The Conversation – Queensland University
Research from Down-under
Kennedy & Buys, professors at Queensland University, reckon that retirement villages – walled, gated and separate seniors’ enclaves – have had their day. The word “retirement” is redundant and engagement between people of all ages is high. That’s how participants in the Longevity By Design Challenge envisage life in Australia in 2050.
Their challenge was to identify ways to prepare and adapt Australian cities to capitalise on older Australians living longer, healthier and more productive lives. Their vision, outlined in this article, offers a positive contrast to much of the commentary on “ageing Australia”.
Past It by 65?
We have been repeatedly warned about a looming “crisis” when by 2050 one in four Australians will be 65 or older. They have been portrayed as dependent non-contributors, unable to take care of themselves. This scenario of doom is based on underlying assumptions that everyone over 65 wants to, can or should stop any kind of productive contribution to Australia.
What if these assumptions are wrong?
The longevity bonus
Australians’ average life expectancy is well into our 80s. That represents a 30-year longevity “bonus” since the Age Pension was introduced in 1909 when average life expectancy was 55.
Time’s Up for Baby Boomers
Now, older people are healthier, working for longer – whether paid, volunteering, flexible, part-time, full-time or launching start-ups – or are in learning programs. By 2030 all of the baby boomers will have turned 65. At this time Generation X will start their contribution to the expanding older cohort.
Australian society will be better positioned to navigate this future if we make the most of the significant opportunities baby boomers present. They are living much longer, want to remain productive and engaged throughout their adult lives, and have a valuable cache of knowledge and skills.
One way to support economic and social participation is to reconsider the factors – physical, regulatory and financial – that determine how our buildings, suburbs and streets are organised.
Conventional urban development models rely on short-term development finance. It delivers suburban cities of individual houses with a need for private transportation. For many households (not just seniors) distance and lack of mobility are barriers to participation, resulting in isolation and loneliness.Read more: 1 million rides and counting: on-demand services bring public transport to the suburbs
Making the most of life after 65
The Longevity by Design Challenge brought new perspectives to preparing and adapting Australian cities to capitalise on the “longevity” phenomenon over coming decades. The challenge asked:
How do we best leverage the extra 30 years of life and unleash the social and economic potential of people 65+ to contribute to Australia’s prosperity?In February 2020, 121 professionals (of all ages) from 60 built environment design and senior living organisations, along with several older people, took part in the challenge. They explored how baby boomers will change the landscape of living, learning, working and playing. Sixteen cross-disciplinary creative teams considered what longevity could look like in this new environment in which buildings and neighbourhoods are remade.
Multi-generational, cross-disciplinary teams at work on the Longevity by Design Challenge. The University of Queensland, Author provided
Good design begins with people. Together the participants concluded that designing for older people is actually “inclusive design”. Everyone wants the same things for a good life: autonomy and choice, purpose, family and friends, good health and financial security.
Suggested approaches included:
building walkable neighbourhoods that reduce distances between homes and services
converting typical house blocks to “super blocks” where multiple generations can live
- adopting finance development models using long-term capital, rather than short-term debt, for greater financial and community returns.
Other teams designed interconnected environments using links between natural, built and technological assets. They designed spaces to enable people over 65 to continue to make creative and productive contributions.
Tek Trak embraces autonomous and electric vehicle technology to radically alter the way. we get around.
Elevation Architecture, Urban Strategies and Milanovic Neale, Author provided
Making inclusive neighbourhoods happen
While autonomous vehicle technology might provide more equal access to mobility and transportation, the designers warned that transforming conventional settings of houses and cars to walkable neighbourhoods and autonomous vehicles will be gradual. It depends on two things:
urban planning that ensures everyone has good access to safer transport alternatives rather than traffic-centric layouts
long-term equity financed by “future-focused” lenders.
In this model, lenders are less focused on short-term returns. Instead, they have a greater focus on quality design as a catalyst for more development. In a virtuous circle, attractive development that places people close to community activities and businesses generates greater “footfall”. That in turn creates more business opportunities that make financially viable communities.
Transforming Burdens int Assets
The Longevity by Design Challenge identified a range of opportunities to create a vibrant “longevity” economy by including people of all ages. Small, incremental and affordable changes towards resilient and age-friendly communities can transform perceived burdens into real assets.
Planning communities to embrace, not exclude, people over 65 has all kinds of benefits for Australia.
Part of creating sustainable, energy efficient, sustainable buildings involves keeping pace with the IoT (Internet of Things). Incorporating this into design detail is an important part of what we offer. Modular Off-site MMC SIP & Timber Frame structures provide excellent flexibility to do this. Working with architects, planners and environmentalists to satisfy all types of design, we are already well on the way to implementing what McKinsey are predicting. Additionally, ‘Volumetric’ and ‘flat pack’ modular building solutions can ‘tread lightly on the earth’ and we adapt our business innovations and developments to your environmental needs.
For example, standard designs from our very low rise ‘SolidLox’ brand enable us to provide buildings that do not require massive foundations and which can avoid harming tree roots while delivering on time and within budget. Such projects require a systematic, solution driven approach which brings discipline to the process, sharing information and communications. Applying DfMA (Design for Manufacture & Assembly) defines the process of taking these to the next level; a welcome change in the overall approach to project management and development – and to those who just ‘talk about it’!
Partnering for Modular Progress
All of this entails a shift in thinking to that already practiced by established ‘Off-Site’ MMC manufacturers. It can be quickly and easily incorporated into procedures and processes of building and development. Better still, you can make partnering arrangements with such manufacturers to gain all round benefits.
Greater Speed, Accuracy, Quality and Lower Costs
Greater collaborative ‘partnering’ between architects, builders and manufacturers will deliver these. The greater speed, accuracy and quality that can result from manufacturing components in a dry, controlled factory environment, together with the ability tom incorporate (yet to be invented) ‘Smart Ware’ gives home builders perhaps the only way of achieving this, together with improved on-site build quality AND controlling costs.
While resistance to the change to DfMA has been the norm, the wish of most UK Builders to deliver excellent customer service and top notch homes is now driving an increasing number to choose Off-Site for their developments. Also, as ‘OffSite Hub” note, architects and designers are moving toward DfMA, something we have been encouraging for over 20 years. The emergence of LA Developers will only speed up this process.
Easy Timber Frame
To assist them in doing so our “Easy Timber Frame “ now offers standard size modular timber frame elements for them to use as a design base, cutting down on technical design and engineering to produce win-win results. This virtually provides any housebuilder or architect with their own bespoke design factory facility.
Better all-round Savings