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The importance of including disability housing in COVID-19 stimulus

There is a strong case for governments to prioritise housing for people with disabilities in new infrastructure programs in response to COVID-19.  The Aged Care Royal Commission’s interim report in 2019 called for immediate action to move young people out of aged care.  The urgency around this has only grown with the impact of COVID-19.

The problem is there are insufficient supplies of specialist disability accommodation (SDA), especially in Western Australia. A report by the Summer Foundation found WA has the biggest shortfall among the larger states of disability accommodation, estimated to be 1300 places.

The industry in WA has responded to the challenge and there has been a noticeable increase in investment in SDA in the last 12 months.  It’s crucial therefore, that much-needed supplies of new Specialist Disability Housing in WA are not curtailed by the economic fall-out of the COVID-19 shut-down.  This is absolutely necessary in regional WA where the shortage of modern SDA is most acute.

Groups like the Australian Institute of Architects WA Chapter have made sensible suggestions for inclusion of SDA in new capital works programs by the State Government in response to the shut-down.  This is particularly relevant because there is NDIS funding support for SDA tenants.  Local governments can also play a supportive role in enabling more disability accommodation in planning processes.

The Royal Commission also identified the lack of accurate supply and demand projections to stimulate more private investment in SDA.  This is particularly important for institutional investors like superannuation funds that are keen to participate.  There is potentially a role for the industry and the State Government to partner in preparing this information.

Doing more community building is one of the good things to come out of COVID-19 and enabling disability accommodation is a great place to start. 

Image by D-Max Photography, supplied by Dale Alcock Projects.

We’re all in this together – Part 2

Research shows that the quality of an environment can have a positive impact on people’s lives by increasing occupant wellness, both mentally and physically.  Improved general health also improves health and mortality outcomes in the event of a viral or bacterial outbreak.  High quality architectural and interior design in new and refurbished facilities is key to achieving this.  Some elements of design for improved occupant wellness include:

  • architectural design, including solar orientation, materials, language;
  • interior design, including finishes, colours, biophilia, scale, furnishings;
  • outdoor and landscaped spaces;
  • services design to improve air quality, temperature, acoustics;
  • specific requirements, e.g. dementia, particular dis/abilities;
  • adaptability for individualisation of spaces;
  • design to support self-sufficiency;
  • in-house or co-located support, medical and wellbeing facilities;
  • size, layout and particulars for staff breakout and rest spaces, end of trip facilities and wellness areas; and
  • efficiency in planning, to avoid staff over-working and to reduce response times.

Informed building planning and coordination is central to optimising the performance of the individual measures, as well as the building as a whole.

Business is continuing at KPA and we recently emailed our current connections regarding the specific measures we have put in place to allow this to happen safely.  We encourage you to contact us for a discussion on how we can help you to utilise this time to improve the health and quality of life outcomes of the people in your care, now and into the future.

We also encourage you to reach out for a chat, for the maintenance of our collective mental wellbeing as a community.  We’re all in this together.

Finally, to those people that have already lost their loved ones or have been impacted as a result of the virus: our deepest sympathies are with you.  To those people on the front line who are caring for others and providing us with essential services: we thank you and applaud your efforts and bravery.  For those people taking things day by day: we send our best wishes for continued wellness.  And we remind ourselves, this won’t last forever.

We’re all in this together – Part 1

In the midst of the current alarm and whirlwind of information on health, statistics, social precautions, the economy, panic buying and even false news in our lives at present, it seems entirely plausible that our attention is drawn away from the most important thing at the centre of this crisis; people.  Those at high risk including the aged, the unwell, the first line responders, the essential service providers.  These people need our care and support during this time, both mentally and physically.  This includes many of our clients, their residents and their employees.

During these changing and challenging times, the KPA team commits to assisting vulnerable people wherever possible and we implore others to do the same.  For most people this means contributing to flattening the curve; staying at home, keeping check on our mental wellbeing, staying in touch with family and friends, in addition to assisting our communities safely.  State and Federal Governments are supporting people proving care and those experiencing financial hardship with targeted initiatives. These links will guide you through what is available:  

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Health Alert

Support for businesses and individuals affected by Coronavirus

WA specific advice and support for communities and businesses affected by Coronavirus

These are all excellent short term strategies to assist people in making it through the coming months. 

