Transcript for presentation:

Inclusive Housing (Lab) for All: a home for research, demonstration and information on Universal Design (UD)


Jasmien Herssens, Mieke Nijs and Hubert Froyen


B4. Labs, research tools and frameworks

Date and Time

2014-06-16, 16:00 - 16:40


MA 6

Presentation PDF

Long oral presentation

Transcript of the talk

Okay. Then I will welcome Mieke Nijs, and you will talk about inclusive housing and present, introduce the session by your presentation.
Very welcome.
>> Thank you. Hello, everyone, my name is Mieke Nijs, I’m project manager of the UD living lab and with my colleagues, a professor in Universal Design and Hubert Froyen will give a lecture tomorrow. We wrote a paper inclusive lab, a home for research, demonstration and information on Universal Design. It’s a project at the University of Hasselt in the accessibility office and a project located in Belgium.

Today I will tell you something about the design process and building process over inclusive living lab. A process, the actual results and future ambition.
So first of all, how we came to the idea of building an inclusive living lab. So at the start of the new millennium, there’s a growing awareness of social expects in the build environment. First the growing insights and social design and second the demographic changes have had impact on the exponentially growing social awareness of designing the build environments. Statistics show that young generation are too few to fulfill the supportive needs and care for elderly and lack of caregivers for the younger generation. So that’s why we support people to live more independently at home in an inclusive environment. Universal Design aims outcome, usability elegance and comfort for as many people as possible by means of attractive and elegant design solutions.

This inclusive approach supports the vision that good design enables and bad design disables, for as many people as possible. Social participation requires stigma and respect for everyone.
However, in practice, it’s often remarked the desired clients and users lack practical knowledge. There’s a lot of information available, but the information available is often too theoretical. Actual solutions are often stigmatizing and not elegant. So for these reasons and to raise awareness, local organization decided in 2008 to build an inclusive living lab. We had a bottom up approach to link design with research education and we wanted to reach diversity of people in society and create new innovative solutions. We speak about Universal Designing because it puts the emphasis on getting there rather than going there. It’s a nonstop process.
So the ideas for our project started in 2008 when students of the faculty of architect and arts of the University of Hasselt were challenged to design an exhibition that would address the needs of people with disabilities taking into account UD values.
Out of 70 team projects, the best project serves as a successful source of inspiration and already shows the most difficult challenges. So we wanted to build a permanent exhibition because there were a lot of ideas that came from the student projects that were good enough to show people the exhibition the students made while a permanent exhibition — it was not a permanent exhibition, so we wanted to make it in a real house, demonstrating what inclusive design can do for people living as long as possible in their own house. So we found a house in Hasselt in Belgium and there were three main ambitions for this house. We wanted to demonstrate what Universal Design can do. We wanted to conduct research and we wanted to offer information on the added values of Universal Design.
So the first thing to do is finding the funding. We find fundings, of course, from the university college and at the moment it’s the university college in Hasselt university. We get fundings from the accessibility office from the European union program from the government, in the city of Hasselt. And then the next step was finding the right architect. So we asked five architectural gurus to make an offer and most importantly to write down their ambition regarding our project.
Out of these five architects, one was chosen, Victor, a famous Belgium architect. He was chosen because of his inclusive ambition and vision. He was no expert, but he engaged himself to broaden his spectrum, especially for this project he worked together with an interior architect who found herself as a wheelchair user. So we had a first user experts. Then to go on with our design process, we wrote an interdisciplinary team — we worked together with experts, students, designers and users to think with us how we could make a living lab a house that is suitable for everyone. So we asked people in a wheelchair, we asked people with visual impairments, people who are deaf, people who are elderly, elderly people, young people. We asked a lot of people what they thought they needed to be in our house. And, of course, we also explained our ideas. In order to do so, we made visual presentations. We used the actual architectural plans, but sometimes it’s hard to tell people what you want to do just having pictures and having a plan. So for some products we made a scaling model one by one, so that people can actually feel the product and in this case, the handrail is most useful for most people. So this was one example. And then when our design process was finished, when we actually had a plan and an interior plan, we could start a building process. But unfortunately, in 2010, our listing for our building was listed as a monument and not only the exterior was listed, also the interior was listed, so it made it very hard. We needed to redesign our plans, taking into account the original concepts that were already made. The building materials from earlier, and the construction techniques. So taking into count all those things, we needed to have a lot of different focus groups again to redesign our plans. And then we could finally start with our building process. We had a very old building, a building from 1913. We needed to take into account the measurements of the rooms that were in the house, so we couldn’t break out walls or something. Because in the beginning we wanted to work with flexible walls, so we could have a lot of different settings, but that wasn’t possible. But we could strive the whole building, so we could integrate the modernizations.

