The SDA Design Standards mandate a kitchen, bathroom, living and dining area, entrance, and 1 bedroom per participant. They do not mandate carpark, outdoor areas, separate bathrooms, OOA, or study areas, but all of these areas should be considered. The Design Standards include a number of ‘Best Practice’ recommendations for SDA dwellings that include carparking, outdoor areas, emergency power and fire safety.

Most Australian states have a set of guidelines or requirements when it comes to design of residences. When we look at current SDA standards for compliance, it is evident that they fall short of the standards that are generally accepted as being the minimum requirements for an able-bodied resident, highlighting that the SDA Design Standards are the minimum requirements needed and should be viewed as merely a starting point. Best Practice goes far beyond what the Design Standards require.

If we take the example of a 3-participant residence, the Design Standards set the requirements as 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, kitchen and dining / living space, and a laundry. This doesn’t fully consider that the individuals are often not known to each other, and the necessary level of assistance that each participant will require, thereby limiting the appeal of a compliant design.

For a 3-participant residence we would look to incorporate features beyond the Standards, including:
  • larger garage with direct access to internal space
  • larger bedrooms to allow for participants to utilise bedrooms for more than just sleeping
  • separation of bedrooms either through bathrooms or living areas
  • bathroom / ensuite for each participant
  • OOA within the residence with its own powder room (preferably a bathroom)
  • greater circulation within living areas
  • central living space with access to useable outdoor space
  • secondary living space
  • additional storage
  • private outdoor space for each participant accessed directly from their bedroom

Beyond these items, it is also worth considering how the required elements of the Standards are addressed:
  • INCLUSION OF LIFTS – Requirements for lifts are dependent on the participant category, noting that for all categories step-free access is required to the entry door. Fully Accessible and High Physical Support residences have a requirement for a lift in a multi- level residence to access all living areas, bedrooms and access to OOA. Improved Liveability residences do not have a requirement for a lift in a multi-level residence, but its inclusion is recommended as the participant may still have limited mobility or sensory concerns that may make stairs difficult or dangerous.
  • OOA REQUIREMENTS - SDA residences can be designed and built without an OOA, but this may impact the available participant numbers and the funding received. The extent of OOA provisions need to also be considered in relation to the number of participants and the funding received.
  • OOA DESIGN - The SDA Design Standards are silent on any requirements with regards to what needs to be provided within OOA. It is important to remember that OOA is provided for use by support staff to enable them to provide 24-hour support to participants living in the same residence or complex, and will be used by multiple staff, possibly at the same time. The design of the OOA should support this. In order to best support staff, the OOA (if provided) should have space for a small desk, storage, bed, and even a private outdoor space.
  • DOOR SIZES - All external and internal doorways need to have a flush threshold for all participant categories with appropriate latch and hinge clearance, and circulation spaces. There are significant differences in categories for door sizes and their circulation space between Improved Liveability and the higher categories. However, the difference between Fully Accessible and High Physical Support is limited to a clear door opening of 900mm and 950mm respectfully. With only a minor difference in door width between Fully Accessible and High Physical Support, it is best practice to allow for a larger opening that will provide flexibility of participant and future proof for age-in-place. Consideration should also be given as to whether doors are necessary in all areas. Euro laundries can typically be closed off to create a laundry room, but this makes circulation and use more difficult, while ensuites may function better without a door for wheelchair and hoist accessibility.

The 3-part articles have discussed Compliance and Best Practice when it comes to the SDA Design Standards. The articles have covered the differences in the SDA categories, what it means when comparing compliance and best practice, how to future proof your designs, and specific design layout items to be considered.

Aside from the items covered, there are numerous other features that should also be considered when determining best practice. These include:
  • carparking
  • sanitary features (storage and power)
  • kitchens (automation, adjustable sinks, adjustable cupboards)
  • laundry (heights and automation)
  • robes (height adjustable shelving and hangers)
  • emergency power (UPS)
  • assistive technology
  • fire safety measures (sprinklers)

Ultimately, when designing an SDA residence, the question that should always be at front of mind should be “What is the best design outcome to assist participants in leading and living a vibrant, safe, and independent way of life?” It is important to remember that the SDA design standards set out the minimum compliant requirements to allow an SDA participant to dwell in a residence, and Best Practice recommendations are what creates a home for that person to live in.

Details about future and past SDA conferences can be found here.

You can also find all 3 parts of the SDA Residences series – Compliance versus Best Practice in our news section here.