Designing a sustainable home isn’t limited to ideas like passive heating from the sun, water conservation and reduced energy use. Being sustainable also means a dwelling that ages gracefully. A home that is well-built and anticipates the needs of its aging residents is one that can be used for many years. This is the message in the Livable Housing Design guidelines.
Why use Livable Housing Design guidelines?
Our first clue about the importance of the residents’ relationship with the house came from Maroondah Council’s suggestions for environmentally sustainable design. Along with the other ideas we’d already noted, Council recommends being sustainable includes designing buildings with people in mind. That means ensuring easy access for the young and aged.
This message was explained in more detail at the Australian Government’s Your Home website. Anticipating the different needs of residents of all ages makes for a house design that is both livable and adaptable. Sustainability is improved because there isn’t the need for extra resources to be used with major renovations done at a later date.
Given that we’d like to stay in our new home for as long as possible, the concept of living housing design was attractive to us.
What are the Livable Housing Design Guidelines?
Next stop on our journey of enlightenment was the Living Housing Design guidelines where all would be explained.
The guidelines provide design criteria for each area of the house. For example, doorways and corridors have to be a minimum width for easy access. Slip resistant flooring is required in the kitchen and laundry. Walls in the bathroom and toilet are reinforced so that handrails can be easily installed later.
The guidelines are specific and make good sense. They also provide a choice about how far to go with the idea.
We’re aiming for the silver rating, with touches of gold. Platinum is for a design that goes all out.
The tricky bit.
While discussing the livable housing design idea with David, we discovered the trickiest bit is probably going to be the front entrance.
Creating a gently sloping, bump-free entrance way will require some thought. The slope of the block means that having a few small steps going downwards is the easiest way to access the front door. A gently sloping ramp takes up a lot of space. Then we have to sort out what to do with any rainwater that finds its way down the slope and ends up at the door. Usually a lip would be installed to prevent the water continuing its journey into the house.
Eliminating the downward slope near the front door could mean significantly more earthworks. Moving large amounts of earth around wouldn’t be consistent with our aim to have the new houses settle lightly on the existing land. Not to mention there would be higher stairs at the back of the house.
Thinking caps on everyone!