During our building process, we still worked with different expert teams, working around several topics. It was very nice we could do this also in the building process because now we could go with users and experts to the actual building and show them what we wanted. We could actually show them products that we already showed them and ask them to try them and find out if they’re suitable for you.
So we had different teams working on topics like exterior. Someone was working on the interior, working on IT, the finance and communication.

The manager of the UD lab, experts in Universal Design, accessibility consultants and the architect attended all the meetings. So they made it clear that we stick true to our original concept. And then calling the different topics, researchers and students from the different departments, students, company and user experts were shown the different teams. Because we worked with such a diversity of people, we could increase productivity and creativity. It was very nice when we put a lot of users together, different users, users in wheelchairs, users with visual impairments, so they could hear from each other what they wanted in a product and what was important for them, so they could understand from each other why people want something special in the project — in the product. Sorry.
So we tried to reach a conclusion that fits most people, and it didn’t happen. Sometimes it didn’t happen. The management team had the final vote.
So to give an example and make it more visual, for the kitchen, we worked together with the kitchen company, of course, and in our work group we had a designer and a technical advisor from the company, from the kitchen company. We had user experts. We had a UD expert, management, someone from the accessibility office. We had an architect and interior architect. We had teachers from the Department of Architectural and Interior Architect and they all worked around a specific kitchen, thinking about what kitchen is useful for most people. We worked again with models, scaling one by one, and we organized a lot of focus groups, always redesigning our plans. And also when our kitchen was finally installed in our house, we still asked people to come over to our kitchen and test the product for real, so with their feedback we can redesign our kitchen at every stage during our process.
Nevertheless, it happened, the decisions and designs were made on site and a UD vision was forgotten. Mistakes were remarked, constructors were asked to solve them. For example, the control panel in the shower, it was placed on the center of the wall, symmetrical, as often conducted. But in this case we wanted the control panel placed asymmetrically, more to the open space, that someone who gives assistance, like a caregiver can use the control panel without getting wet.
So the contractors knew to take out all the equipment and reinstall the control panel. And another example, we have a lot of different settings, for example, for toilet use, and in this case the toilets were switched. But, unfortunately, when they were switched, you couldn’t make a transfer from a wheelchair to the toilet, because we made it’s especially for that room. So, of course, the contractors needed to reflect with all this again.
So it was a hard work and they needed to replace a lot of things, but we learned a lot about this project.
And, of course, the building was listed. It didn’t make it any easier. So behind the wooden wall we found a fireplace that wasn’t on the plan. But it’s a nice fireplace. So, of course, it was listed again. So we needed to redesign our plans over and over again, taking into account the different people who were involved in our project.
The UD living lab serves permanent experimental environment, researchers, professionals, users, experts and visitors are all emerged in a real social/spatial environment to test, design and construct realtime solutions. This way research and innovation is integrated in a permanent co-creation. The actual experience of users were taken into account during the whole process of our living lab, and that was, I think, the most important thing about the project and where we learned the most of it was from the experts, the user experts.

Then, of course, the keywords in our complex building process: Communication.
The success of the final design results can be measured in relation to the degree of communication that has been taking place, a lot of communication.

And it was very hard sometimes to work with so many people. They have all great ideas, but you have to put them together. But finally we 22 of March 2013, and everyone was glad to show their contribution to our project and was very glad to explain to everyone what they did.
Facts about our project. Our project was located in a city center of Hasselt in Belgium. It’s protected by the monuments office and it’s listed as a typical row-house dated from 1913. It used to be an old maternity hospital.

On our seats we have a research center that is located in the old chapel of the maternity hospital. It’s a flexible room where we can test different settings, different products with a lot of users. We have a visitor center, an information center, where people can actually come and gather information about Universal Design. They can actually come with their plans and we make accessible plan for their house. And, of course, we have our demonstration house.
In our demonstration house we have two units. We have a ground floor apartment and a second and third floor. It looks like a real house, real setting. So a ground floor apartment we have living room, a working place. We have a bedroom, a bathroom, and a kitchen. And the second floor we have kitchen and living room. The third floor is a bedroom and bathroom.