KPA Architects also supports a pragmatic and future-focused response to the current situation, as well as forward-thinking in preparation for any further biological developments.  During this time and once the alarm ceases in the near future, we will require the facilities and services to deal with the additional load on our current systems, in order to provide the best care for our people.  And for next time, we’ll need the facilities and systems to respond better, faster and smarter, in order to provide even better care for our people.  The time to act and to prepare is now.

Architecturally, infection control is the first issue that springs to mind and if done effectively, it plays a significant part in improving health outcomes for all people using our buildings, including specifically residents and staff.  For this reason, it is critical that buildings are appropriately designed to include:

·         well-planned facility and room layouts, such as bathrooms and toilets, waste disposal/sluice rooms, laundries and kitchens;

·         the ability for isolation or segregation of spaces and services, as required;

·         adaptable spaces, suitable for multiple uses in response to a crisis;

·         appropriate technology to allow social distancing and improved response times for certain support and care services, including monitoring devices, communication methods and support robots;

·         communication systems to allow for maintenance of mental wellbeing, including connection with families, fitness and activity providers;

·         appropriate materials, fittings and fixtures;

·         services with suitable capacity for fluctuating occupant numbers (residents and staff) and back-up systems;

·         in-house or co-located medical facilities with residences; and

·         appropriate storage locations and sizes for equipment and supplies.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article, in which we’ll be discussing design for occupant wellness.

What will shape Perth in the 2020’s?

New decades herald new fashions, technologies and generational change.  At KPA Architects we think there will be big changes for Perth property in the 2020’s.

Key elements shaping the city in the next decade include a new generation of seniors that want more from their housing; major infrastructure investments in public transport and suburban centres; and the convergence of technology and daily living.  Here are some highlights.

Housing for Life

By mid-decade more than 500,000 people will be aged over 65 in WA. This is a 40% increase on current numbers and their housing needs will influence the broader market.

The biggest challenge will be providing more opportunity for seniors to remain in areas that they are familiar. This includes more compact housing with smart features close to local amenities as well as modern care facilities.  When this is achieved it will free up larger homes for larger households and people with special needs. 

However the market will demand more livable and adaptable housing designs – diverse and flexible housing options including dual-key and ancillary dwellings, and transformable spaces that can be easily adapted as use of buildings change. 

‘Build to rent’ should come of age in the next decade with large numbers of seniors freeing up capital in the family home and choosing rental packages with bundled services such as a laundry service, transport service, pharmacy discounts, club memberships, travel and hire company alliances etc.

Continuity of care will increasingly influence housing for ageing persons. Aged care facilities will resemble hubs of activities to support people as they progress through various stages of ageing.

Government funding for residential care will adopt a more consumer directed care model. That is, funding will follow the consumer, not the facility. This would open the industry up to a variety of new, more societally integrated models of care that are able to accommodate a variety of patient acuity levels either at home or in a facility depending on need.

Centres and Transport Led Development

Big investments in transport infrastructure and suburban activity centres in Perth will dictate the location and design of most new developments in the next decade.  This is because the two most important features influencing contemporary housing choices are public transport and community amenities like café’s, restaurants and shops.   

Perth’s urban shape will increasingly resemble a pattern of mixed-use activity hubs with connecting transport lines.

Currently only a quarter of all new homes are units or apartments however this is likely to grow strongly with the increasing popularity of strata titles in new developments. Strata title lot already make up over 50% of new lot production in WA. These will take shape in the next 10 years.

Sometime in the next decade the take-up of on-line retailing is likely to plateau.  At the same time the evolution of shopping centres currently in full swing will be fully realised. 

Centres in the 2020’s will fall into two camps, large centres at the core of suburban station and commercial precincts offering a town experience; and smaller centres based around local convenience or niche activities.

Transport will continue down the path of automation, with driverless public transport appearing first.  Parking shortages may lead to the viability of automated car park stacking in congested centres. These technologies will become very useful for a population that is ageing and new transport options that are considered safe and reliable for the elderly will prevail.

Internet of Property Things

The inevitable convergence of technology and daily living will increasingly shape new buildings and places in the next decade.

Examples already in use include electronic monitoring systems to amalgamate services in independent living and aged care buildings, which are traditionally separated.  Residents in connected complexes can directly access services when needed without having to leave their home, such as ordering dinner from the kitchen and having it delivered.

The system also monitors emergency and security controls, and building equipment maintenance to identify malfunctions and issue work orders. 

Buildings and precincts will be planned and built to accommodate the increasing use of artificial intelligence to perform services like healthcare, deliveries and cleaning.

