Collaborating with designers and architects on NDIS projects

Obtaining accessible housing can be one of the most complex and confusing activities for eligible NDIS participants. Many people may need to be involved in modifying, designing or building your perfect home. On complex projects, it is so important that designers, architects and builders work in close consultation, and ensure compliance with NDIS funding requirements and design code regulations.

Learn more about the regulations, process and design approach for NDIS projects in this article.

Accessible homes for NDIS participants

Our homes are supposed to be our sanctuary, a safe and familiar place set up to meet our needs. Everyone deserves a comfortable and functional home, and NDIS participants with disabilities deserve to live in an accessible home with inclusive design features.

Just as we are different, each person’s home needs to be considered and designed just for them. In addition to being functional and practical, a home should look good and create a pleasant environment for the person who lives there.

Accommodation in the National Disability Insurance Scheme

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is Australia’s funding and support system for people with physical and intellectual disabilities. It is administered by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and aims to help participants achieve their goals and gain independence where possible.

Through the NDIS, various types of accommodation and home modifications can be funded. The types of accommodation include:

Specialist Disability Accommodation requirements

Specialist Disability Accommodation SDA homes are designed and built for NDIS participants who have extreme functional impairment or very high support needs. You must meet NDIS eligibility criteria to move into an SDA home.

To access Specialist Disability Accommodation, SDA homes, you must apply for SDA funding with a request to the NDIS. The request should include the housing type, location, and a list of what funding is required.

There are currently four SDA design categories, and SDA housing features vary depending on which design has been applied. The SDA design categories are:

  • Robust

  • Fully Accessible

  • High Physical Support

  • Improved Liveability (which is proposed to be removed, with a new category Shared Living Support) be created

SDA homes should be built and managed by a registered SDA provider.

SDA design standards can be difficult to interpret. They cover capital costs for a dwelling or a person with a disability. The NDIS will not fund:

  • swimming pools and spas, even if you would like to use them for hydrotherapy

  • modifications that make your house more significant, like adding another level

  • repairs to pre-existing damage to your home

  • fixing home modifications that are not safe or do not comply with the National Construction Code or relevant Australian standards

SDA housing - who is involved?

Sometimes, Specialist Disability Accommodation homes are built from scratch. In other cases, an existing home is modified to meet SDA standards and guidelines. If you are planning a new SDA build project or seeking to modify an existing home to better suit your disability needs, you will likely need the support of a team of professionals to complete the project.

Depending on the size and scope of your SDA home and building project, you may need a:

  • designer

  • architect

  • occupational therapist

  • home modification assessor

  • builder

  • construction workers

Working with so many different people can become difficult. That’s why keeping your NDIS support coordinator involved in the build or modifications is a great idea. Your NDIS support coordinator will assist with managing your SDA funding and ensure that everyone works closely during the design process. You can also consider project management support for the coordination of the project.

Role of designers in NDIS SDA

Designers can help you design a home that meets standards and offers comfort and easy access for people with physical and intellectual difficulties and with high physical support needs.

Designers usually work to customise the plans created by an architect, to add furniture and fixtures as fittings that are highly functionality but also look great.

Designers of SDA homes usually work by discussing the key requirements, features, and preferred layout of your home with you. Once a design plan is made, a designer will also create a schematic drawing that helps you get a real sense of what the house will look like. The materials required are detailed on a comprehensive design requirements list. It is important to note that the NDIS will not fund cosmetic finishes for fixtures, fittings, or materials like tiles or tapware.

Designers can also help create a suitable environment for people with sensory issues or impairments. They can help you choose colours and materials that make the home look and feel like your own. The elements you select will help you express yourself and your unique preferences. It’s often the small details that can make Specialist Disability Accommodation SDA really feel like home.

The NDIS does not generally fund designer services. You may elect to work with a designer of your choosing or find an accredited NDIS home modification assessor to carry out any design-related activity.

Role of architects in NDIS SDA

Architects have the knowledge and expertise to:

  • advise on the design and cost of home modifications

  • outline the scope of work

  • provide drawings so builders can give quotes on the works

You may also appoint an architect as your building construction practitioner.

A building construction practitioner will work closely with you and your home modification assessor to help plan a home modification. They will make sure the home modification supports recommended by your assessor are possible in your home and work out how the modifications can be done most effectively.

Your building construction practitioner will review your property and home, providing information to support the home modification assessment. They will also identify whether any preliminary works by building specialists, such as engineers, surveyors, or architects are needed to help plan your modifications.

Role of Occupational Therapists

For category A minor home modifications, you must have an assessment with a registered Australian occupational therapist. An occupational therapist does not need to be a registered home modification assessor to conduct an assessment for category A modifications. These are smaller modifications that cost less than $10,000.

Role of Home Modification Assessors

Home modification assessors are occupational therapists who are qualified to recommend more detailed home modifications. They have Specialist knowledge of accessible design and the context of NDIS SDA funding. A home modification assessor is required to carry out an assessment for Category B Minor home modifications and complex home modifications.

