New livable house rules and new design codes
Are you on top of the new livable house guidelines?
Livable house guidelines
Have you heard that the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) and National Construction Code (NCC) have recently updated the Livable Housing Guidelines, called ‘NCC 2022’? In fact, the NCC 2022 includes some of the biggest alterations to the Code since 2011 when they merged the Building Codes of Australia and the Plumbing Code of Australia.
As busy ADF members, we know it’s hard to keep track of these changes. So, in this blog post we’ll explain what these new livable house rules and new design codes are and what they mean for your property investment portfolio.
If you’re short on time, but need to learn more about the new livable house rules and new design codes, then book into our FREE Capital Properties Discovery Session to learn more.
On the go? Here’s 30 seconds of take outs:
- The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) have updated the National Construction Code (NCC).
- The update is called ‘NCC 2022’ & is current from 1st May 2023.
- A major change is the introduction of the Livable Housing Design Guidelines – co-developed with Livable Housing Australia (LHA).
- These new livable house rules and new design codes were developed to make houses more accessible & adaptable in the future.
- 35.9% of Australia’s population has a disability and that prevalence increases to 49.6% with people over 65 years.
- The new livable house rules support housing choice, ageing in place & reduces cost of housing modifications.
- Livable Housing Design Guidelines apply to new Class 1a & Class 2 buildings.
- Landlords can charge higher rents for accessible properties.
- There are 3 Living Housing Australia (LHA) standards, Silver, Gold and Platinum. See below for the 7 core design elements and full breakdown of the new design codes.
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The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB)
The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) is an organisation that writes nationwide standardised building requirements, including the National Construction Code (NCC).
It’s the ABCB’s job to make sure that builders meet set standards for safe, accessible, and sustainable housing. They do this through education and industry engagement. The ABCB is part of a joint endeavour by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments, and the country’s plumbing and building industries.
The National Construction Code (NCC)
The National Construction Code (NCC) is the updated version of the Building Code of Australia (BCA). The NCC establishes technical design and construction parameters for buildings, including plumbing and drainage work.
It sets the minimum required level for accessibility, amenity, health, safety, and sustainability levels for certain buildings in Australia. It is mandated by the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB), on behalf of the Australian Government and each State and Territory government.
The latest update to the Code is called ‘NCC 2022’ and is expected to be adopted by most Australian States and Territories from 1st May 2023. The following standards are considered integral parts of the new NCC 2022; NatHERS heating and cooling load limits, Whole-of-home efficiency factors, Fire safety verification method and Livable housing design. The Livable Housing Design Guidelines were developed by/with an organisation called Livable Housing Australia.
Livable Housing Australia (LHA)
Livable Housing Australia (LHA) is a not-for-profit organisation that partners with community and consumer groups as well as industry and the Australian government to work together to develop safe, accessible homes. They were the first to develop and publish the Livable Housing Design Guidelines.
Why do we need accessible housing?
In 2015, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, found that approximately one-third of Australian households – i.e. 3.2 million households – have a person with a disability living there. That’s 35.9% of Australia’s population. And statistically that percentage is likely to grow, as the prevalence of disability increases with age with one in two (49.6%) people aged 65 years and over reporting a disability.
Several years later, in 2019, the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) reported that the there was a significant shortage of accessible homes in the market. And many of the accessible properties were rented to people who didn’t yet need an accessible house. Additionally, new homes were not being designed with accessibility in mind, so even new homes sometimes required modifications to make them more accessible.
In fact, in Australia, around 11% of people with disability have had to modify their home due to a poor initial design.
What is livable housing design?
Livable housing design was introduced to change the way some Australian houses are designed. The intention is to make homes easier to use and more adaptable to the changing needs of people over their lifetime.
The new livable house rules and new design codes recognises that houses need to be designed to make them more accessible for everybody, and in particular, for individuals with mobility limitations and older people. These changes will support housing choice, ageing in place and will reduce the cost of future housing modifications as people’s needs change over time.
An accessible home should look like any other house, except it should be easy for anyone to enter, no matter their mobility or disability. The layout inside the house should be easy to navigate and reduce the possibility of injury.
When do the Livable Housing Design Guidelines apply?
