Accessibility must be one of the most important considerations in architectural design, ensuring that the built environment caters for people of all abilities, and never more important than when it relates to the design of a home.
We have just received planning approval for a project involving an extension to a local family home. The property in question is in a rural location and a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The building is currently too small for our client’s family and wheelchair access is limited, so the hard reality is that the family spend a lot of time separated within their home. The size and layout of the house is just not able to cater for their present or future needs, so it needs to be extended and reimagined with accessibility in mind.
When preparing for a project like this, it is essential to understand how the client needs to use the space within their home, both now and in the future; how the building sits within the existing built environment and landscape; and how the building can be enhanced in order to be more sustainable.
Working closely with the client, we were able to understand their needs and provide them with a range of design options, from which they chose the final version to be submitted for planning approval. Key requirements for this client, were a new porch suitable for wheelchair access; making the whole ground floor wheelchair-friendly; a ground floor toilet; a lift to access the first floor; an extension to the ground and first floors; and level access to the rear garden.
We were mindful that our design needed to meet the objectives of the National Planning Policy Framework and specifically the core strategy for Wiltshire. These objectives include creating high quality designs, that will support the needs of current and future generations, and the transition to a low carbon future. The guidelines also help protect the existing environment by ensuring architectural designs fit in with, and are complimentary to the local area. It also means that consideration is given to keeping and enhancing the existing landscape and encouraging biodiversity.
Our design needed to embrace the original design of the house and the houses surrounding it. We also wanted to minimise the effect of the extension from the street, so it will be wrapped around the existing building and within its hard landscape area. The first-floor extension will be at varying heights to minimise the impact on the adjacent houses and to sit well within the landscape. The design includes the use of high-quality building materials and finishes, to match the neighbouring properties. Finally, the introduction of new insulation, underfloor heating, and replacement of all doors and windows, will all help to improve the building’s environmental performance.
Planning approval means that our client will not have to move house and can stay within and contributing to their local community. It means the chance to create a home that is accessible, that will foster independent living, and enhance family life, now and in the future.