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Uncovering the SDA Design Standard

If you’re looking to make a Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) residence your next property investment venture, undoubtedly, you’ve heard of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) SDA Design Standard. With so much to consider, the SDA standard should be your first consideration when looking to become an SDA property investor, as the design standard underpins the viability and suitability of not only the accommodation for its residents, but of the property’s ongoing investment success. 

We are happy to introduce you to the design standard and what it means for you and the lives of the many Australians living with disability.

What is the Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) design standard? 

The SDA standard has been created to provide clarity of the design requirements of SDA builds. With pre-certification available at the build planning stage, it boosts investor confidence and provides a level of compliance surety. The funding of the SDA program encourages a wide array of housing models that are high quality and come in numerous configurations. Therefore, the full standard is based on the four design categories:

  1. Improved liveability 
  2. Robust
  3. Fully Accessible
  4. High Physical Support

The flexibility of the housing models available means that the accommodation can be tailored appropriately to the diversity of unique participants needs. The standard provides a robust and comprehensive model to ensure the consistency and accuracy of the builds continue to support the tenants well into the future. 

Of course, the SDA standard also provides clarity to the architects and builders involved in designing and building the accommodation as well as the broader community on how building homes for people with disability should be done. 

What does the SDA design standard cover?

Meticulously developed, the SDA standard is comprehensive. The staggering 250+ clauses in the SDA standard detail the requirements and specifications for SDA homes across the areas of:

  • General Requirements (such as amenities)
  • Pedestrian entry
  • Car Parking
  • Entrances, Doorways and door hardware
  • Sanitary facilities
  • Kitchen requirements
  • Laundry requirements
  • Living area needs
  • Switches and powerpoints
  • Flooring and slip resistance
  • Internal stairways
  • Use of lifts
  • Common use external areas, private open space and landscaping
  • Storage 
  • Breakout rooms
  • Luminance contract requirements
  • Ceiling hoists
  • Heating and cooling
  • Emergency power solutions
  • Assistive technology 
  • Fire-safe design

Is the SDA design standard mandatory or just a guide?

The intent and purpose of the standard would be pointless if only a guide, and for that reason, since 01 July 2021, all SDA dwelling enrolment applications must include an SDA design certification from an accredited SDA assessor. The only exceptions are where the dwelling seeking enrolment is pre-existing or a legacy SDA property. 

You may also apply for a design standard exemption. However, these are strictly at the discretion of the NDIA (National Disability Insurance Agency) and are stringently assessed, for good reason. The grounds for approval need to show cause that you have made a significant financial commitment to progress the project or where it isn’t possible to alter the existing project plans to align with the SDA rules. 

FAQs on the SDA Design Standard

When do I find an accredited SDA assessor? 

Given that you need to have an accredited SDA assessor engaged at the design stage (as fittingly stipulated in the design standard itself), it’s important for either the SDA developer or yourself as the owner, to source an accredited SDA assessor straight away.  The SDA Assessors Organisation website is a great place to find accredited SDA assessors near you. 

When do I need to have the SDA certified? 

You can have the SDA dwelling certified to a particular design category at two stages:

  1. Provisional stage – this is when the design is submitted for approval
  2. Final-as-built sage – this is mandatory for SDA enrolment

Two-step certification is advantageous as it provides developers and builders assurance that the dwelling is being constructed in line with the design standard and that it will be approved to be used by SDA participants. 

Is it possible to have an SDA design be certified under more than one design category?

You can absolutely have a dwelling certified under more than one design category. However, it will need to meet the full minimum standards under all enrolled designed categories. 

Can I vary the design requirements to suit a participant?

The SDA rules represent the minimum requirements that would be reasonable and necessary for a person living with disability. It may be impossible at the design stage to understand a future individual participant’s unique requirements. 

For more information on how to get started with your SDA property investment, contact us today. 

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