home?

A universally designed home seeks to enhance quality of life for all occupants at all stages of their life by including safer and more user friendly design features. 

A universally designed home should: 

  • be easy to enter 
  • be easy to move in and around 
  • be capable of easy and cost-effective adaptation 
  • be designed to anticipate and respond to the changing needs of home occupants. 

A  program, established by Livable Housing Australia, provides guidelines on universal design with a range of features that can be included in new home design or renovation. 

Examples of Universal Design features

As part of the HIA GreenSmart program, HIA has identified the silver level requirements from the Livable Housing Australia Guidelines that can be voluntarily included in a new home and can be considered when making changes to an existing home: 

  • Provide a continuous pathway from the street or car parking area to an entrance of the dwelling
  • Provide at least one covered level entry area (doorway) into the home with a clear opening of 820mm
  • Incorporate a bathroom, living space and bedroom on the entrance level of the home
  • Incorporate reinforcing in the bathroom walls to allow future installation of grab rails in the shower and adjacent to the toilet or install grab rails
  • Have a hobless/step-free shower recess and an adjustable/detachable hand-held shower rose. 
  • Provide internal doorways a minimum clear opening of 820mm and corridors of 1 metre. 

The National Dialogue on Universal Housing Design

HIA was a member of the National Dialogue on Universal Housing Design established by the federal government. The Dialogue published the Livable Home Design Guidelines that are now used by Livable Housing Australia to provide more details on how to design these features in a home. 

More information can be found through via Livable Housing Australia and in the HIA GreenSmart House Protocol. 

For more information about HIA GreenSmart or Universal Design, contact the HIA Planning Services advisor in your region or the HIA Building Services team. 


To find out more, contact HIA’s Building Services team.

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