A significant change is coming that may raise concerns for many within the residential construction industry. Accessible housing provisions will become part of the Building Code of Australia (BCA) on 1 September 2022.
In our latest blog, MGAC Director and Co-founder David Goding takes a closer look at the accessible housing changes, and what they’ll mean for the industry and those who rely on improved accessibility features.
What sparked the changes
These accessible housing changes have been a long time coming. In September 2018, the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) provided a preliminary menu of options and costings on the possible inclusion of a minimum accessibility standard for housing in the National Construction Code (NCC). As a result, the Accessible Housing Options Paper was released for public consultation in October 2018 by the ACBC. A series of consultation forums were then held around Australia and feedback subsequently shaped the report for the Regulation Impact Statement.
It is widely expected that all states and territories will proceed with the inclusion of Accessible Housing provisions within the NCC 2022.
What the NCC changes mean
The accessible housing provisions will mean that all new houses, dual occupancies, townhouses, apartments, granny flats and other types of housing will need to incorporate mandatory accessible housing features.
These features have been inspired by the Silver Level standard specified in the Livable Housing Design Guidelines (LHDG). The features include:
· Step free access from street and parking areas
· Step free entrance into a dwelling
· Internal doors and corridors that facilitate comfortable and unimpeded movement between spaces
· A toilet on the ground (or entry) level which provides easy access
· A bathroom that contains a hobless shower recess
· Reinforced walls around the toilet, shower and bath to support the safe installation of grabrails at a later date
· Stairways designed to reduce the likelihood of injury and also enable future adaptation.
Advantages of the NCC changes
This is a significant change to the NCC. In fact, it is possibly the largest single and impactful amendment since its inception. Accessible housing provision will shape accessibility and universal access for generations to come, catering not only for people with disabilities, but also for seniors and families with young children.
In particular, accessible housing will cater for Australia’s ageing baby boomers population.. Numbering more than 5 million, the baby boomers are the largest generational cohort in Australia’s history.
We are entering into a period where enormous strains are already being placed on housing at a level never seen before. These new accessible housing feature will serve to improve liveability, accessibility and safety in all new Australian homes, and will allow people to age more safely in their own home. It is anticipated that the inclusion of safety features will lead to decreases in incidences of slips, trips and falls within the home and a decrease in hospitalisation cases as a result.
Accessible housing provision will also allow for a better quality of intergenerational housing that may well lead to an offset in the need for residential care facility.
Ushering in the NCC changes
At this time, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, ACT and Northern Territory will proceed with the inclusion of Accessible Housing provisions within the NCC 2022. Unfortunately, New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia have refused to commit to these provisions, which is a considerable disappointment.
Instigating these changes to the NCC throughout all states and territories will require a different way of thinking across the industry. While there may be short-term incremental build costs associated with these accessible features, these changes are ultimately in the services of future-proofing new houses. Chiefly, they are for the improved wellness and liveability of all occupants within these new dwellings. In our opinion, the advantageous changes to the NCC should be open to all Australians, not only those who reside in states who choose to implement the recommended updates.
At MGAC, we proudly advocate for policy changes at a federal, state and local level that improve accessibility outcomes for clients and occupants alike. The changes to the NCC are an important step forward to securing a new national minimum standard for accessible housing throughout Australia.