Universal design

You’re probably already familiar with stepless porches, handheld shower stalls, grab bars throughout the home, and other designs to make living in your home easier as you age.

But did you know that they are all part of a greater worldwide trend called ‘Universal Design’?

When you look at the many benefits of universal design, it's not surprising why so many homeowners are joining in.

Universal homes

Universal design is about creating homes that are safe, convenient and accessible regardless of physical ability or life stage. Homes are designed in such a way that they are accessible to everyone – from young children to older adults.

Some of you may have already included universal design into your home and want more ideas. Others of you may be buying a new home. Whatever your situation, it’s worth thinking of ways that you can be best supported in your home.


Universal design supports Ageing-in-place (living at home into your older years.) If you’re planning to live in your home for a long time, you may want to consider future proofing your home now to prepare for changes in your physical abilities in the future.

Universal design in New Zealand

In New Zealand the Universal Design movement is represented by Lifemark. Lifemark is a seal of approval which is endorsed by Lifetime Design Limited.

Lifemark has a homeowners design guide about how you can future proof your home.

Lifemark design standards

If you’re thinking of designing your home, you may wonder what a lifemark design standard home looks like. If you’re concerned that a design which emphasises safety and accessibility can make your home look unappealing and institutional, you’ll be surprised to find creativity, safety and access can go hand in hand.

You can visit the Branz website to see some universal design homes on the BRANZ website

You can take small steps

Universal Design doesn’t need to involve expensive home improvements. It can be as simple has installing grab bars for balance, lever door knobs and step-free showers. These changes can help us remain in our homes for longer, and be more healthy and independent.

Get equipment in the home to support your lifestyle

As part of creating a safe, accessible and convenient home, you might want to consider getting equipment in your home to support you.

The Ministry of Health may be able to provide assistance with home modifications if you have a disability. These may handrails to help you use the steps into your house or ramps to help you get into your home, particularly if you use a wheelchair.

Enable NZ delivers a range of services for people with disabilities. They have also developed a checklist of what to consider when you’re designing.

For more information

The BRANZ website has a universal design toolkit which provides practical design solutions for accessible housing features. The website is designed for the use of consumers as well as the building industry.

The Building Guide website has universal design ideas for your home