Consumers are demanding an immediate sign of assurance that a design is backed by rigorous standards and processes, with potential home builders closely scrutinising the market for a designer, builder or architect who can cater for their specific needs.
When it comes to adaptability and accessibility in housing design, the only quality mark currently available in New Zealand is the Lifemark, a Government-supported seal of approval that demonstrates a home is suitable for people of all ages and mobility needs.
Andrew Olsen, general manager of Lifetime Design Ltd, which oversees the Lifemark, says it is backed by extensive research, stringent standard setting and robust processes.
“Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of its huge value in terms of the considerable amount of information behind it and the significant research undertaken on their behalf by experts to ensure that their needs around accessibility and adaptability will be covered,” Mr Olsen says.
“We have also chosen to be a certified trademark to give people extra confidence, an assurance that robust processes are involved, that we have credibility, and that we will deliver on what we promise.
“An independent third party endorsement such as the Lifemark is crucial if builders want to prove they are ahead of the rest.”
Furthermore, in an industry already heavily loaded with specialised branding — especially around green building — the Lifemark offers an important point of difference, Mr Olsen says.
“All these brands are focused on the product or the services of the house or developer, whereas the Lifemark brings in the people element and can sit alongside any other marks and add value.
“Essentially, Lifemark is an assurance that the 33 fundamental design features will deliver home owners a home that is usable by all their friends and family, the young and old, and those with particular mobility issues.
“For a builder, the Lifemark means they can position their business as catering to a much broader market.
The added benefit of the Lifemark is that it caters for the current demographic where most new home building is occurring — the over 45 age group. These are people who will be factoring the needs of their young and older generational family members into the design elements of their homes.
Lifemark is encouraged by the feedback from the early adopters in New Zealand’s construction industry.
“The two strong messages coming through are that the Lifemark comes at very little cost, and results in a house that feels much more spacious than the square metres would normally allow for, even for very small houses.
“The major investment for the builder or developer or architect comes upfront in terms of the time involved in thinking through the design issues at the start. Once that’s done, the actual cost implication is extremely low,” Mr Olsen says.