‘Big data’ will have an increasing role in the operation of buildings and spaces.  Information captured from sensors will drive the use and management of places.  Real-time rating systems for buildings will also inform users of key information like environmental performance.

Image: KPA Architects, Casa Cabrini

Staff Interview – Lino Iacomella

For the sixth of a series of 3-question interviews with KPA team members, to help you get to know us all a bit better, John Loreck (JL) interviewed Lino Iacomella (LI)

Lino is an experienced property economist, policy analyst and business connector. He has successfully managed corporate stakeholder relationships, conducted advocacy campaigns, represented organisations in the media and public forums, project-managed consultancies and has lead corporate teams.

JL: What attracted you to KPA?

I’m Interested in buildings, in a real design sense – I appreciate the value of the contributions made by architects.  For me personally, it was a good opportunity to move into consulting, with an energetic, enterprising team.

I really like the way everyone at KPA likes to collaborate across all the design and business processes.

At KPA, I am looking forward to tapping into the major trends that are playing out in property, such as the creation of better housing for seniors, and state of the art disability housing.

JL: Can you tell me about you career highlights and challenges?

Woking with KPA is highlight! It’s a big change but I really enjoy it.

In the past I’ve always enjoyed working with the industry associations. I also enjoyed being able to help Property Council and REIWA members achieve success by creating a more friendly and more productive industry to operate in.

At the Property Council, what I think was a real community achievement, was the collaboration to remove barriers to the creation of town centres in metropolitan Perth. The old laws led to dark retail boxes, surrounded by carparks.  Now these town centres are modern and far more connected to local neighbourhoods. That was a big achievement that took a lot of consultation.  The result is a Perth that is a lot more liveable, with lots of connections, including Metronet.  It also removed the artificial limits on the growth of shopping centres.

At REIWA we created, for the first time, local real estate information – medium house prices, historical trends in growth, suburban comparison – all this was made freely available.

In terms of challenges, in Perth we don’t have as many professional opportunities that you get with large organizations that have headquarters in bigger cities.  For me, the challenge is to have a satisfying professional career, living in a city the size of Perth. Perth has grown quite quickly- but the challenge is to multi- skill within the same organization, regardless of what that organization is.  I have been very lucky to focus on real estate and property, and that works well with WA’s natural entrepreneurial spirits.

Another rewarding and fortunate aspect of working in property is that you are contributing to places for people to work and live.  It’s personally very rewarding to be part of that – the industry creates good things.

JL: So how are those good things evolving Lino – how are they going to be realised in buildings and places?

The good news is that WA will continue to grow in population – so we will see new projects, new infrastructure, new precincts, and new communities. The difference we face now is that the rapidly aging population will create the need for a lot more specialisation in the design of those environments.

Spotlight on Special Disability Accommodation

The spotlight is on Special Disability Accommodation (SDA) after the release of the interim report in the Aged Care Royal Commission, which called for immediate action to move young people out of aged care.

There are 6000 younger people with disability in aged care across Australia, and many more on waiting lists for SDA.  However, there is a shortage of suitable alternative accommodation and concerted action is needed to boost supplies of SDA.

The Royal Commission heard there is a substantial shortfall in Specialist Disability Accommodation.  In 2011 the Productivity Commission estimated that there was only existing SDA for 15,700 people but that, by the time of full implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, around 28,000 (6%) scheme participants would require SDA. Even taking into account Specialist Disability Accommodation under development at the time it was estimated that there was shortfall of over 9000 places.

That was 10 years ago. Since then the shortfall in SDA has steadily grown as demand outstrips supply.

Not surprisingly there is plenty of interest in investing in SDA, and some new homes have commenced in WA like the excellent Rocky Bay project in Girrawheen, designed by KPA Architects.  However, the Royal Commission heard that a larger market response has been held back by a lack of modelling for investors to show new buildings will be occupied.  This has been made worse by delays in the full rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. 

State and local governments have an important role in facilitating the urgent need for new supplies of SDA. Social and Community housing providers can assist with bridging the gap by registering existing homes to suit people with disabilities and local governments can clear the complex planning pathways to developing new SDA.  

The Royal Commission noted that critical parts of the solution will take time, including full rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the large-scale building program to meet the shortfall in Specialist Disability Accommodation. However, there is much that can be done in the meantime, including accurate supply and demand projections to stimulate more private investment in SDA.

