The Beauty Of Inclusive, Universal Design
Developers, architects and planners must continue to work together to build accessible spaces for all and raise the bar for residential construction, writes Anthony Corin.
2 October 2023
The property development industry in New Zealand is continually changing and has been steering towards creating high quality residential homes that are driven by principles of inclusivity.
The goal of inclusive design, interchangeably known as universal design, is to create spaces that accommodate a diverse range of needs across all people.
NZ has a very diverse population whose needs are not entirely met by typical housing development standards. Developers would be contributing a great deal to the quality of NZ housing and growth of communities by embarking on innovative projects that address these specific needs around inclusivity.
Universal design prioritises accessibility and usability for everyone across a large scope of needs including disabilities, age and background. The country is quickly facing the reality of an increasingly ageing population, where many Kiwis’ needs are outside the scope of typical property design and construction.
To accommodate this demand architects and developers can work together during the design process to include features such as wider walkways and doors, accessible parking spots and mobility scooter parking.
Lift access for multi-level buildings, wheelchair ramp access to the front of the home, installation of smart technology within the home that can aid mobility and soundproofing construction systems for sensory comfort can also be included.
These additional features will not only make a world of difference to individuals and families who would be the target demographic, they will also enhance the experience for the general public who would benefit from increased attention to detail towards the comfort, quality and safety that an inclusive design can provide.
Designing a development under universal design principles offers several benefits for the end user who may need extra help navigating through their home.
These benefits are life-changing for many people to be able to live independently in their own space, feel safe in their own environment, feel that their specific needs are noticed and accepted, and to increase their quality of life.
For the developer, providing this safety and comfort is particularly important. An issue that can be expected during the development process would be an increase in construction costs to accommodate the additional required facilities in the design.
While there is an increase in construction costs, this can be levelled out by the fact that these better equipped homes would be of a higher value in the market, and that they contribute to the growth of the community.
Finding an architect and planner with expertise in this field and awareness of the requirements that must be included in the design for it to be considered of universal standard may become a challenge. It would be advantageous to seek a design team who have this particular experience. It is important for developers who intend to build inclusive projects to communicate with their target end-user to understand what they need.
This country is home to a very diverse group of people and universal design represents a fundamental shift to build a modern and more inclusive future. Principles of inclusivity and accessibility will reshape the cities we live in, as urban development advances to create cities and spaces for all to enjoy and for all to feel safe and comfortable.
Property developers, architects and planners must continue to work together to build these accessible spaces for all and raise the bar for residential construction.
This not only delivers quality, physical spaces which broaden market appeal, it also creates a positive social impact by embracing diversity, making New Zealand a more desirable place to live.
Anthony Corin and his team specialise in property development and construction using ICFs and operating through a relational contract, open-book system. Shorcom Ltd, 0800 SHORCOM, www.shorcom.co.nz