When clients brief us about their needs for a home, whether it is a completely new home or a major remodelling project, they usually focus on their current needs which are often driven by their children. However a well designed home needs to be adaptable to change over time.
The key is to design flexible spaces that meet current needs but allow for change as children leave home and everyone gets older. Here are some hints and tips to help you design a ‘home to last a lifetime’.
- Many houses use corridors to provide circulation space, however these are often narrow and become quite wasteful of space if they are widened to accommodate wheelchairs. An alternative is to revert to the way historic homes are often designed where you pass from room to room without using a corridor. This works well for the main living spaces and produces the commonly known “open plan”. It works less well for bedrooms and service rooms, but there is scope for imaginative planning in most parts of a house to keep corridors to a minimum and make movement from one space to another easy.
- Avoid split level design as this makes circulation for wheelchair users and the less able much more difficult. The stairs need to be ideally straight runs to easily accommodate a future stair lift and think about where potentially you could install a lift in the future.
- Design in a study/bedroom at ground floor level and form a shower room with toilet at ground floor level generously sized to allow for future disabled use. Is there a route for a ceiling mounted hoist track from a main bedroom to a bathroom?
- Allow for at least one wide car parking space (3.3m wide) close to the house and make the path from the car parking space to all the house entrances level or gently sloping, with external lighting to help in the dark.
- Design a covered main entrance to give you space top stop and find keys, set down shopping, etc and make sure there is a low threshold at the entrance door.
- Indeed all external doors should ideally have low thresholds and low level gazing to make it easy to move from inside to out and see out.
- All internal doors, including bathrooms should ideally be say 926x2040mm which after fitting the door stops gives you a 900 clear opening width. Use lever handles not knobs as they are much easier to open.
- Think about space to turn a wheelchair in the hallway and reception rooms.
- Install switches, sockets and other service outlets between 450 and 1200mm from the floor.
- Make sure that wherever you can you use low maintenance materials. They could have a long lasting finish or perhaps a natural finish that weathers nicely when left to the elements.
- Use conduit and ducts for wiring to allow for easy re-wiring as technology changes.
- Invest in insulation and renewable energy to keep energy bills low (see separate blog)