The Livable Housing Design Guidelines apply to all new Class 1a and Class 2 buildings. Download a .pdf copy of the Livable Housing Design Guidelines here.
- Class 1a: all houses, including detached houses, terraces, row houses, townhouses and villa units.
- Class 2: INSIDE all apartment buildings. (Common areas continue to be covered under the existing Section D of NCC Volume One and the Access to Premises Standards).
Each State and Territory are adopting the livable housing requirements at different times:
|1 October 2023
|Queensland, ACT & Northern Territory
|1 May 2024
|1 October 2024
|South Australia and Tasmania
|NSW and Western Australia – not currently adopting provisions
What do the Livable Housing Design Guidelines specify?
All houses must meet certain design and construction criteria in order to meet the livable housing design guidelines. These key structural and spatial design elements are designed to ensure flexibility and adaptability of the home and prevent the need for costly home modifications in the future. There are three Living Housing Australia (LHA) standards, Silver, Gold and Platinum:
LHA Silver Level
The Silver Level has 7 core livable housing design elements:
- A step-free, continuous pathway from the street entrance and / or parking area to the home.
- The home must have at least one level (step-free) entrance.
- Internal doors and hallways must allow comfortable and unobstructed movement between spaces.
- Easy access to an entry-level (ground floor) toilet.
- A bathroom that contains a hobless shower – aka a walk-in shower without a raised surround.
- Reinforced bathroom walls that allows for installation of grabrails near the toilet, shower and bath.
- Safe stairways that have been designed to reduce the likelihood of falling and injury and can be easily adapted in the future.
LHA Gold Level
The Gold Level has 12 core livable housing design elements, the first 7 are the same as the silver, with the addition of the following elements:
- The kitchen must allow easy movement between fixed benches and support easy adaptation.
- The laundry space must also provide ease of movement between fixed benches and support easy adaptation.
- There should be a space on the entry level that can be used as a bedroom.
- Light switches and power points must be within easy reach for everyone.
- Doors must be easily opened and closed, and taps must be accessible to everyone.
LHA Platinum Level
The Platinum Level has 15 core livable housing design elements, the first 12 are the same as the silver and gold, with the addition of the following elements:
- The family/living room has enough clear space to allow people to move in and around the room with ease.
- Windows sills are installed at a height that allows viewing of the outdoor space from a seated or standing position.
- Flooring must be slip resistant.
What Livable Housing Design Guidelines standards must you meet?
Under NCC 2022, all new homes must comply with the minimum Silver standard. These changes essentially mean reducing steps where possible, allowing more space in the bathroom, wider doorways and hallways, and allowing for future adaptations such as grabrails in the bathroom.
As a Property Investor, making sure your property investments are compliant with the NCC Silver standards is a no-brainer. Due to the current shortage in accessible housing, Landlords can charge higher rents by marketing the property as accessible.
Jess Inder, National Disability Council Director, said “Providers [NDIS] usually offer an increased rent to the landlord in order to secure the property, it is possible to also use the modifications as a value add for long-term gain.”
Making sure your new build meets the Silver standard
- Ensure ease of parking and house access from the street, driveway or garage.
- Have at least one step free entrance with an 820mm width (door in the open position) and a level threshold (or lip less than 5 mm).
- There must be a clear, level space measuring at least 1200mm x 1200mm as you arrive to the door.
- If a threshold ramp is necessary, it must be less than 56mm.
- Entry level internal doors must have an opening width of 820mm with level thresholds (or a lip less than 5 mm).
- Hallways must be at least 1000mm wide.
- The staircase must have no less than 2 risers or no more than 18 risers without a 750mm2 landing area.
- Each tread and riser must be the same measurement and be slip-resistant.
- There must be a toilet on the entry level of the home. The toilet must be at least 900mm and have a 1200mm clear space from the loo to the door.
- There must also be a hobless shower on the entry level with an easily removable shower screen door.
- The bathroom floor must waterproofed to meet the AS 3740 standard and the walls must be reinforced to allow for the installation of handrails in the future.
If this is your first time hearing about the new livable house rules and new design codes, don’t panic, we’ve got you. We can help you navigate the NCC 2022 and Livable housing design guidelines to make sure stay ahead of the game.