25 September 2012 — Livable Housing Australia is hoping industry will take up its silver performance rating – the lowest of three ratings – in a bid to make all new housing suitable for aged and disabled people.

Livable Housing Australia’s program was launched this week.

Executive director Amelia Starr said the program focused on “a mainstream adoption” and was therefore working on the “silver” rating as the most easily achievable.

Ms Starr said in presentations to industry, the silver rating had been given a good reception.

“We do need to do some education so industry is skilled up but we want industry to adopt this across the board,” she said.

The first step would be pilot projects in partnership with industry to sort out any glitches, she said.

Ms Starr said current building saw houses for “the here and now, the fit and well” but “life wasn’t like that, it’s fluid”.

“We work on sustainability in the home, with lighting and heating, but we don’t look at sustaining ‘us’ in the home. Livability is something we should all be aspiring to.”

Ms Starr said while the program was aimed at making homes suitable for aged and disabled people it would also provide for parents.

“Mothers know what it’s like to wheel a pram up stairs to their homes, and how many parents have their own elderly parents in the home looking after their children.

“The reality is that at any one time there could be four generations in the one house.”

LHA chair, Peter Verwer, who is also chief executive officer of the Property Council of Australia, said  the organisation’s goal was for the housing industry to step up to a new design standard, the Livable Housing Design Quality Mark, to ensure all new houses were safer, more comfortable and easier to get around by 2020.

“Livable Housing Australia champions the adoption of seven critical ‘livable’ design features that help make homes easier to access, navigate and live in, as well more cost-effective to adapt when life’s circumstances change,” Mr Verwer said.

“Livable homes work for pregnant mums, young families with kids, as well and those with disability and Australians with sporting or traumatic injuries.

“‘Livability’ also caters for the needs of an ageing society by promoting homes better suited to seniors. Livable homes will also reduce stress on Australia’s 2.6 million-strong army of unpaid carers.”

Living housing standards will have three performance ratings – silver, gold and platinum.

Mr Verwer said the features contained in the guidelines were inexpensive to incorporate into new-build dwellings and would deliver huge dividends as well as peace of mind to future generations of Australians.

“It makes sense to commit to livability features when a home is first designed and built rather than wait for an unplanned need to arise,” he said.

“Our goal is to persuade the market to incorporate silver level livability features in all homes by 2020.”

LHA national patron Therese Rein said she was inspired by the experiences of her father who lost the use of his legs after a flying accident in World War II.

“I grew up with my dad in a wheelchair and I know what a difference Livable Housing would have made to him and to us as a family,” she said.

“That’s why I wholeheartedly support Livable Housing Australia; so that every Australian can occupy a home that feels like home.”

The seven core design features elements in the silver level are:

  • A safe continuous and step free path of travel from the street entrance and/or parking area to a dwelling entrance that is level
  • At least one level (step-free) entrance into the dwelling
  • Internal doors and corridors that facilitate comfortable and unimpeded movement between spaces
  • A toilet on the ground (or entry) level that provides easy access
  • A bathroom that contains a hobless (step-free) shower recess6
  • Reinforced walls around the toilet, shower and bath to support the safe installation of grabrails at a later date
  • A continuous handrail on one side of any stairway where there is a rise of more than one metre

See the the Living Design Guide here.