A home modification assessor can recommend specific home modification supports you need and explain how they relate to your disability and goals. They can also help identify if you’ll need additional support, like equipment or alternative accommodation, while your changes are done.

Your home modification assessor may work with a building construction practitioner. They will collaborate to complete the home modification assessment report and submit it to us. The assessment templates are on the NDIS website.

A home modification assessor should be independent of the designer, architect, builder and construction company.

Role of builders

Builders and construction workers are the people who build or modify your home. Builders follow the plans created by your architect or home modification assessor.

The builders’ responsibilities are wide-ranging. They need to build a safe home that meets the National Construction Code and all relevant Australian Standards. Builders working on NDIS projects should complete a service agreement or building contract with you. This document outlines what will be done and any costs.

The agreement should outline who is responsible for the work and how and when your modifications will be completed.

The service agreement or building contract should also outline the following:

  • what the builder is responsible for

  • what you are responsible for

  • who will be liable if things go wrong

  • how risks will be managed

Where possible, it makes sense to work with just one builder. They can manage all of the different tradespeople working on your home, such as plumbers, electricians, and tilers.

Project management for NDIS home renovations and builds

Project management is an important part of any large scale NDIS project. Your project manager will keep everyone coordinated and on track from design through to construction process.

building works project manager can help you check your contract and arrangements with your builder.

You can also ask your building construction practitioner to be your building works project manager. You can ask your building construction practitioner to help you check builder credentials and get builder quotes.

Specialist Disability Accommodation design process

Several technical professionals need to be involved in designing and constructing SDA homes. Specialist Disability Accommodation homes are usually designed with the following steps:

  1. concept designs created

  2. construction drawings created

  3. architecture documentation created

  4. planning and building approval obtained

  5. building certification achieved

Nursed Care - Disability service providers with a difference

We are Nursed Care, accredited NDIS service providers offering a diverse selection of NDIS services. Very few providers offer the breadth of services that we do. Not only do we provide services and support for everyday living, such as personal care, medication support, and cleaning, but we also design, build, and manage NDIS accommodation and housing.

Nursed Care services make a real difference for people living with disabilities and their families. Our goal is to enable NDIS participants to achieve greater independence. We support participants and people with disability to dream big and set their goals for the future.

The Nursed NDIS team can help you navigate the complex and confusing NDIS landscape. We have worked with people with [physical disability, intellectual disability and development delays, to achieve great outcomes.

Visit our website to see the positive comments our clients have left us. We have been recognised and thanked by participants for our expertise in the sector and the empowering way we involve clients in our processes.

Nursed Care for complete home modifications and renovations

Nursed Care is an accredited SDA provider. We work hard to create Nursed Care SDA homes that:

  • feature robust design

  • are aesthetically pleasing

  • offer independent living

  • are constructed for people with high physical support needs

We can work closely and partner with NDIS participants to design and build fully accessible homes or support a project to renovate and improve an existing property. Our focus is to help you live independently.

Your Nursed Care project manager will handle all the paperwork, permits and approvals. Our team has extensive experience in ensuring compliance and the delivery of a home. We will ensure that the NDIS funding provided for your SDA accommodation creates a home you will love to live your life in.

Related questions

When selecting a designer, architect or builder for your new SDA home, you should look for a professional who:

  • is familiar with relevant codes, regulations and rules that cover the entire construction process

  • is passionate about creating a home to suit individual needs

  • will work closely with your NDIS SDA provider and can work as a team

  • has relevant experience in the disability sector

  • has a proven track record of delivering work on time and budget

  • can show you past projects they have completed for people living with a disability

  • has a risk management approach, and processes, policies and procedures to ensure safety

  • will involve participants and their families in building development and decision making

  • is flexible enough to make changes to a design or schedule to ensure they are meeting your needs

  • will address your questions and concerns

  • has received positive feedback from other clients

Technology can also improve a home’s accessibility and help people with disability feel in control. Examples include smart systems that make it easy for residents to adjust the lighting or temperature of their homes. Designers may also be able to give you guidance on accessibility technology that can be added to your housing.

These features create opportunities for increased independent living. Discuss technology requirements with your designer before you begin the construction process.

The NDIS market for accessible housing for people with disability is notoriously difficult to enter. There are shortages of accessible homes in the sector at a national level. The availability and affordability of SDA housing was referred to in the NDIS Review.

A 20-year projection model released by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), estimates that by 2042, with an average growth of 2.4% per year, a total of 36,684 SDA homes will be required.

Paramatta and Blacktown are both on the national list of areas where high demand of SDA housing is predicted.

Need qualified care?

At Nursed, we offer a full range of care and disability support services, assisting you to live the life you want to live. Contact us today.

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Our friendly staff are eager to help you live your best life. Whether you need new accommodation, supports, home modifications or simply want to join our day programs we’ll ensure you’re looked after. 

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