Prize-winning 'universal design' home caters to disabled and has no stepsbackground-defaultbackground-default

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Prize-winning 'universal design' home caters to disabled and has no steps

Prize-winning 'universal design' home caters to disabled and has no steps

SATURDAY, September 13, 2014

A house with features including a zero-step concept to accommodate wheelchairs and tactile floors to help the blind differentiate zones of the home, designed to accommodate people with any form of physical disability, has taken the top prize at this year'

This “Baan Rak Saa” house was the work of a novice architect from Udon Thani province, Panupong Sittiwong. 
He said he conceived the house under the concept of “universal design” – the idea of treating all residents equally regardless of age and physical ability. The house is meant to encourage handicapped residents, keeping them from feeling alienated from able-bodied people. 
“My inspiration for the design came from curiosity about how environments in the house interact with human life and how they make people happy,” he said.
Panupong’s Baan Rak Saa utilises the six senses – sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch and mind – to support people of all physical disabilities by interacting with many features in the house. 
“Ramps around the house and the zero-step design will benefit wheelchair users. Another example is if the person is blind, tactile floors will signal where he is in the house,” he said.
The September 9 competition, sponsored by MK Real Estate Development, aimed to raise awareness about universal design in Thai society and to show off local talents in creating designs that provide convenience, safety and equality. The company offered cash prizes totalling Bt165,000 for talented young architects.
Panupong said: “Universal design reduces the gap between the handicapped and average people. If we apply the universal-design idea to treat everyone equally, we might not need a wheelchair symbol to indicate which service is for people with disabilities. Equality is the aim of universal design.” 
Assistant Professor Sek Sawasdee, a Chulalongkorn University architecture lecturer who was one of the competition’s judges, explained why Baan Rak Saa won.
“The house was thoroughly designed to support people with any disability by implementing the senses to make sure everyone can live in this house. Each activity was also well planned to support people with or without a disability. The house’s new and modern style is also interesting,” he said. 
Needs changes to lower cost 
However, the winning design may not easily become a reality. “Since it was just a competition, the design still needs some developments on modifying its structure and changing some features to match a realistic budget,” Sek said. 
He also commented about the awareness of the importance of universal design in society. He said the universal-design trend was increasing among average people.
“More products are developed to serve older people in an ageing society. In many architecture and design classes, ideas of universal design are gradually absorbed by students and already accepted by many architects,” he said. 
“Universal design will be more and more common in society and eventually will become a basic concept.”