Image: KPA Architects, Rocky Bay SDA Housing

Design Innovation Key to Seniors Housing Plan

The success of Western Australia’s new housing plan for seniors will depend on the housing system embracing innovation in the design and delivery of age-friendly communities, according to a leading designer of retirement villages and age-care facilities.

“It’s great that smart design is central to Western Australia’s new five-year plan to provide more housing choices for seniors”, said KPA Director Todd Paterson.

“Innovation is necessary to keep up with the rapidly changing housing needs of seniors.

“The state government’s Ageing with Choice: Future Directions for Seniors Housing, released this week found there will be more than 500,000 people aged over 65 in WA by 2026. This is a 40% increase on current numbers.

“The biggest challenge will be providing more opportunity for seniors to remain in areas that they are familiar. This includes more compact housing with smart features close to local amenities as well as modern care facilities.

“Our clients want housing and facilities that are safe, close to amenities like the local shops, and adaptable to their needs.

“Some of the highlights in the new plan that we like are:

–          locating liveable design homes near public transport, services and amenity,

–          encouraging adaptable housing through the planning system,

          enabling more continuum of care for older people,

–          incorporating more dementia-friendly design, and

–          more supply of diverse and flexible housing options including dual-key and ancillary dwellings.

“Integrating more seniors housing in established areas of Perth is good for local businesses and communities that benefit from the richer social interaction.

“Hopefully the new seniors housing plan will be the catalyst for overcoming some of the resistance to greater housing densities and locating new care facilities”, said Mr Paterson.  

Link to Ageing with Choice: Future directions for seniors housing 2019-2024.

Image: KPA Architects – Italian Aged Care

Official Opening of Italian Aged Care

Our aged care project Italian Aged Care had its official opening on the weekend, comprising of a short mass and tour of the completed facility.

Members of the community, staff and Board attended along with a few special guests, including the Abruzzese Emigrant Association of Australia, who donated an Aspire Day Chair with tray table and a Niki Syringe Pump (pictured).

It was great to hear comments from the families of Board members, who had been hearing about the new development for a while and were seeing it for the first time, saying it completely ‘exceeded their expectations’.

We would like to thank everyone involved in this aged care home, for helping us create an environment that will enhance people’s lives.

Property Clues in WA Growth Report

The good news in a key population outlook for Western Australia, is that a return to higher long-term growth rates is expected soon.  However, WA is ageing faster than expected and the disability sector is looming large in both a social and business sense.

               Structural change in population growth (%), 1971-2031

For property businesses, there is a lot to digest in WA Tomorrow – Population Forecasts to 2031, by the Department of Planning, Lands & Heritage.  Here are the key take-outs for business planning in WA.

  1. WA’s annual population growth rate has turned the corner from an historic low point of 0.8% (see chart above).  The report found WA is on track to return to its long-term growth rate of 1.6% by 2021. 
  2. The recent slowing in WA’s overall population growth was concentrated in persons under 65.  Conversely the number of people over 65 will continue to grow four times faster than persons under 65.  This will result in seniors being a bigger share of the population that earlier predictions.3.
  3. As the population ages, the number of dependent persons (children under 15, people with disability and older dependent people) is forecast to increase rapidly, rising from 49% in 2016 to 57% in 2031. The balance between children who are dependent and older dependent people will gradually shift towards more older persons and adults with disabilities, as the baby boomers move into retirement age groupings and the overall population ages.   

The steady return to sustainable population growth in WA is great news for businesses that rely on the consumer economy, including the retail and real estate sectors.  However, the demands of a rapidly ageing population are becoming more urgent, particularly in the provision of greater housing choice and aged-care. 

The recognition of persons with disabilities in the demographic forecasts is particularly important.  We can expect more of the discussion about housing diversity in the future to include the rapidly growing demand for special disability accommodation.

Image: KPA Architects Rocky Bay SDA Housing

Koh-I-Noor Wins at 2019 MBA Excellence Awards

We would like to congratulate Pindan for winning ‘Best Aged Care Building ($10-$20 million)’ for Koh-I-Noor Contemporary Aged Care at the 2019 MBA Excellence in Construction Awards! We are proud to be part of the team for this wonderful aged care home.

You can read more about Koh-I-Noor Contemporary Aged Care by visiting our project pages below:

Koh-I-Noor Contemporary Aged Care

Koh-I-Noor Contemporary Aged Care Interiors