• Housing
  • Building and Safety Policy

Public Review - Adaptable Housing Standards

The purpose of the public review is to receive feedback from the general public, local governments, and the design and building community on proposed adaptable housing standards.  The proposed adaptable housing standards were developed in response to local government interest in incorporating adaptable features during building design and construction.  The proposed adaptable housing standards will apply to single-storey suites in new residential, multi-unit buildings. 

Feedback received from the review will be analyzed and considered in finalizing the standards.  Once the standards are finalized, local governments across B.C. will have the option to adopt the model adaptable housing standards through bylaw.  Establishing model standards will provide consistent application of adaptable housing standards across B.C.

The proposed standards are available online for feedback until September 22, 2008.


What is Adaptable Housing?
Scope of the Proposed Standards
Benefits of Adaptable Housing Standards
How Were the Adaptable Housing Standards Developed?
Why Do We Need Adaptable Housing Standards?
Proposed Adaptable Housing Standards
How to Comment on Proposed Standards

What is Adaptable Housing?

For the purposes of this review, the term ‘adaptable housing’ includes accessibility and design and construction features that can be modified at minimal cost to suit the changing needs of people over time, therefore reducing the need for major renovations at a later time. Adaptable housing includes:

  • basic accessibility features such as corridors, doorways, bathrooms and kitchens that facilitate access for people with mobility limitations
  • design and construction features to support future installation of grab bars in the bathroom
  • purpose-built features that are incorporated during initial construction, such as accessible positioning of electrical outlets and switches, and design of door and faucet handles.

Scope of the Proposed Adaptable Housing Standards

The proposed adaptable housing standards will apply to single-storey suites in new residential, multi-unit buildings. This building type already requires a degree of accessibility under the B.C. Building Code. The proposed standards include additional accessibility requirements that will apply to the individual units as well as building entrances, corridors, and common areas.

The Province sought to balance accessibility and industry needs in developing the scope of the proposed standards. Single-storey suites in multi-unit buildings represent a starting point for requiring adaptable housing design features in residential units.

The adaptable housing standards for residential, multi-unit buildings will apply only in regions where local governments choose to adopt the standards through bylaw.

Benefits of Adaptable Housing Standards

Adaptable housing benefits everyone, including seniors and people who have temporary or permanent mobility limitations. Step-free main entrances, wider doorways, an accessible washroom, and power switches and outlets at accessible heights all contribute to making homes more comfortable for everyone, including residents and visitors with mobility limitations.

Adaptable housing uses design features that can easily be modified at minimal cost to suit the changing needs of people over time, giving people the opportunity to remain in their homes and live more independently should they experience temporary or permanent mobility limitations.

Adaptable housing is a cost effective approach to facilitating independent living. The added initial construction costs are minimal compared to the costs of adding accessibility features after construction. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation estimates the cost of installing reinforcements to allow for future installation of bathroom grab bars ranges from $50 to $90 during initial construction, compared to over $500 to reinforce the wall in an existing bathroom. Some features, such as the placement of outlets and switches, and design of door handles and faucets, carry little or no additional cost if incorporated during construction. Other accessibility features, such as doorway and hallway widths, can be prohibitively expensive to introduce into an existing building. Internationally, the costs of building to adaptable housing standards vary between 0.5% to 3.0% of total construction costs.

How Were the Adaptable Housing Standards Developed?

The Province established an Adaptable Housing Working Group to develop specific recommendations on how the Province could accommodate local government interest in adaptable housing standards. Working group members included representatives from provincial and local governments, the building industry, health care support, and seniors groups.

The Adaptable Housing Working Group reviewed adaptable housing standards developed by North Vancouver and the District of Saanich, as well as similar standards developed by the SAFER Home, Lifetime Homes, Concrete Change, and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. The working group also reviewed B.C. Building Code accessibility standards for public and institutional buildings and looked at similar developments in other countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States.

Why Do We Need Adaptable Housing Standards?

Adaptable housing is a cost-effective approach that gives everyone, including seniors and people with temporary or permanent mobility limitations, the opportunity to live more independently. Adaptable housing benefits everyone. For example:

  • Ramped or step-free main entrances make it easier for families with young children in strollers.
  • Wider doorways make it easier to move furniture and other objects around the home.
  • Power outlets at accessible heights of 450 mm are easier to reach for everyone.

Adaptable housing also carries broader societal benefits by saving on institutionalized care costs, and by making homes more accessible for visitors with mobility limitations.

Local governments have expressed interest in including adaptable housing design features in their communities. Creating model standards that local governments have the option to adopt through bylaw will give local governments flexibility to make the best housing choices for their communities. The Province is committed to developing model standards to provide consistency in application of adaptable housing across B.C.

Proposed Adaptable Housing Standards

Adaptable Housing Standards have been drafted for the following areas:

• Building Access
• Suite Doors and Doorways
• Bathrooms
• Kitchens
• Outlets, Switches, and Other Environmental Controls
• Patios and Balconies (*Future Work)

*Future Work Some work has been done on adaptable housing standards for patios and balconies, but more input and analysis is needed before standards can be proposed for this area. Some preliminary standards for patios and balconies are included for public review and discussion, but it is anticipated that provisions for patios and balconies will not be included in the final standards. Any comments on the draft standards for patios and balconies will be considered in future work on adaptable housing standards.

How to Comment on the Proposed Standards

Review the proposed Adaptable Housing Standards and use the Feedback Form for your comments. Click on the Feedback Form ’Submit’ button to ensure we receive your input.

Please submit your comments to the Building and Safety Policy Branch by:

Monday, September 22, 2008.