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 Universal Design

This website provides a 'hub' of well-targeted resources for housing for the architecture and design community on universal design (UD). It complements other New Zealand-based resources and provides:

  • a sketch gallery of generic dimensioned design solutions
  • a photo gallery of universal design being applied in real New Zealand homes
  • a calculation tool to determine the financial implications of incorporating universal design features into new homes or during renovations
  • a tri-fold flyer for those interested in promoting Universal Design to their clients
  • further information and guidance from national and international organisations working in this area.

About Universal Design

Universal design is about producing environments that are accessible to all people of all abilities, at any stage of life. Specifically, it 'describes the concept of designing housing features to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life'*.

The abilities covered by universal design resources are broad ranging, and include people who are elderly, young, manipulatory disabled, blind, or deaf, or who need a walking aid or use a wheelchair. However, the design concepts and solutions provided are smart for everyone, as they make the home:

  • safer and easier for all to use (including young children)
  • easier for people with temporary injuries
  • easier for visitors who are disabled/have children
  • easier to occupy without needing to modify layouts
  • able to get independent recognition in third-party schemes, such as LifeMark™ and Homestar™
  • more attractive to a wider range of buyers.

In short, these UD features make sense for any home!

BRANZ research has shown that it is considerably cheaper and less disruptive to build universal design features into an individual new home than retrofit the same house later. As an example, the average extra cost of equipping a new house with UD features is $1,720, while retrofitting these new houses at a later date would cost an extra $16,990 on average (using 2011 figures).


This site is an ACC led initiative partnering with Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), Housing New Zealand, Ministry of Health, Office of Disability Issues and BRANZ Ltd. We welcome your feedback. Email us at

The BRANZ Disclaimer applies to this Universal Design site. The information contained within - whether text or graphic - are guidelines and principles, and complement NZBC requirements and NZS 4121:2001.

* Ron Mace, founder, The Center for Universal Design