We Talk with O’Shea & Sons about Universal Home Design



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Recently, you have probably come across references to Universal Housing Design and you may be wondering what this is and how it relates to you.

Well, we speak with O’Shea & Sons about the importance of Universal Housing Design and the benefits it can bring.

  • What is universal housing design? 

Universal design is about adopting and applying principles that will result in safer and more adaptable and livable homes now and for the future.

accessible entrance

We here at O’Shea and Sons Builders are committed to assisting people better understand what future-proofing means for them and how this can be applied to their building projects. We offer design and build packages that incorporates a collaboration model involving a Building Designer (Jazz Designs) who is an accredited livable housing assessor. Livable Housing Australia Design Guidelines is the best source of information regarding universal design for homes.

At the end of the day it is about treating everyone the same by enabling all of us to go through the same front door and once inside have similar experiences.

  • What is important about universal housing design?

Margaret Ward, Co-convenor – Australian Network for Universal Housing Design uses this statement which we here at O’Shea and Sons Builders have adopted.

Accessibility is getting in the door;

Diversity is being invited to the table;

Inclusion is having a voice at the table;

Belonging is when your voice is heard;

Universal is everyone, everywhere, every time.

The last statement: Universal is everyone, everywhere, every time – as a society we still have a long way to go before we reach the universal status. However, across the world, we are seeing and sharing information and case studies where good practice is being applied, understood and adopted in housing.

Nick O’Shea (O’Shea and Sons Builders) says – “Sustainability and eco-conscious practices are more popular in today’s society as we become intentionally aware of our purchase decisions and the impacts that they have on our environment but equally as important is the need for us to consider the sustainability of our lives.

wide hall with no impediments

Living with a worldwide pandemic has provided us with many insights none more important than the family home and how we live, work and educate in that home. Our values have been strongly challenged along with our role and interaction with our aging population. As builders, we are in a prime position to influence the change in mindset around universal design and accessibility.

The importance of universal housing design is a key factor in living sustainably.”

  • Who are universally designed homes for?

Whether retirement is on the horizon, you have a family member with mobility challenges, or you are seeking to invest for the future, a universally designed home that has met the Livable Housing Australia Design Guidelines is the answer. A universally designed home has inclusive living spaces, is easy for people of all ages and abilities to enter and navigate and can be readily adapted should needs change.

lift to enable access to level 1 and rooftop terrance
  •  What features should a universally designed home come standard with?

The features of universally designed homes are not too many at all but what is more important is the value these features have on people living or visiting the home. Things like:

  1. Step-free access to the property and entrance in the home
  2. Wider door openings and hallways
  3. Space in and around the toilet – best if on ground level
  4. Hob free shower recess
  5. Provisions for grab rails and considerations to non-slip flooring
  6. Ease of moment in and around kitchen and laundry
  7. Ground-level sleeping provisions
  8. Stairways that are safe and adaptable
  9. Usability of power points, light switches, door and window handles.

Universally designed homes are about inclusiveness and without discrimination. We were all put on this earth to connect and what better way to bond then by providing homes that enable inclusiveness whether it be the resident or a visitor to the home.

large door openings
  • What is the NCC livable housing design standard?

The Australian Network for Universal Housing Design states: “On 30 April 2021, the Building Ministers agreed to mandate the Livable Housing Design Silver Level as a standard for all new housing in the National Construction Code (NCC).

The Gold Standard will also be included as a ‘technical referral’ meaning the states and territories can decide to upgrade to Gold voluntarily.”         

Changes to the National Construction Code are to come into effect in September 2022. However, not all states are supporting the introduction.

O’Shea and Sons Builders have been behind the support of introducing changes to the national construction code from the onset. Firstly with the submission of a case study, followed by supplying videos and photos for the campaign by Building Better Homes

seamless indoor-outdoor living

One of our team members has a background in universal design and accessibility and he has been a great advocate in ensuring the business is always mindful of the need for more homes to meet these requirements.

Our Pavilion Lutzow Project was a national finalist in the Housing Industry Association (HIA) awards for Speciality Housing in 2020. In the future, we hope that universal design will not need to be labelled ‘speciality’.

Nick advises: I have just completed the construction of a designer display home in the Brisbane suburb of Tarragindi that we are calling Amulree Tarragindi. While the house is home to my family, I also run my head office from the premises and utilise the home to showcase to our clients, design elements, craftsmanship and quality of products. The home has been designed with universal features including a lift, accessible entrances, extra wide garage, ground-level bathroom, ease of movement throughout including seamless indoor and outdoor living. We are extremely proud to show that universal and accessible do not need to be clinical but can blend beautifully into the environment.

We are partnering with suppliers who share our values and have available products that contribute to improving livability in the home. An example includes our recent video and podcast with Alspec.

  • How important is it for there to be widespread awareness around universal housing design?
accessible powder room with WC, vanity and shower, provisions for grab rails

There is still lots of work to be done across Australia to achieve unity. As mentioned previously not all states have agreed to implement the new standards. Right now we all need Western Australian, South Australia and New South Wales to come onboard.

  • What can the community do to assist in the furthering of universal home design?

If you reside in the states that are not supporting the introduction of the proposed standards, why not get on board and see what you can do to encourage the uptake of the proposed standards.

  • Is there any design or aesthetic benefits to universal home design?

Images speak a thousand words – so here are some examples:

 

kitchen with amble moveability, accessible appliances, connectivity between cooktop and rangehood
Kitchen with lower bench to cater for all the family or guests whether young or mobility challenged
  • Final Comments

The O’Shea and Sons Builder’s nationally recognised home, dubbed the Pavilion Lutzow Project is a stellar example of future-proofing through universal design and adherence to the Livable Housing Australia Design Guidelines.

Amulree Tarrigandi – their latest project will soon be published.

For more information

O’Shea & Sons Builders

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