In the year prior to June 2021, approximately 200,000 new homes were built across Australia (ABS 2022) - all of which were designed and constructed to meet the requirements of the National Construction Code. Over that same period in Australia, only 800 new homes were designed and built to meet the Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) requirements for varying levels of occupant accessibility (NDIS 2021). An average of this build rate shows that it would take nearly 20 years before there was a new SDA compliant home built in every one of Australia’s 15,353 suburbs and localities.
There are currently over 1.1 million people (4.4%) in Australia who use a wheelchair and are impacted by the considerations of their homes (AND 2022). Compared to 0.4% of new buildings that meet SDA requirements, it’s easy to see that there are limited housing options for many Australians. SUHO is engaged in the design and consulting across a range of projects and because of this we understand that not every aspect of a new home needs to exceed minimum standards. Despite this, knowing the number of people whose requirements are not considered - there is a case for making all housing more accessible to everyone.
While catering to all requirements in the SDA design standard may not be feasible for every future home, there is one simple consideration that would go a long way - space. Naturally, there are arguments against increasing the widths of doors and hallways, or for making bathrooms as efficient and compact as possible - sometimes the budget is simply too tight or the block of land is simply too narrow.
If you've worked with us in a design you would know that we like to be efficient in the use of space to reduce the embodied and operational energy of a home, but there's another side to the equation - sufficiency.
Is the minimum amount of space required by the NCC sufficient for everyone who might live there? Every designer and consultant knows that finding the right balance is key, our belief is that the balance needs to account for a greater range of occupants over the entire lifespan of the building.
In the end, it’s not so radical, we just need to add a little more space. Drawing from the most stringent requirements set out in the SDA Design Guidelines (which also align with the Livable Housing Australia Guidelines) here are a handful of key examples:
- Corridors and entryways
- Minimum width of 1200mm for corridors & 850mm for doors
- 1500mm and 920mm are our recommendations as some electric wheelchairs can be quite long and the dimensions just feel great.
- Kitchen & Laundry
- Minimum 1550mm clearance around benches and a 700mm bench depth for appliances.
- You can never have too many cooks in the kitchen!
- Minimum of 2300mm from the back of the WC pan & 2350mm for the shower with side clearance for both (these can overlap).
- For at least one bathroom in the home work from 2600mm x 3000mm as a minimum - particularly thinking about where the toilet, shower and vanity are located in relation to the SDA requirements.
- Accommodate a queen size bed with a minimum 1540mm on one side of the space and 1000mm on the two other sides.
- Where there are joinery or operable windows we recommend allowing 1550mm on any side of the bed that has joinery, operable windows or a doorway directly adjacent.
- Living Area
- Accommodate a free space minimum 2250mm diameter clear of furniture.
- This is an easy one…
Many of these requirements simply make a home more comfortable to live in, whether the occupant needs the additional space or not. We encourage all architects, designers, and future home builders to take some time to review the design standards and see if this is something you can incorporate into your projects.
Homes are built to last a lifetime, so let's support the lives of the people who will live there into the future.
ABS. (2021, December). Building Activity, Australia. Retrieved May 2022, from https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/industry/building-and-construction/building-activity-australia
AND. (2021). Disability Statistics. Retrieved May 2022, from Australian Network on Disability: https://www.and.org.au/resources/disability-statistics/#:~:text=Over%204.4%20million%20people%20in,with%20disability%20increases%20with%20age
Livable Housing Australia. (2020). Livable Housing Design Guidelines. Retrieved May 2022, from https://livablehousingaustralia.org.au/design-guidelines/
NDIS. (2021, December 9). NDIS specialist disability accommodation 2021-22 quarter 1 report. Retrieved May 2022, from NDIS: https://data.ndis.gov.au/media/3202/download?attachment
NDIS. (2022). SDA Design Standard. Retrieved May 2022, from NDIS: https://www.ndis.gov.au/providers/housing-and-living-supports-and-services/specialist-disability-accommodation/sda-design-standard