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Designing housing with seniors and people with a disability in mind

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03 June 2021

At MGAC, we believe that all older people and those living with a disability should have access to well-designed and accessible housing. With this in mind, we are always mindful to guide our clients to work within the requirements laid out in the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) Seniors Living.

Designing housing with seniors and people with a disability in mind

 

By Anthony Leuzzi

At MGAC, we believe that all older people and those living with a disability should have access to well-designed and accessible housing. With this in mind, we are always mindful to guide our clients to work within the requirements laid out in the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) Seniors Living.

Despite the intent of the SEPP Seniors Living, misinterpretation of the guidelines is common in the building industry. MGAC Associate Director Anthony Leuzzi explores the topic in more detail below.

Purpose of the SEPP Senior Living

 

The objective of this policy is to create an opportunity for the development of housing that is suited to the needs of seniors who are independent, mobile and active, as well of those who are frail who experience a disability. When well-considered and constructed, a SEPP Seniors Living unit offers a design lay out that identifies relocation of doors, kitchen cabinets, wardrobes, bathroom fixtures and fittings.

 

However, the thought process behind these relocations can often be misguided due to fundamental misunderstandings of the SEPP Seniors Living guidelines. In particular, the policy’s relationship to the Adaptable Housing Code – AS4299 can often by misinterpreted. Namely, confusion comes in concerning when modifications can and should be made.

 

Ensuring compliance at construction stage

 

Some housing features that fall within the SEPP design guidelines can be modified after construction. But this isn’t the case for all elements. For example, changes to smaller design elements such as washbasins, grab rails, portable shower heads and seats can be adjusted and modified at the resident’s request. However, all major elements referenced in the SEPP need to be made compliant at the construction stage.

 

While the SEPP outlines the importance of modification during the construction stage, there are occasions when this cannot be completed. In the event of structural limitations or construction errors, a different approach may need to be applied. At MGAC, we have a number of skills and strategies to assist our clients to make the necessary modifications to meet SEPP requirements and enhance the living standard of all those looking to move into these specialised developments.

  

Our approach to meet SEPP requirements

 

When it comes to designing with SEPP in mind, everyone involved in the construction process needs to consider the needs of the market and the end user. If there are discrepancies between building requirements and the design, MGAC consultants will often apply one of two solutions: a performance solution or a management plan.

 

Performance solutions are provided to help builders and architects avoid extensive construction reworks. While this is a normal method for building types under the National Construction Code (NCC) and Building Codes of Australia (BCA), a performance solution is not recognised as a “solution” under the SEPP Senior Living. In this case, we will work closely with all stakeholders, from builders, architects and clients themselves, to established alternative measures through a management plan.

 

Through a management plan, we provide all involved parties with a way forward to address the noncompliance elements to suit the needs of elderly or disabled residents. Alternatively, clients are also given the option to leave noncompliance elements untouched in light of commercial decisions.

 

Whatever direction our clients take, we pride ourselves on our approach to always work to uphold the requirements of the SEPP whenever possible and necessary.

 

Plan ahead to meet construction requirements

 

The design and construction of a SEPP Seniors Living Development must be fully compliant at construction stage. In instances when this isn’t possible, we work alongside our clients to find alternative measures to ensure the development moves forward.

 

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