Future-proofed design

John Alimi of Stiltz Homelifts explains why it’s imperative self-builders think ahead when designing their home in order to create a ‘home for life’

It is now far easier to be presented with options for a self-build project or major house renovation than ever before. A range of media, including a plethora of TV programmes, has revealed homes-for- life that are eco-friendly, technologically advanced and above all, created for bespoke requirements.

Whether you are looking to remodel a current home or self-build from scratch, a project’s appeal is usually intrinsically linked with creating a home that suits the individual needs of the family within. Huge personal rewards can be garnered from a home renovation that closely delivers on desired attributes. Creative design and a considered, realistic approach should enable you to continue living with comfort, safety and enjoyment well into older years.

Indeed, a growing number of self- builders are considering future living when creating their ideal home. So, while you may desire more natural light via floor to ceiling windows currently, it is equally important not to overlook the ensuing years and plan for when getting up and down the stairs and accessible open-plan living, for example, may be of key importance. Get it right and you can relax in the knowledge that your home is future proofed for the next 20 to 30 years and further alterations will be minimal.

To ensure optimum build success and to create a home that adapts to the ever-changing necessities of everyday life, it is of course imperative to complete preparations firmly in advance. The self- builder who is best prepared pre-project will normally have a better estimate of expected costs so that all planned requirements are delivered on time and on budget. If you’re looking for a plot of land, the Right to Build scheme launched in 2016 requires local councils in England to keep a register of land suitable for self-builders, and to approve planning permissions.

For a project to run smoothly, work with a reputable builder and seek an architect with experience in future-proofing homes. They can help navigate planning and building applications and work with you to deliver innovative yet practical house plans and adaptable designs. Project-managing a build yourself can save 15-20 per cent on costs, but unless you have the time to deal with tradesmen and the know-how to choose suitable materials, you might be wise to delegate.

Decide on your ideal layout in advance and research interior and exterior fixtures and fittings. With due diligence applied, you can achieve a successful house design that enables long-term benefits and added reassurance for its occupants. Design considerations are not only aesthetic – they include surface solutions, energy-efficient technology and eco- friendly construction, as well as future-proofing solutions that foster greater health and wellbeing.

Overall, consider how you live now and how you wish to see yourself in your home in the future. Think carefully about the practical functionality of bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms, not just ‘wow- factors’ such as extensive glazing and sweeping staircases, so that your finished home offers an enjoyable place for you and your family to live now and in the years to come. Would you wish to move again if those stairs become difficult to use and upstairs rooms were not easily accessible? Including a few key elements in your design means you can negate the need for further major renovations if accessibility was to become an issue. In the long run it’s a win-win situation, as effective future-proofed homes are not only popular with buyers, they also bring additional value to a home.

So, for instance, consider including doors that are wide enough for a wheelchair should one become necessary and create a flat, open-plan design which flows between communal areas with ample space in high traffic rooms such as the kitchen. Consider fitting a homelift to help with moving between floors or providing space for one to be easily fitted at a later date, if required. Being unobtrusive, homelifts are fast overtaking the traditional bulky stairlift in popularity.

For example, one homelift offers a compact footprint of less than a square metre, without the need for a lift shaft, and a very straightforward installation process. Today’s homelifts can bring a contemporary design twist to a home, while offering extended independence and accessibility, so self-builders can stay put in their much-loved homes for longer.

If you are approaching retirement age, or are newly retired, space may not be high on your list of must-haves, especially if the children have only recently moved out. However, it’s worth keeping in mind whether your new build can allow for extended family visits and the future arrival of grandchildren. Adding a downstairs bedroom and bathroom allows you to cater for family visits; such space may also provide live- in accommodation for a carer should the need arise in later years. An ‘intelligent’ house is one that provides adaptable and accessible living space that’s readily able to accommodate lifestyle changes, and which adjusts easily to meet the changing demands of the family within.

As you can see, planning for and creating your own home need not be a challenge. Make sure you consider every future scenario and incorporate future-proofed designs and solutions into your finished build to enable enjoyment and ease-of-living for you and your family, now and well into the future.

John Alimi is product manager at Stiltz Homelifts