Total surface of the demonstration house is 264 square meters. The visitor center is 156 square meters.
And we show to people how Universal Design can be an elegant design solution to overcome obstacles. Like, for example, in a normal warehouse in Belgium, you have two stairs to enter a building. From an inclusive point of view, that’s not suitable for everyone, so we removed the stairs. We lowered the door and we integrated a platform in the corridor. So normally it stands in the middle, so it can be used as a stair. But for people that wheelchair, they can lower the platform using an electronic key, a Smart Phone or a tablet, and they can increase the level of 34-centimeters to go to the ground floor apartment. Because the building was listed, we also needed to use the old styles or redesign styles.
Another design solution we used different doors, and here in the bathroom and the toilets, we used double sliding doors, so we can use the toilet as a private guest toilet, but when we slide the doors open, you can connect the toilet with the bathroom, so you have more space and you can easily make a transfer from wheelchair to the toilet.
We also have a support bar next to the bath and/or shower. Normally you see support bar, like your rail, in your shower, but it looks stigmatizing, so we asked the interior architect, you make something else for a grip in the shower? She was inspired by a climbing wall and she made a design with gaps in a wall where you could hold yourself sitting or standing for small people, large people, children, everyone can hold themselves on the place they want. You can also hang your towels there or hang some shower products.

Then another example, we have an adjustable kitchen dresser and cabinets. So for people who are tired or could use stamina, who want to do it sitting, this together with the dishwasher can be adjusted to the preferred height. And the cabinets can lower to increase usability.
Another non-visual support tool, in the bedroom on the ground floor we have a wellness bath. It looks like an electronic box spring but has the same function as a hospital bed, so you can higher and lower the bed. You can adjust the angle or the back or the legs, the leg support. But it looks nice.
We have a door that slides in the middle, so it takes not that much space and it’s easier to use, because you don’t need to go to the front to take the handle and go back to close the door. You can almost stand next to the door, grab the handle and close the door.
Then we have a smart television in the living room that provides, apart from entertainment, a series of services for people. And besides the fact that these techniques are very useful for all of us, people with reduced mobility or limitations can delegate several actions without needing to move.
And then the last example, we have a washing machine and toilet on the second floor and it has two grips. You can hang your towel there, but for people who need the supports to get up from the toilets, they can use the gaps in the design of the product to get up from the toilet.
So my conclusion, the UD lab offers users information about Universal Design and how they can integrate some products in their own house. We create a place for research by design. We demonstrate it, we do research and we give people information. We organize brainstorm sessions, workshops, courses, professional training programs, and, of course, we still do research.
Our research can be very theoretical or very practical. And in this case, the example that you see here, we organize cooking workshops. We organize cooking workshops together with students from the University College and use experts who actually test our kitchen in a real setting and we learn how they can cook independently at home, but we gather a lot of feedback from them while we’re actually — while they are actually cooking. So in this case we did it with people in wheelchair and with people with visual impairment.
What is the conclusion in our project? What did we learn?
The need for personal assistance can be reduced to a minimum and adaptable living and comfort can be supported when Universal Design attitudes is achieved throughout the design and building process.
A project from the University College Hasselt and the accessibility office, we get fundings from Europe, province of Lindberg and the city of Hasselt, a big thanks goes to the firms who worked with us to make all UD living lab true. If you want more information about a project, you can ask me now, visit our website, visit or project for real or when you want more information about the research we do, you can contact.
Also I have flyers about the project if you want.

>> Thank you very much. There are still some minutes if you want to say something else.
>> No, you can ask questions.
>> Okay, because now we all have a chance to talk and ask questions. We’ll use the microphone.

>> Thank you. I was wondering if there’s any future plans for franchising this concept.
>> At the moment, there are no plans for doing that. But maybe it’s — good question.
>> Thank you.
>> Hello. Thank you for a very nice presentation, very inspiring. I like to see the way you work with existing buildings. I have a question about the economy in the project and your clients. I guess they ask about that. How much more will this cost and so on. How do you work with that?
>> We had a lot of those questions, certainly, and the start of a project we wanted to do a lot more, and everyone said it’s nice, looks great, but I cannot afford it, so I don’t have anything about this.
So we’ve taken that into account and we used actually products that are — some products are very cheap, some products are very expensive, but we made a nice balance between expensive and lower cost products. And we can actually tell people that with the use of similar product that we show, that it’s not more expensive to make your house inclusive. We actually take this into account when designing our project.

