A recent report by a PVC windows manufacturer, the Epwin Group, asked architects what they thought will be the biggest factors affecting house design over the next decade. The second most significant factor cited by those surveyed (at 60 per cent) was the UK’s ageing population.
While it might be a daunting prospect for our public services, it’s actually a symptom of a healthier and better cared-for population that a fifth of the population are forecast to be 65 or over by 2025. The really startling stat is that this is likely to rise to represent a quarter of the population by 2045.
This means that the focus of many self- and custom-builds will increasingly be on the ongoing needs of older homeowners in future. This is especially true given that the generation currently nearing retirement are the ones most likely to have the resources to invest in such projects.
As the subjects of our case study in this issue demonstrate, creating a home with the flexibility to adapt as you get older, for example with a downstairs accessible bathroom, is going to be commonplace, if it isn’t already.
In this context, The Self Build on a Shoestring competition being focused around innovative and supportive design for ‘granny annexes’ was timely. The winner, which you can read about on the facing page, was an interesting low-cost design for a communal custom-build. If you pardon the pun, such ‘gran designs’ – combining individual, characterful homes which are far from traditional retirement units – are where we need to be placing a lot of effort in coming decades. This sort of thinking is what’s needed make good quality long-term homes for the UK a reality.