The significance of our dwellings in fostering a sense of safety, independence and comfort cannot be underestimated - and neither can their impact on our health, wellbeing and sense of self. This is perhaps even more compounded in accommodation designed for those with varying levels of mobility or disability. These homes should encourage a sense of autonomy and offer a reassuring notion of support in line with the needs, aspirations and desires of their residents, providing the flexibility ingrained in design that unequivocally prioritises the experience of the end users.

Naturally, architects, designers, specifiers and manufacturers play a pivotal role in creating considerate, adaptable and future-proof interiors that aspire to do precisely that. So today, we speak to Tim Knowles from Pressalit, who tells us about the importance of Specialist Disability Accommodation, the relevance of height adjustable fixtures when creating spaces that promote a sense of dignity - and explains what specifiers should look out for when designing kitchen and bathroom spaces in particular.

“Pressalit is a Danish manufacturing company that’s at the forefront of functionally designed bathroom and kitchen solutions,” Tim starts. He explains that as Pressalit’s Sales Manager, his main focus is to support design professionals who work on a broad range of building projects to ensure they optimise the product choices from the brand’s extensive range. “Making budgets and clients briefs attainable,” Tim adds.

He explains that Pressalit has been distributing their products in the Australian and New Zealand region for over 30 years. “In that time we have come to gain a profound understanding of what architects and designers need in order to meet local design standards,” he says.

A perfect example is the NDIS SDA Design Standard. The NDIS - Australian Government’s National Disability Insurance Scheme - provides funding and support for a range of services to the roughly 500,000 people in Australia who have a significant or permanent disability. Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) is a crucial part of those services.

“Specialist Disability Accommodation is a range of housing options designed for people with extreme functional impairment or very high support needs,” Tim explains. “SDA dwellings have accessible features to help residents live more independently and allow other supports to be delivered better or more safely. The SDA funding approach promotes and encourages a broad range of high-quality housing models and configurations. This flexibility responds to the diversity of participant needs and preferences.”

He adds that currently, it’s estimated that in excess of 28,000 Australians will require dedicated SDA accommodation - with over 6,000 people younger than 64 residing in aged care. “Most of the current and potential SDA residents are under the age of 45, so it’s clear that the provision of dedicated accommodation is substantial and diversified - therefore needs to be created nationally for all generations.”

The SDA Design Standard works in tandem with the National Construction Code (NCC) - in most cases forming the SDA requirements in addition to the NCC’s provisions - and applies to all new build accommodation that aims to create spaces that allow occupants to lead safe, vibrant and autonomous lives. “The Design Standard focuses on providing a home environment that maximises the capacity of the individual to live as independently as possible, incorporating personal support features within contemporary housing practice,” Tim says. “Naturally, designing to reflect an individual’s personality and interests is further encouraged.”

He explains that accessibility is - without a doubt - a common thread in both kitchen and bathroom areas when it comes to key mandates, guidelines and best practises indicated within SDA Design Standard.

“There are compliance requirements to AS1428.1 noted within the SDA Design Standard that pertain to floor plans and layouts across those spaces, which are overlaid with notations on height adjustability to create an environment that benefits the end user or users, and future-proofs the interior,” Tim says. “For example, SDA Guidelines indicate height adjustable wash basins to be best practice in bathroom spaces since they ensure maximum usability for people with different levels of mobility or disability, and mandate at least one height adjustable benchtop in every kitchen.”

This reflects the notion that people in wheelchairs, for instance, may need a different height requirement than others who reside in the same space, or their carers. Alternatively, different wheelchair models may require different height settings, too.

Being such a prominent aspect of the SDA Design Standard, there are some key considerations for specifiers to be aware of when selecting adjustable height fittings in kitchens and bathrooms. Alongside choices with regards to materials the fixture is made of, or considering whether it’s free-standing or wall-mounted, there are other things to think of. “Focus should always be on specifying products that are truly fit for purpose, offer ease of use by both carers and people with a disability alike,” Tim points out. “Specifiers should endeavour to select products that offer a warranty beyond the standard one-year period - such as three or five-year time frames - matched by a dedicated after-sales service provided by the manufacturer.”

These are only some of the elements Pressalit can help industry professionals navigate. “We understand that there are many factors that need to be considered and rules that have to be followed by designers and developers when creating design outcomes for SDA projects,” Tim says. Pressalit has a very broad portfolio of products that match perfectly with all the different layout scenarios and cost constraints we need to traverse, in order to achieve success.”

Their fixtures are also fully compliant with the relevant standards. “Pressalit is often chosen by designers and specifiers because we manufacture manually or electrically operated height adjustable kitchen and wash basin solutions that are accepted by the SDA Design Standard,” Tim adds. But that’s certainly not the only reason. “In addition to that, all our products offer genuine ergonomic features designed with the comfort of the end user in mind, which attain visual outcomes that help generate homely, pleasant residential spaces, rather than institutional ones.”                

With robust experience that spans three decades, extensive knowledge and adaptable product suite, Pressalit is the perfect choice for any designer or specifier seeking to create a compliant, versatile and enduring interior that nurtures a sense of autonomy and prioritises the ease of the residents. Find out more about their products here