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FlexHousing Helps Design Flexible and Versatile Homes

As you go through life, your housing needs will change. A bachelor apartment is fine for your first home away from home but as you get established, you tend to need more space. Whether you are single, have a growing family, are an "empty nester" or looking for a way to care for aging relatives, most people require different household spaces, amenities and functionality to meet changing needs over time.

While it is always possible to move to a home that meets your needs, this can be disruptive and expensive. For some, adapting your existing home may be the better option. However, some homes are not easily, or cost-effectively, altered given how they were designed and built. Fortunately, solutions to this problem are being developed. One approach, championed by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, is FlexHousing™. This is an approach to designing homes that are versatile and flexible, and can be adapted to meet the varying and changing needs of a household. This makes it possible for people to stay in their homes through significant events and shifts in their lives, without having to undertake costly renovations or move to another home.


Essentially, this means that the floor plan and layout of your home have built-in features that allow you to easily change the use of your available space as needed or preferred at a future date. This might include providing expandable space where certain areas of the home, such as an attic or rooms over the garage or basement, are left for later finishing to accommodate a growing family or expanded household, or to create a home office.

Adaptability also means that you plan to have an easily convertible space where you can adjust the size or function of existing areas. This may include making provisions to allow a large bedroom to be converted into two smaller rooms, or the reverse, by using moveable or removable walls and locating windows accordingly.

An adaptable house can also be easily sub-divided into separate spaces to provide a secondary suite with a private entrance and separate heating and electrical services. This can provide living space for a younger or older member of the family, a rental unit for additional income, or accommodation for a caregiver. Adaptability also applies to making allowance for future amenities that you can install later as your needs change and budget permits. For instance, by stacking your closets you can more easily accommodate a home elevator when you need one. A "Flex" room on the main level for use as den, home office or master bedroom, is another example of adaptable, flexible housing design.

In all cases, careful pre-planning is key. For instance, the placement of load-bearing walls, windows and electrical outlets affects how easily interior spaces can be rearranged. Pre-plumbing and pre-wiring for future needs significantly reduce the cost of installing services later. A potential secondary suite must meet all building code regulations, including fire safety and exit requirements.


Accessibility focuses on safe, easy movement and function in the home. A flexible home is accessible for people with mobility, visual and other special requirements. For example, it facilitates seniors' independence and ability to remain in their homes as they age. It offers a comfortable and convenient living environment for everyone in the home, at all times.

Accessibility features include on-grade exterior access with no threshold that impedes movement. The doorway should also be covered to protect against rain and snow, and be well lit. In the home, wider doorways and hallways leave plenty of room for wheelchairs, walkers, a baby carriage, and more. A main-floor self-contained living space-living room, kitchen, bathroom (wheelchair-accessible),and "Flex" room -- can eliminate the need for stair climbing for people with mobility issues. Having all living areas at the same level (e.g. no sunken living room or elevated great room or kitchen area) facilitates access throughout. Lever handles on doors and cabinetry should be easy for all to operate, young and old. Non-slip flooring and lower-height light switches are useful and safe features for all. In the bathroom, either install grab bars or provide the necessary reinforcement behind the walls to reduce the work required for future installation. A roll-in shower area can be both accessible and attractive.

Also think about

A number of other aspects contribute to making FlexHousing™ an ideal starting point to help you plan your new home or home renovation for the long term.

Energy efficiency reduces the cost of owning your home, and softens the impact of future increases in energy prices. Plus, an energy-efficient home is more comfortable to live in.

Water efficiency also helps to reduce your operating costs. In addition to water-saving fixtures, you may want to include low-maintenance landscaping, rainwater collection, and grey water recycling.

Indoor air quality: The air you breathe has an effect on your health and wellbeing. Keep the air fresh by choosing low-emission, easy-to-clean products, furnishings and finishes. Installing a heat recovery ventilator will help keep your air fresh and operating costs low.


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