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Scottish housing associations call for new approach to design

16 Sep 20 Adopting a new approach to design could enable housing to meet people’s needs throughout their lives according to new research.

The new design concept aims to meet people’s physical and social needs throughout their lives, says the research published by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA).

The study, led by Dr Vikki McCall of the University of Stirling, found that certain current design features found in affordable homes that have been designed for people with a particular need could be included as standard. For example, homes designed for people with dementia include plugs fitted at a higher level to increase visibility and accessibility. Designing homes to have this as standard would create homes that are safer for people who are growing older as well as families with small children.

The research explores the concept of an ‘inclusive living and design’ approach which would see all homes in the social housing sector designed for all ages and abilities. It would remove physical and social barriers to inclusion through design, encouraging intergenerational communities and increasing social cohesion.

The approach aims to strengthen relationships between individuals and support services such as health and social care. It also aims to help people to live longer in their own homes, which could lead to savings in other public spending areas such as the NHS.  

SFHA said that further research is needed to examine the cost implications of the social housing sector adopting inclusive design. However, cost implications may be lessened if decisions are made at early stages in the development process. 

SFHA has created a toolkit to help its members to explore how they can incorporate inclusive design into their developments. SFHA is also calling for the next Scottish government to commit to reviewing the current Housing for Varying Needs Standard and to carrying out a study with housing associations to examine the feasibility of bringing standards of accessibility into the mainstream.

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McCall said: “Through inclusive design, we can create homes that are suitable for everyone. There are simple current practices that we can start to incorporate into all housing design in order to future-proof our housing to be suitable for all ages and abilities. 

“We need to rethink developments that add on accessibility and ask why we are not starting with making our homes and environment as accessible as possible as a long-term strategy – with a population that is living longer than before, this has never been more important.” 

Lorna Wilson, SFHA head of policy and innovation, said: “This research has come at a time when there are calls being made for home and place design standards to be reviewed in light of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Inclusive living moves beyond just the design of the home; it considers the importance of community places and services and creates opportunities for social, cultural, and economic participation. By working in partnership with our members and key stakeholders, we can provide the types of homes and communities that meet the physical and social needs of everyone – now and in the future.”

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