“The City of Vancouver is planning a new building bylaw that, for the first time in Canada, will require all new homes to be adaptable for seniors and people with disabilities.
The city wants all new single-family, townhouse and laneway homes to meet minimum accessibility standards.
Mandatory features could include wider doors, hallways and stairs, lever handles on all doors and plumbing fixtures, and electrical receptacles higher on walls.
The city is also doing an 18-month study of the feasibility of insisting new homes have at least one exterior doorway with direct access to the ground without stairs.
The changes, if adopted by council next week, would come into effect in March 2014.
Many amendments to Vancouver’s building bylaw in recent years have been aimed at multi-unit condominium, rental and commercial buildings. But in a report going to city council next week, chief building inspector Will Johnston said it’s time new single-family homes, townhouses, secondary suites and even stacked townhouses be made adaptable for seniors and those with mobility issues. The proposed changes would include construction methods that would allow for easy and less-costly retrofitting to allow people to age in their homes.
Johnston said Vancouver has often led the country in modernizing minimum building requirements. The changes have often been later adopted in the .
“When I look at the changes that we are proposing and recommending council adopt, they are very simple, modest provisions that you can put into a home at time of construction that don’t, in my mind, have a significant impact on construction,” he said.
Johnston said his department consulted with the building industry, including architects, engineers and home builders and pulled back on some proposals.
He said, for example, that the city wanted even wider doorways and halls than being proposed, but scaled back the provisions on the advice of builders.
Among the changes the city wants to make:
• Widening hallways to 900 millimetres, or 35.4 inches.
• Widening doorways to 800 millimetres, or 31.5 inches.
• Widening stairways to 915 millimetres, or 36 inches, to allow for mechanical lifts.
• Two peep holes in front doors, one at wheelchair height.
• Lever handles on all plumbing fixtures.
• Lever handles on all doors.
• Wheelchair-accessible building controls, such as thermostats
• Require a bathroom on the lowest inhabitable level of a home.
• Wall reinforcements for bathroom grab bars to be added in future.
• Modified bathtub plumbing to allow for future replacement of tubs with easy entry shower stalls.
• Electrical receptacles raised higher on walls.
Johnston said the changes may look formidable, but they don’t involve retooling of the construction industry. He said, for example, the bylaw currently allows a minimum door width of 24 inches, but the construction industry mostly uses 32-inch doors.
Similarly, lever handles and faucets are already required in all new multi-residential construction.
The report to council says the proposed bylaw changes would add construction costs of anywhere between $660 a unit in high- and mid-rise buildings, to a high of $6,100 for single-family homes. For houses, the lion’s share of that cost comes from new demands for energy and water conservation. The cost of making homes more adaptable for seniors and disabled people is more modest, in the range of $480 for high- and mid-rise buildings, to $685 for single family homes.”
From the Vancouver Sun November 2013