16 Dec 2015
Livable Housing Australia, a not-for-profit property industry group, is simplifying the process to assist more architects, designers, builder designers, access consultants, occupational therapists and building surveyors to adopt its national guidelines to make more new homes and apartments in Australia ‘more livable’.
The newly appointed Chair of Livable Housing Australia (LHA), Sophie Pickett-Heaps, who is also National Design Manager for Stockland’s Retirement Living business, said: “It doesn’t necessarily add anything to cost at first principles to a new home or apartment to make it more livable. It simply comes down to good, pragmatic design that is cognizant of the widest possible variety of homeowners of all ages, abilities and life stages whom may live in a home.
“We think new home and apartments in Australia should consider being designed to LHA Guidelines, and our goal is not for buyers and the industry to ask ‘why should I?” but rather, “why wouldn’t you design and build in accordance with the LHA Guidelines?”
These sentiments are echoed by Master Builders Australia’s CEO, Wilhelm Harnisch, who is taking on the role of Vice Chair in the new LHA Board, who said: “The new LHA Board is focused on a range of projects to streamline and simplify LHA’s processes.
“Everything we’re doing is geared towards making it easier for professionals engaged in every facet of residential design and development to understand, embrace and become certified to use and apply LHA Guidelines on every project they’re working on, on a daily basis,” explained Mr Harnisch.
Ms Picket-Heaps added: “We see the opportunity to expand the vernacular of our LHA Guidelines to real estate agents and mortgage brokers, and grow interest from other, related industries such as disability care and aged care service providers.
“With downloads of LHA guidelines sometimes reaching well into thousands per month, we know that there are members of the public asking the builders and developers to consider livable features, but they don’t always seek to use the LHA logo,” said Ms Pickett-Heaps.
LHA’s streamlined approach is intended to minimise costs and make it easier for industry to achieve certification.
Noting that industry professionals and large scale developers are building to the LHA Guidelines but not accrediting the design, the real change encourages architects, designers, builder designers, access consultants, occupational therapists and building surveyors who are qualified and hold professional indemnity to assist those seeking to build to the LHA Guidelines.
“Just as other industry standards – like Green Star – have continued to evolve and improve, LHA is focused on refinements that make certification easier for industry,” said Ms Pickett-Heaps.
“The pinnacle of success given Australia’s ageing population – will be when customers automatically ask agents and developers: ‘Has this home been designed to LHA standards?’” added Ms Pickett-Heaps.
Sophie Pickett-Heaps takes up the chair role from Graeme Innes who is stepping down off the board after a much valued contribution, however the inclusion of addition representatives of diverse organisations will guide LHA as it heads in its new direction.
An Industry Reference Group has been established to assist the Board and drive the application and continuous improvement of the LHA Guidelines.
“In its effort to renew the board, LHA has received expressions of interest from representatives from the access and industry professions as well as the disability and seniors sectors and will look to introduce some new faces over the coming months.
New corporate partners, including Frasers Property Australia, have joined the ranks of Stockland, Mirvac, Lendlease, Grocon and Meriton in signing up to build and develop more livable homes.
Education offerings – including the LHA Assessors’ Course – are being updated, and new material developed to encourage potential assessors to embrace the Guidelines. Existing assessors will be able to use the trademark in a simplified assessment model.
The website is being refined, which will better connect those needing advice on livable design directly with expert professionals and the industry bodies who can help.
“Many homes are already being designed and built to meet LHA benchmarks. We want to make it simpler for these homes to be recognised, and the best way to do this is to minimise costs and empower qualified professionals to assess, certify and issue the quality mark,” said Ms Pickett-Heaps.
“Outside of some simplifications, the bottom line is that the Guidelines haven’t changed, however the process has. LHA is driven by industry leadership and partnership – and the changes we are making will help us enhance our valued partnerships and bring industry closer,” she adds.
“While we are seeing real traction in the marketplace, these refinements will increase the volume of homes that are recognised, the awareness of LHA and ultimately ensure more Australians can enjoy the benefits of livable homes.”