Build better and build beautiful

Ed Warner Headshot
Ed Warner
Founder & CEO, Motionspot

‘Build better and build beautiful A powerful statement from the outgoing Minister of Housing, Robert Jenrick, when he launched his plans for 2020.

But what does ‘better’ and ‘beautiful’ housing look like for our sector and what are the challenges when designing and building homes fit for older people?

Sadly, too many of our homes are being built without considering the needs of older people. This short term view of design produces housing stock which is inaccessible, increases accidents in the home, puts pressure on health and social care budgets and is a contributing factor to poor health and social isolation in older communities.

So what do we need to do differently in 2020?

Engage the customer

Creating beautiful homes suitable for everyone involves understanding your customer. Some of the best design in our industry has been produced in co-creation with older people, engaging them in the design process and getting their feedback on what they want to see in their homes. I’d encourage anyone planning new developments to engage their customers first so that places not only reflect the character of the community but deliver more inclusive housing stock for the UK.

Future-proofed homes suit everyone

We shouldn’t be building general needs housing and then separate homes specifically for older people. All homes should be designed to be aspirational for both a first and last time buyer/tenant however greater thought is required to design flexible, future-proofed spaces that work for both young and old. More consideration is needed on general access to the property, space planning principles, the finishes of kitchens and bathrooms, and where they are required, avoiding overspecification of adaptations from the outset.

A Motionspot age appropriate bathroom

A Motionspot age appropriate bathroom

Embrace innovative technology

Traditionally accessible homes for older people have looked institutional in their appearance and have been difficult to resell or let when the property becomes available. Thankfully product manufacturers are changing their mindset and there is new accessible product and technology coming to market to help designers and developers build beautiful, inclusive homes. We need to move faster to embrace these new products, procurement processes need to be changed to enable contractors to source innovative products and as an industry, we should be considering how smart adaptations and technology can be fitted in homes to help improve health and wellbeing and take pressure off the care system.

Advancing technology for older people"We have a wonderful opportunity as an industry to design and build the homes this country needs"

Measure the impact

Design is an iterative process and cannot stand still; progress is reliant on learning from  previous projects. When developments are built, designers should be engaged to post evaluate projects and speak to residents to understand what has worked and what should be changed for future projects. Good design has a positive impact on cognitive and physical health, social interaction and helps build an active and engaged community. The most successful projects will be the ones where the social and financial impact can be tangibly measured and understood, supporting the business case to build similar housing at scale.

Accessible kitchen design

Accessible kitchen design

As will be championed at the Housing LIN’s Vision 2020 conference in Manchester this month, we have a wonderful opportunity to make progress as an industry designing and building the homes this country desperately needs. Long term success will only be achieved if we consider the needs of both young and old and ‘build better and beautiful’ housing that suits every generation.

Motionspot are a sponsor of the Housing LIN’s annual conference Vision 2020 on 26 March in Manchester.


Posted on by Nigel Peacock

The article by Ed Warner is very interesting and having worked on numerous elderly persons schemes, some of which have Motionspot designed bathrooms, I agree entirely that a good standard of design is required to ensure a domestic looking bathroom can be provided yet providing practicality. However, for what age group do we design for? The physical abilities of a 65yr old person can be very different to those of an 85yr old, especially those needing to use walking frames or other aids. I suggest the bathroom arrangement shown, whilst including grab rails, is far from ideal due to the toilet / basin relationship. The standard doc M layout allows users to wash their hands whilst remaining in a seated position, before having to handle their walker or wheelchair. This arrangement can quite happily be amended into an accessible yet homely bathroom design, allowing easier use of the bathroom by the user and reducing the necessity for dirty hands to touch the handles of the walker or other mobility aid. It is often the later stages of life that require the most well thought out of designs to reduce stress to the elderly resident and also their relatives and carers.

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