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Are you building a new home or renovating? If so, give consideration to making your house as inclusive as possible. Often referred to as universal design, building your house to welcome people of all ages and abilities not only benefits guests, but will allow you to comfortably reside in your home across various life stages.

Historically the process of creating spaces in properties that suit the needs of children, people with types of disabilities and the elderly are ‘special additions’ or require items that need to be retrofitted. However, as awareness improves and people realise the long term value for money that universal design provides, home designs in Melbourne, Sydney and across Australia are evolving.

Ronald Mace, the architect attributed to the use of the term universal design, suggests that it should be guided by principles that make spaces supportive, adaptable, accessible and safety orientated. As language evolves to prioritise people first, rather than perceived disabilities, it only makes sense that  building standards evolve to make living spaces more functional and flexible for all people.

At the planning stage, an awareness of equitable use will allow you to plan properly to enhance the functionality of spaces such as kitchens and bathrooms. Features of this approach will include standard measurements such as 36inch/91.5cm wide doorways, 44 inch/112cm wide hallways and light switch placement at 42inch/107cm from the ground. In addition to this, the ability to use your house easily despite any physical limitations is also important, even the young and healthy can face periods of temporary illness or injury that can affect mobility and impairment.

In the kitchen, universal design could mean adjustable drawer storage with D shaped pulls, lever faucets, magnetic induction cooktops and even knee space under areas such as sinks or cooktops where retractable cabinet doors can be installed. Having ovens and even dishwashers at a comfortable height is also wise. Another consideration could be for left-handed access including positioning of appliances or cooktop configuration. Lazy-Susan storage in your cabinets is also incredibly handy!

If internally renovating, there are also updates you may incorporate to increase a space’s functionality. You mightreplace door knobs with lever handles and update light switches to the large flat panel variety.On the topic of lighting, placing wall sockets 18 inches from the floor improves accessibility. You may not have dimming capability for your lighting, but it too is valuable, as well as automatic or easily activated lighting in spaces where stairs or odd angles for through traffic exist. In potentially hazardous areas such as stairs, contrast patterns and clear visibility benefits people of all ages when moving around their house whether with children, furniture or mobility aids.

Building a home that’s designed to be barrier free is also a good investment if you intend to sell in the future. Depending on your location and property size, it can even add serious value to your sale price as ageing populations rise globally and retirement living options become limited by finances or availability.