Think fabric first
If you’re thinking of building a family home that may need to be suitable for multi-generational living now, or at some point in the future, it really does pay to think ‘fabric first’. After all, the decision to use basic grade building materials in your self build is one you’ll have to live with for the lifetime of the property – and one you could very quickly come to regret.
The shape of a room, minimum access dimensions and the width of access corridors all need to be considered when designing a multi-generational home as lack of space can really impact on modern lifestyle needs. As your lifestyle changes over time, your home also needs to be adaptable to cater for those evolving needs. After all, today’s home office might need to transform into next year’s nursery or downstairs bedroom for an elderly family member.
The London space standards provide the best available minimum benchmark from which to assess whether a home is going to be big enough.
Consider durability now for adaptability later
With several people’s needs to consider over the lifetime of your build - young children, grown adults back from university, or elderly parents moving in - adaptability and durability is key. While many self-builders use standard plasterboard, this can result in flimsy walls that don’t meet these changing demands. Investing in good quality walls is therefore essential.
Gyproc Habito’s reinforced core makes it five times stronger than regular plasterboard, meaning it can support 15kg using only a standard screw. As a result, attaching heavier items, such as grab rails for older members of the family, to the wall is so much easier.
It’s also particularly important to consider high traffic areas such as halls, stairways and kitchens, where your walls are more easily prone to damage, particularly if you’ve got buggies or walkers going in and out. In these areas it’s worth upgrading the plaster specification to a stronger product, such as ThistlePro DuraFinish, which is 60% tougher than standard plaster and far more resistant to everyday wear and tear.
Block out noise from the start
Noise transfer between walls and floors can cause problems if a home is not designed with acoustics in mind. In a multi-generational household, teenagers might want to watch a movie whilst dad is working in his home office and grandparents are trying to have a nap. In the first instance, designing out noise problems by looking at room layout is the ideal solution so that adjacent rooms aren’t at risk of noise transfer. This means not putting a lounge next to a utility room, for example, or a large kitchen underneath a bedroom.
If designing out acoustic conflict is not an option then consider upgrading the building materials in these ‘acoustic conflict’ areas to advanced building fabrics that exceed basic Building Regulations. British Gypsums’ Silent Floor, for example, can create noise separation between upstairs and downstairs that exceeds Building Regulation requirements by up to 15dB. Creating this sound barrier makes a home more flexible to change function at different periods of your family’s lifecycle.
Meeting your needs now – and for generations to come
While taking a ‘fabric first’ approach to your self-build does involve planning ahead, maximising the performance of the components and materials that make up the building itself is the best route to achieving a flexible, relaxing home that is sturdy enough to work for you, and everyone in your family, for generations to come.