Quality marks — luxury or necessity?

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Andrew Olsen, general manager of Lifetime Design which administers the Lifemark, a quality mark delivering adaptable and accessible homes, says the initial costs of “getting it right” from the start should not be restrictive.
“Many builders that have assessed the Lifemark believe that when incorporated into the design from the outset, there is almost no increase in cost,” Mr Olsen says.

“In fact, the costs of delivering a Lifemark home should not be restrictive. The upfront cost of incorporating its features at the time of building is as little as 0% to 15% of the total build cost, a fraction of the cost of retro-fitting homes.”

So, while a key barrier to adopting a quality mark may be the challenge of justifying an “intangible” value on your invoice, the fact is that most Kiwi consumers are only too aware of the costs of not getting homes right from the start.
“Taxpayers are footing the massive bill of more than $35 million per annum to retrofit houses so elderly and disabled people can stay in their homes.
“And with the rapid rise in the age of our population, this cost is going to increase greatly unless the building industry adopts the Lifemark,” Mr Olsen says.

Statistics now prove that the cost of retrofitting an existing house is considerably more expensive than designing with the future in mind, he says.
The value of the Lifemark is that it delivers homes for future generations, enabling older people to stay in their homes for longer while, at the same time, making living easier for all ages and abilities, from mothers with babies to occupants with temporary injuries.

The Lifemark is awarded to homes which meet 33 design features, including a level entry, and widened doors and passageways, all aimed at making the house accessible for everyone and easy to adapt as residents’ needs change over time.

Almost all of the 33 standards, when designed from scratch, add no extra cost. While items such as level entries may have small costs over and above traditional methods, even this standard when designed into original plans will be far cheaper than retro fitting in the future, Mr Olsen says.

“For instance, doors cost no more on a square metre built cost basis. So it’s a common sense approach to designing homes for the future to make them wider at the design and build stages.
“And it makes business sense when you consider that in 15 years’ time, more than 25% of our population will be over 65 years old. So a Lifemark house will be a more attractive resale option as it will cater to a wider market.”