Accessible design requirements crucial for new NCC, says AIA

The Australian Institute of Architects has asked federal and state building ministers to endorse the new minimum housing habitability standards that form part of the new National Building Code (NCC).

The National Building Code was revised by the group of building ministers last week. The new standard for habitable housing design calls for the introduction of basic minimum accessibility features to improve the lives of occupants.

AIA National President Shannon Battisson said the Institute is a strong advocate for architecture for all, which ensures accessible and inclusive design for every citizen.

“This new livable housing standard is just a minimum standard – a starting point. We need to move the standard forward to the gold and platinum standards of Livable Housing Australia,” she says.

“With over half a million people reported as needing a mobility aid alone in the 2018 ABS survey of disability, aging and carers, design standards such as wider doorways , the elimination of thresholds in people’s homes and the creation of bedrooms and bathrooms in a housing entry level must be considered in our homes.

The Federal Treasury’s 2021 Intergenerational Report projects that by 2060-61, 23% of Australia’s population is expected to be over 65, an increase of 7% from 2020-21. ABS life expectancy data released last year also indicates Australians aged 50 can expect to live another 35 years on average.

“All of this has major implications for our built environment, especially as we ‘age in place’ and seek to remain active and independent as much as possible in our homes and community,” says Battisson.

The Institute is a strong advocate for taking into account people with sensory, neurological and cognitive problems. Good design – which typically includes orientation and amounts of light and noise – gives everyone the opportunity to participate in the buildings in which they find themselves. Lack of mobility due to accident, injury, aging or illness is also an issue to be considered within the NCC.

Battisson says initial financial constraints should not be considered when issues such as accessibility are being discussed.

“The houses we build today will last at least 80 to 100 years,” she says.

“Setting higher standards now means that people who live with different abilities will not be restricted to a small supply of community or specialist housing. For all of us, we will be able to age in our own homes safely and comfortably. And even if we are lucky enough not to encounter any mobility limitations, we can invite family and friends with reduced mobility to visit our homes knowing that there will be no barriers.

“By raising livability standards for all housing, Australians today and future generations will benefit from a legacy that will give everyone more choice in the homes they choose to rent or buy – regardless of where they choose to live for work, family and lifestyle reasons”.

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