>> Anybody else?

Do you have reflections or questions?

>> Thank you. Very impressive, the presentation, and project. I’m interested in how you choose people who — with special needs, let’s say, how you ask them how they participated. Could you tell more? How did you find them?

>> The project is from the University College, and they have a department called healthcare, so we worked together with a lot of healthcare organizations who have a lot of participants, who wanted to work in our project, so we actually get the users from the organizations we work with.
>> So they were like volunteers and they —
>> Yes
>> — they didn’t know where they were going? And children, they participated?
>> Yes, children.
>> The whole group, everyone. That’s nice.
Thank you.

>> I was wondering about — when she asked about the users, how do you do the categorization of users? Like who are involved? Like, I mean, when it comes to physical disabilities and cognitive disabilities, is there any categorization that you have made for that so you know which groups are involved?
>> First we made a categorization and we asked them separately what they thought about the project, what they thought was good and not good, but later on in the project we merged them together so we had a lot of users getting together feedback, and actually in that case we had the most feedback because we heard — they heard from each other the needs for every people is. Every people has different needs. When hearing from each other what they wanted in a project, we came to a conclusion that was suitable for most people.

>> We have still ten minutes for questions. There are some long presentations and shorter ones in the end.

>> Thank you very much. It was very interesting. I wonder, did you have any home control or smart home products in the apartments?
>> Yes. We worked with Stomatics. We have chosen an open system so we can include different technologies on the project. Also because we have an apartment that works on IT and technology, so they can integrate their research in our project, but at the moment it’s very low tech, so we can open the front door. You can lower the platform. The lights go on and off. You can turn on heat, those things. But not more.

>> good presentation. Do you have any long-term status, people living there for a bit longer time, or is it only for the moment where you have a special issue to address or such?
>> At this moment, just studies for the moment. So we have cooking workshops and those things, but we plan on next year, that people can actually live in our living lab and test it, sleep there, cook their meals, they can actually do the whole process. And our living lab will be closed two years from now. So we intend to redesign our living lab. They can take into account feedback.
>> Hi, very nice presentation. Good idea about having the living lab. I would like to ask a technical question. You have shown a door which essentially revolves around, but what about the distance, which is, I’ll say, the width of the door is — the opening is going to reduce down, so are you getting the question?
>> So you want to know when the door is —
>> Then what is the width in comparison to regular door where the width needs to be increased?

>> The door that you —
>> You have shown in your presentation.
>> You see, that wasn’t a part of the building. That was not listed, so we didn’t need to take into account the measurements that were already there, so we could make a large opening, and in this case, the opening, when the door is open, it’s 90-centimeters.
>> But the whole door is —
>> I think about 110-centimeters.
>> So more than the regular door width?
>> Yeah, it’s more.
>> So you need more space in implementing the door?
>> They make this door…
Yeah, they can adapt the door to the space you have, so they can make a wide opening, small opening. It doesn’t matter in this case.
>> Okay. Thank you.
>> Thank you very much. I have a question about legislation in Belgium. What are demands on the existing buildings when they are doing this exchange?
>> You mean from the monuments office or disability office?
>> What do you have to do? I mean, what is said in the rules or legislation in Belgium, if you have an existing building and you are doing some changes, do you have to think accessibility or you don’t have to do that? I mean, was it extra?
>> Yeah, they want to do this from the monuments office, they want to include accessibility, but at the moment, the legislation is just taking into account the things monuments office tell you to do. So we don’t have to take into account accessibility. Of course, in this project we wanted to do this, so it’s an extra.

>> Hello. I just want to ask a simple question. Does your project consider the green aspect, sustainable, easy to maintain on your project?

>> Do you mean that we take into account sustainability?
>> sustainability for your project. Do you do that?

>> It’s a listed monument, so we couldn’t take into account —
>> I see — because I see your — to make it Universal Design, so you are using technology and using the electricity, so have you considered a green —
>> I know what you mean. Because the monument is listed, we couldn’t integrate extra — finding the right words when you’re standing here is so hard sometimes.

Isolation. We couldn’t integrate isolation because the monument was listed, we couldn’t do anything about it. We wanted to place solar panels on the roof. The building is listed, so we couldn’t even do that. we take it into account, we ask the monuments office, but it’s all listed.

>> Okay. Thank you very much. It was really interesting.



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