How to build for multigenerational living
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One in five Australians live in multigenerational households – where more than one generation of related adults live under one roof – and the number is tipped to climb.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics predicts the number of “related people” living in family households will continue to rise in coming years, making the question of how to plan properties for numerous generations a timely one.

So, if you’re building a home, how can you design it to also attract these kinds of buyers, whether now or in the future?

multigenerational living

As Australia becomes even more multicultural and diverse, and housing prices continue to rise, the number of Aussies living in multigenerational households is set to increase. Picture: Getty

Plan out separate spaces – and more than one bathroom

Melissa Fleming, principal architect and director at Melbourne-based Metroworks Architects, says designing for multigenerational homes is on the radar of the design and building industries.

“Most of my clients with children still at home are planning for them to remain living there into their early adult years,” she says.

Fleming says “diversity of spaces” is key to getting multigenerational design right.

“Everyone needs their own space, whether it be space for time out, socialising, studying or entertaining, but a family living under one roof typically needs time together as well. Diversity of spaces is a key issue,” Fleming says.

Architects also have to consider the changing needs of a household, she says.

“Typically, young children need to be closer to their parents, teenagers want to be as far away as possible and young adults are somewhere in between.

“So, architects need to find a balance to ensure spaces have the flexibility to grow and change with the families they accommodate,” Fleming says.

There’s also the pragmatic issues of providing enough bathroom facilities, especially for larger families, ensuring privacy and separation for noise control, she adds.

Multi-generational house plans need to be flexible

Fleming says the most important thing for any architect to do is to take a good design brief from the client.

“That doesn’t mean ‘get the clients to write one’, it means the architect has to listen to their clients and sometimes even read between the lines. The design brief is more than just a list of rooms, it relates to the lifestyle of the family as well,” she says.

Diversity and flexibility can often be handled together in the design process, according to Fleming.

“A rumpus room can be designed with large sliding panels or moveable walls to allow it to be split into two study spaces when needed.

“Or with clever joinery design, a lounge room or retreat space could include a concealed study,” she adds.

Practical problems are normally easier to deal with, Fleming explains.

“Noise control can be managed with planning, for example keeping rowdier spaces like rumpus rooms away from bedrooms, locating toilets in separate powder rooms or outside of bathrooms, so the two can be used at same time and providing baths for current young children or future grandchildren,” she says.

Consider a second storey

Multiple floors can be beneficial too, Fleming says.

“Using different floor levels can be helpful, for example, having a rumpus room on a different level from the main family living area. But you also need to consider how your family will use those spaces, which is where lifestyle comes in.

“If your rumpus or second living space is on the first floor level, but those using it like to be near the kitchen for snacks and drinks or the TV up there is smaller, will it get used?” Fleming says.

Separating sleeping areas by floor level often works well.

“Although some parents like to be close to their young children in the early years, that desire usually fades as the children grow up, particularly as they become young adults.

“In that case, having a master bedroom on both floor levels gives the house some flexibility over time.

“In the early years, a ground floor master suite can be a space for guests, then later become the master suite, moving the guest suite up into the first floor master bedroom,” Fleming says.




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