Home design with the future in mind

Building or rebuilding in Canterbury should be a common sense process… but for many it’s not. Regardless of your technical category, your insurance woes, your age or location – the one thing you can completely control is your home’s ability to cater for you – for a lifetime!

Now is your chance to make sure your new home meets the needs of your family and lifestyle now, and into the future.

This lifetime value is easy to achieve and does not require a lot of extra investment and it means you potentially save a lot of time, trauma and money.

The Lifemark is an independent seal of approval that means your home will be adaptable, accessible, usable and safe now and into the future.

Lifemark general manager, Andrew Olsen says the Lifemark is all about common sense. “With a new build it’s simple and costs no more to incorporate features that will enable you to live in your home, regardless or your age or circumstances.

“Wider doorways, reinforced walls for bathroom safety rails (should they ever be needed) and room to move, be it in a pram or a wheelchair, all make a house liveable – now and into the future.”

The Lifemark is a quality assurance system based on research, standards settings and rigorous processes that ensure your home is adaptable and accessible, but looks no different to any other home. “Simply put – it’s the building industry’s equivalent to the Heart Foundation tick,” Andrew says.

“The Lifemark means you can live with confidence, knowing your home is adaptable, accessible and safe to live in for every member of your family, extended family or guests, no matter what their age, stage or ability.”

As our population ages, this is a very real issue. “Currently the housing stock across New Zealand cannot cater for this fastest growing segment of the community.” The largest growth in the aging population is happening now. From 2011 to 2037 more than 500 baby boomers move into the 65+ age bracket every week. By the late 2020’s it is expected that we will have over 1 million people aged 65 years and over. “We need to build now to accommodate this.”

Andrew adds that Lifemark Approved homes provide greater opportunities when you go to sell. “Having a fully accessible home means you increase the number of potential buyers interested in your home. Not only does it have that point of difference – it caters for all people; be it a person in a wheelchair who uses other mobility aids, an elderly couple or a young family with pushchairs.”

Putting safety first

Slips, trips and falls in the home make up the majority of all ACC claims. The cost for treatment and rehabilitation is around $293 million per year… and climbing. A home that is Lifemark Approved reduces the risk of accidents.

“Again its common sense – it’s about having light switches at both the top and bottom of the staircase, having space to move around your bed without tripping and ensuring the kitchen is not a thoroughfare through the house.”

Andrew says the statistics show that it is not just the very young or elderly who are injured in the home, supposedly the safest place on earth. “People aged 25-64 make up 41 percent of all home falls and account for 60 percent of the cost. By incorporating safety and future proofing design principles into a new home, you can save up to 80 percent of the cost of modifying your home, should you later need to add features like safety rails in the bathroom, a walk-in shower or a level entrance way.”

Since the earthquakes, Andrew has worked hard in the Canterbury region to educate the building industry, the authorities and the public about Lifemark. “There are now a good number of builders, building companies and architects in Canterbury who are Lifemark Accredited and can incorporate the Lifemark Design Standards into your home. Lifemark Accredited professionals make the process very simple,” Andrew adds.

Lifemark is endorsed by the New Zealand Government and is used extensively across the country by councils and the Department of Building and Housing for social housing and many retirement investment companies incorporate it into their standard over 60’s accommodation.

What does a Lifemark home look like?

The answer is simple – just like any other home.

What a Lifemark Approved home has is some simple features that allow access and liveability for all people and some hidden features that mean you can adapt the home to allow for any future occurrence – be it mobility issues due to ageing, disability due to an accident, or creating a multi-generational home to accommodate the extended family.

The entrance
From the parking space, which is wide enough for everyone to get easily in and out of cars, you enter the home via non-slip pathways that are well lit, level, and lead to a generous doorway. These features allow for seamless and trouble free access into the house if you are loaded down with shopping bags, or for parents with children and pushchairs, for furniture movement, for kids with toys and of course walking aids and wheelchairs.

The kitchen
This is the heart of your home, but not a main thoroughfare and the dining area is located close by. The appliances will be easily accessible and away from corners and the taps will have lever handles.

The living room
Light switches and door handles are placed at a convenient height and often side by side, making them easy to locate. The power sockets, TV, phone and computer outlets are placed away from corners and are also at accessible heights up from the floor – meaning a person with limited mobility can easily access them. Windows have lever handles that are easily accessed and workable for those who suffer with ailments like arthritis.

The bathroom
The design incorporates space for a level entry shower, if not now, but in the future. The toilet is accessible by everyone and is on the entry level of the house. The walls are reinforced to attach grab rails and support a seat in the shower if required later.

The bedroom
Again, this room has wide and clear door openings with easy access around the bed and to a bathroom. The light switches and door handles are at accessible heights and there is at least one bedroom at the entry level of the house.

What are the benefits of a Lifemark home?

Your home can be lived in for a lifetime.

It will see you and your family through every age, stage and ability, ensuring you have an accessible, enjoyable and safe living environment.

Common sense design is for the whole family, and when you go to sell, you have a home with a point of difference that will appeal to a wider audience.

What is the cost of achieving the Lifemark?

Lifemark is a quality assurance mark and the only cost associated with ensuring your home meets the criteria are the building costs associated with complying. In many cases, this is negligible; wider doorways and hallways can be allowed for within the design and there is no cost to having light fittings, power points and door handles placed at readily accessible heights. Additional bracing within bathroom and toilet walls, to fit supports along with the sealing of wet rooms may require some additional funding, but compared to retro fitting, the cost is minimal.

How can I get the Lifemark?

Ask your designer or builder to support the Lifemark when you are building or renovating. Lifemark has many accredited building partners; assessments are independent and can be provided free of charge.


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