Lifetime design standards for homes

A growing number of builders are now being asked to construct homes which meet the Lifetime Design standards. Lifetime Design is an independent, not-for-profit social enterprise which has developed a design framework for ensuring a house is accessible, adaptable and inclusive.

This information was confirmed as current in February 2016. It originally appeared in Codewords newsletters prior to January 2014.

  • Published on 1 October 2011
  • Of interest to People with disabilities, Builders, Designers, Architects
  • 1st edition

Lifetime Design standards cover five key principles:

  • usability
  • adaptability
  • accessibility
  • inclusion
  • lifetime value.

In New Zealand, a home which has been independently certified as meeting the Lifetime Design principles can apply for the Lifemark seal of approval.

Any home accredited with the Lifemark has 33 design features covering six key areas:

  • entrance
  • kitchen
  • living area
  • bedroom
  • bathroom
  • multi-storey.

These are all aimed at making the house easier to live in, accessible for everyone, and easy to adapt as residents’ needs change over time. For example:

  • entranceways should allow for seamless and trouble-free access and should have good lighting and generously-sized doorways to cater for parents carrying children or shopping or for older people using a walking aid
  • in the kitchen, the focus is on safety as well as convenience ensuring there is enough space around appliances and cupboards to move around easily while supervising small children. The layout, fixtures and fittings must also enable cooking and cleaning in comfort, even when using a mobility device or wheelchair
  • bathrooms, a commonly-modified risk area for children, elderly and people with disabilities, can be ‘future-proofed’ through simple features such as strengthened walls to accommodate future handrails and a shower seat. Using a wet area shower rather than a traditional shower box is convenient for assisting young children and the elderly, and provides room to manoeuvre a mobility aid
  • ideally, bathrooms and bedrooms in particular should be built on the entry level, with wide easy access between the two. In multi-storey homes, provision can be made to allow for later installing a lift, and stairways should be wide with weight-bearing handrails on both sides
  • in the living room, switches, power sockets and other controls are at a handy height in order to avoid unnecessary bending or reaching.

This means building a home intended to be convenient and safe for everyone and to cater for a variety of needs. This might include:

  • multi-generational households
  • permanently or temporarily-disabled inhabitants such as: 
    • people with a broken leg or recuperating from surgery
    • the elderly
    • those who simply plan to live in their own home into their old age.

One of the first steps is assessing the full range of features available at the Lifemark website

All guidance related to D1 Access Routes

This information is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Chief Executive. It is a general guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case. Expert advice may be required in specific circumstances. Where this information relates to assisting people: