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Canadian Housing Observer 2012 - Chapter 6
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Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
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Chapter 6
Sustainable Housing and Communities -
Flexible Housing
Fast Facts
CMHC’s FlexHousing™ is based on four
basic principles of flexible design: adaptability,
accessibility, affordability and occupant health.
The number of households headed by seniors is
expected to rise through 2036. Flexible housing
meets the needs of an aging population by
facilitating seniors’ comfort, security, independence,
well-being and preference for aging-in-place.
The percentage of adults living with disabilities
increases with age. In 2006, about 4.4 million
Canadians (about 14% of the population) were
living with disabilities; about 56% of those
aged 75 and older were living with disabilities.
Flexible housing designed for accessibility is ideally
suited to meet the needs of people with mobility
and agility disabilities.
In 2006, about 34,000 people aged 15 or older with
a mobility/agility disability lived in a household in
core housing need and reported that they had
unmet needs for special features required to assist
them with their daily life activities. Such features
include grab bars or a bath lift in the bathroom, a
ramp or street level entrance, easy-to-open doors,
elevators and lift devices, widened doorways or
hallways, lowered kitchen counters and visual
alarms or audio warning devices.
In 2006, about 515,000 grandparents aged 45 and
older lived in a home shared with grandchildren,
and just over half of these were three-generation
households where the children’s parents also lived
in the home. Flexible housing design offers options
for better accommodating multi-generational and
extended families.
In 2006, about 60% of Canada’s housing stock was
at least 30 years old. Repairs and renovations to
older housing offer a cost-effective opportunity to
build flexible housing features into existing homes that
can better meet the changing needs of the population.

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This chapter provides an overview of the flexible
housing concept including its history, main features and
relevance to current and future housing, communities and
environmental challenges.
The origins of the flexible housing concept
The concept has its roots in the innovative Grow
Home1
developed in 1990 by Avi Friedman and
Witold Rybczynski of the McGill University School of
Architecture in Montréal. Designed to be affordable for
low-income households, the Grow Home incorporated
flexible and adaptable living spaces within a small
footprint (approximately 93 m2 / 1,000 sq. ft. in a 4.3 m /
14 ft. wide, three-storey townhouse).
Building on the Grow Home concept, and the
subsequent Next Home, CMHC created FlexHousingTM
in 1995 as part of the universal design/inclusive
design movement (see text box Universal design).
1 See CMHC’s Building Housing Incrementally. www.cmhc.ca/en/inpr/afhoce/tore/afhoid/cohode/buhoin (August 23, 2012).
Universal design
Universal design is an international concept aimed at stimulating and supporting the design of products and
environments that can meet the needs of a wide range of the population. Universal design goes beyond the concept
of “accessible” design or “barrier-free” design in that it aims at the whole population, not just those with mobility
limitations. It is based on the following seven principles:1
Equitable use
The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
Flexibility in use
The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
Simple and intuitive use
Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience,
knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
Perceptible information
The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless
of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.
Tolerance for error
The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or
unintended actions.
Low physical effort
The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
Size and space for approach
and use
Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation and use,
regardless of the user’s body size, posture, or mobility.
The concept of universal design has not yet been widely adopted by the housing industry. Part of the reason for this
may be that it is still basically defined in terms of concepts as opposed to specific best practices that can be understood
by consumers and applied by industry.2 However, with a rapidly aging population, awareness and adoption of universal
design principles can be expected to grow. Demonstration homes discussed below, such as the CMHC FlexHouse™
demo home at the Canadian Centre for Housing Technology (CCHT) in Ottawa, can help expand awareness,
knowledge and uptake by the housing industry and consumers (see text box The CMHC FlexHouseTM demo home).
1
Story, M., Mueller, J. & Mace, R. The Universal Design File: Designing for people of all ages and abilities. New York: NC State University, 1998.
http://design-dev.ncsu.edu/openjournal/index.php/redlab/article/view/102 (March 2, 2012).
2
Quantifying Universal Design: A Program for Implementation. Research Highlight, Socio-economic Series. Ottawa: Canada Mortgage and Housing
Corporation, 2001. www.cmhc.ca/od/?pid=63415 (May 8, 2012).

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The objectives of universal design are similar to those of
FlexHousingTM (see text box The principles of FlexHousingTM):
allow people to occupy their homes for longer
periods of time;
create housing that meets a wide range of needs; and
improve the convenience of a home for its occupants.
Similar concepts are referred to as Universal Housing in the
United States and Lifetime Homes in the United Kingdom
(see text box Lifetime Homes in the United Kingdom).
The principles of FlexHousing™
FlexHousing™, developed by CMHC, is an approach to flexible house design. By including specific accessible
and adaptable features during the design and construction stage, FlexHousing™ allows people to more easily
and economically adapt their houses to their changing circumstances over time, giving them the option of
remaining in their homes rather than moving.
FlexHousing™ was originally based on four basic
principles of flexible design:
1. Adaptability: Incorporating adaptable features such
as convertible living spaces, a pre-designed space
for a home elevator, or features that allow for an
easy conversion to a secondary suite with a private
entrance, provides a house that meets the current
needs of occupants while offering the potential to
more easily meet their future needs (see text box
Secondary suites).
2. Accessibility: Incorporating design features such
as wider doorways and hallways, and on-grade
access provides housing that is more convenient
for a person with a walker, a baby carriage or an
armload of groceries, as well as those in wheelchairs
or scooters. Safety features such as non-slip flooring,
and lower-height light switches, make housing safer
and more accessible for everyone.
3. Affordability: The design and construction
of FlexHousing™ is intended to be no more
expensive than conventional housing over the
long-run. Lower renovation costs and avoided
moving costs can more than offset the initial
moderately higher costs.
4. Occupant Health: FlexHousing™ incorporates
low-emission building materials and finishes as
well as efficient heat recovery ventilation equipment
to help ensure a good quality indoor environment.
Secondary suites
Secondary suites are self-contained dwellings
that have their own kitchen and bathroom,
separate from the main dwelling.1 Also known
as “accessory apartments” or “in-law suites”,
secondary suites offer affordable housing for
extended family or non-family member renters
and can provide an income stream for the
homeowner. They can also be potentially
beneficial to the homeowner in other ways.
From a broader planning perspective, secondary
suites help optimize the use of existing housing
stock and neighbourhood infrastructure and can
help increase housing and options in existing
neighbourhoods.
Secondary suites must conform to all municipal
zoning requirements and the provincial/
territorial building and fire codes. Requirements
for secondary suites vary from one province or
territory to another and sometimes between
cities. For those provinces/territories adopting
the 2010 National Building Code, the size of a
secondary suite is limited to 80 m2 or no more
than 80% of the floor area of the main dwelling
unit, whichever is less.
1
www.cmhc.ca/en/co/renoho/refash/refash_040.cfm
(May 8, 2012).

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Lifetime Homes in the United Kingdom
The Lifetime Homes concept was developed in the early 1990s. Lifetime Homes are ordinary homes incorporating
16 design criteria (revised in 2010) that can be universally applied to new homes at minimal cost:
1. Accessible parking with space for a wheelchair;
2. Convenient access from parking to main dwelling entrance;
3. Convenient access along all approach routes to dwellings;
4. Illuminated entrances with level thresholds and covered main entrance;
5. Easily accessible stairs and elevators to upper levels;
6. Internal doorways and halls wide enough to enable convenient movement;
7. Wheelchair circulation and turning space in living and dining rooms;
8. Living room at entrance level for ease of visitability;1
9. Potential for entrance-level bed space;
10. Wheelchair-accessible toilet and space for potential roll-in shower at entrance level;
11. Bathroom wall and toilets capable of accommodating grab bars;
12. Potential for installation of stair lift or home elevator;
13. Potential for installing future bedroom-to-bathroom hoist;
14. Accessible bathroom and potential for future adaptations;
15. Living room window located low enough to allow a reasonable line-of-sight from a sitting position
(accessible window latches on at least one window in each room for ventilation); and
16. Accessible light switches, electrical outlets and other regularly-used or emergency service controls.
Many local U.K. planning policies already require the Lifetime Homes Standard in new developments (as example,
the London Plan has adopted this standard2). It is an existing requirement in Wales and Northern Ireland for new
publicly-funded homes to comply with the Lifetime Homes Standard.
1
See text box Glossary at the end of this chapter.
2
www.lifetimehomes.org.uk (August 23, 2012)
How the flexible design concept works
Flexible housing is achieved through planning, design,
and construction or renovation. Forethought and
careful consideration of possible future needs are
required at the design stage to permit maximum
flexibility, at the least cost, in the living spaces over
time. For instance, in order to facilitate dividing a large
bedroom into two smaller rooms in the future, the floor
or roof structure above should be free-spanning.2 The
original bedroom design must position windows
strategically to serve separate rooms in the future. The
design must include (or have roughed-in) enough light
switches, electrical outlets (preferably on separate
breakers), other utility connections and closet space to
2 Free-spanning refers to a roof that spans from wall to wall without interior columns or pillars.

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service both rooms when the space is partitioned.
As another example, plumbing for additional bathrooms
or other fixtures can also be roughed-in at the time
of construction.
Incorporating flexible or universal housing features
(see Figures 6-1 and 6-2) during the construction stage
can avoid or reduce the costs and disruption associated
with future conversions and home renovations. Forward
thinking regarding the structural design of the roof and the
allocation of space for a future stairway can allow for the
future conversion of attic space to living space without
major structural changes. Reinforcing a bathroom wall
with plywood to allow for future installation of a grab bar
costs considerably less than demolition, blocking and
reconstruction at a later date. Installing wider doorways
and accessible pathways at the time of construction can
help to avoid expensive or invasive reconfigurations of
living spaces if ever a family member would need a
wheelchair or walker. Adaptability is greatly facilitated
if load-bearing walls are confined to the perimeter of
the building.
1 Floor plan based on Universal design.
Drawing by: DesignAble Environments Inc.
Source: About Your House: Accessible Housing by Design—House Designs and Floor Plans. Ottawa: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, 2010.
www.cmhc.ca/od/?pid=66093 (September 18, 2012).
Sample floor plan of an adapted house1
Fig 7-1
Bedroom
Bedroom
Bedroom
Roof
below
Balcony
Open to
below
Bath
Open to
below
Bath
Hall
Roof
below
Clos.
Clos.
Roof
below
Great room
Master
bedroom
Porch
Foyer
Kitchen
Garage
Paved
driveway
Walkway
Bath
Dining
room
Closet
Clos.
WC
GROUND
FLOOR
SECOND
FLOOR
Office
FIGURE 6-1
Drawing by: DesignAble Environments Inc.
Source: About Your House: Accessible Housing by Design—Living Spaces.
Ottawa: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, 2010.
www.cmhc.ca/od/?pid=66095 (September 18, 2012).
Optimal reach range for controls
Fig 7-2
1,200 mm
max.
400 mm
min.
760 mm
min.
1,220 mm
min.
Clear space centred
at control
Programmable thermostat
Toggle switch
FIGURE 6-2

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Here are some flexible design ideas and features:
On-grade entrances, ramps or lift access from the
parking space to the entrance;
Covered entrances with level landings and adequate
lighting;
Main floor level containing kitchen, living and
dining space, bathroom and a space suitable for a
future bedroom;
Floor plan, building services, exit paths and fire safety
requirements designed to facilitate future conversion
of the house into two separate dwellings;
Floor space or vertical alignment of closet spaces for
a future elevator or the provision of straight-run
stairways that are at least 1,000 mm (39 in.) wide for
the installation of a chair lift;
Easily movable or removable partition walls to repurpose
floor areas;
Allowances to permit an easy installation of an exterior
door that would permit conversion of a bedroom or
other living space into a home office;3 and
Adequate basement floor-to-ceiling clearance and
window sizes, separate mechanical and electrical
services, and a separate entrance to allow for the
inclusion of a secondary suite.
Flexible housing design features can be incorporated in
rental housing as well as housing owned by the
occupants. For instance, in the United Kingdom,
building regulations require all new housing be
accessible to everyone, including the elderly and people
with disabilities. Since 1998 all new public housing in
Northern Ireland has been built to the Lifetime Homes
Standard.4
In 2004, the Greater London Authority
introduced the requirement that all new homes in both
the public and private sector meet the Lifetime Homes
Standard. Four years later, England developed its
National Strategy for Housing in an Ageing Society
including the requirement that all new public housing
meet this standard by 2011 and all new private housing
meet it by 2013.5 Rental housing designed with flexible
features is better positioned to respond to changing rental
market needs over time.
Everyone benefits from a flexible home
A flexible house is an ideal choice for everyone as
needs change over time in response to personal
circumstances such as aging, changing health conditions,
and household composition and income changes. In
addition to being well-suited to meet the needs of an
aging population and people with disabilities and other
special needs, flexible housing is also a good choice for
multi-generational living or for households which
will need a future home office, or an independent
suite for a family member, caregiver, or tenant.
Additionally, as well-designed flexible housing is better
prepared to adapt to a broad range of needs, it can
appeal to a wider range of buyers on eventual resale.
Flexible housing meets the needs
of an aging population
The number of households headed by seniors is expected
to rise through 2036 (see Figure 6-3).
Housing that facilitates seniors’ comfort, security,
independence, well-being and preference for aging-in-place
will be increasingly in demand.
3 Ability to easily create a home office is a desirable feature since an increasing number of people are working from home. In 2008, 19% of
Canadian workers or 3.59 million people, worked from their house, up from 17% of the working population in 2000. Working at home:
An update. Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2010. www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2011001/article/11366-eng.htm (March 7, 2012).
4 Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (2007). Statement on Key Inequalities in Northern Ireland, p. 22
Available at www.equalityni.org/archive/pdf/Keyinequalities(F)1107.pdf (March 6, 2012).
5 Department for Communities and Local Government (2008). Lifetime Homes, Lifetime Neighbourhoods: A National Strategy for Housing
in an Ageing Society. tinyurl.com/ctlcrg8 (November 29, 2012).

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Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
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es
ity
th
es
its
ety
ng
ng
le
tal
as
al
s,
In
an
er
or
ch
nt
t.
er
an
ed
ty,
ce
1 Based on medium household growth projection scenario.
Source: CMHC (projections) and adapted from Statistics Canada (Census of Canada, Annual Demographic Statistics)
The share of households by age of household head, 1976 to 2006, and projections to 20361
Fig 7-3
Per cent
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
45
50
65+
55+
35-54
15-34
Age of household head
2036
2026
2016
2006
1996
1986
1976
FIGURE 6-3
Flexible housing accommodates
persons with disabilities
In 2006, about 4.4 million Canadians (about 14% of the
population) were living with disabilities. This included
nearly 2.5 million adults aged 15 to 64. The percentage
of adults living with disabilities increases with age;
in 2006, about 56% of those aged 75 and older were living
with disabilities.6
Common disabilities affecting adults are related to
mobility and agility (see Figure 6-4). In 2006, nearly
three million Canadians (over 11% of the population)
reported each of these conditions. Mobility limitations
also increase with age, with about 48% of women
and 39% of men aged 75 and older experiencing
mobility-related disabilities (see Figure 6-5).
In 2006, about 34,000 people aged 15 or older with a
mobility or agility disability lived in a household in
core housing need and reported that they had unmet
needs for special features required to assist them with
6 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey 2006: Analytical Report. Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2007.
www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-628-x/89-628-x2007002-eng.pdf (March 1, 2012).
Prevalence of disabilities in adults
(aged 15 and older), by type of disability, 20061
Type of
disability
Adults aged 15 and older
Number
%
Pain
2,965,650
11.7
Mobility
2,923,000
11.5
Agility
2,819,580
11.1
Hearing
1,266,120
5.0
Vision
816,250
3.2
Learning
631,030
2.5
Psychological
589,470
2.3
Memory
495,990
2.0
Speech
479,740
1.9
Developmental
136,570
0.5
Other
119,390
0.5
1 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey 2006: Analytical Report. Ottawa:
Statistics Canada, 2007, p. 29.
www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-628-x/89-628-x2007002-eng.pdf (March 1, 2012).
FIGURE 6-4

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Mobility-related disabilities in older adults,
by age and sex, 20061
Sex/Age
Total population
65+
With mobility-related disability
Number
%
Both sexes
65+
4,049,140
1,342,230
33.1
75+
1,809,510
809,340
44.7
85+
369,460
223,520
60.5
Female
65+
2,247,960
836,360
37.2
75+
1,074,040
519,500
48.4
85+
239,900
149,290
62.2
Male
65+
1,801,170
505,870
28.1
75+
735,470
289,830
39.4
85+
129,560
74,220
57.3
1 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey 2006: Analytical Report. Ottawa:
Statistics Canada, 2007, p. 38.
www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-628-x/89-628-x2007002-eng.pdf (March 1, 2012).
FIGURE 6-5
their daily life activities. Such features include grab bars
or a bath lift in the bathroom, a ramp or street level
entrance, easy to open doors, elevators and lift devices,
widened doorways or hallways, lowered kitchen counters
and visual alarms or audio warning devices.
Flexible housing designed for accessibility is ideally
suited to meet the needs of people with mobility and
agility disabilities (see Figures 6-6 and 6-7). Not only
can it be adapted to respond to changing mobility and
agility, it can also be easily converted to create a
separate suite for a caregiver, if or when required.
Flexible housing supports
multi-generational living
Living arrangements in some Canadian households are
changing in response to social, economic and cultural
changes. In 2006, about 515,000 grandparents aged 45
and older lived in a home shared with grandchildren, and
just over half of these were three-generation households
where the children’s parents also lived in the home.7
Immigrants are twice as likely as the Canadian-born
population to live in multi-generational families.8 The
number of grandparents living in multi-generational
homes can be expected to increase in the future as
Drawing by: DesignAble Environments Inc.
Source: About Your House: Accessible Housing by Design—House Designs
and Floor Plans. Ottawa: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, 2010.
www.cmhc.ca/od/?pid=66093 (September 18, 2012).
Sample floor plan of an accessible house
Fig 7-6
Bedroom
Bedroom
Porch
Kitchen
Garage
Walkway
Closet
Bedroom
Porch
Dining
room
Living room
Typical
wheelchair
turn space
Paved
driveway
FIGURE 6-6
7
2006 Census: Family portrait: Continuity and change in Canadian families and households in 2006: National portrait: Individuals.
Ottawa, Statistics Canada, 2006. www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2006/as-sa/97-553/p18-eng.cfm (May 9,2012).
8
“Across the generations: Grandparents and grandchildren” Canadian Social Trends. Ottawa: Statistics Canada, Winter 2003.

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aging boomers become grandparents. There are also
more adult children living at home. In 2006, about
44% of young adults aged 20 to 29 years were living
in the parental home, up from 41% in 2001 and
32% in 1986.9
Flexible housing design offers options for better
accommodating multi-generational and extended families
by facilitating support for an elderly parent, an adult
child or extended family members (see text box Tr’ondëk
Hwëch’in First Nation flexible housing subdivision).
Flexible housing is an affordable option
Although flexible housing may initially cost slightly
more than a conventional house, it can offer significant
savings compared to the costs of demolition and renovation
at a future date. Inexpensive flexible design features can
eventually mean the difference between remaining in the
family home or having to relocate at a vulnerable point
in one’s life. The incremental costs of flexible housing
features can be less than the cost of relocating when
all related expenses, such as packing, moving, new
furnishings and appliances, commissions and various fees
are factored in.
9
Ibid. 2006 Census: Family portrait: Continuity and change in Canadian families and households in 2006: National portrait: Individuals.
Drawing by: DesignAble Environments Inc.
Source: About Your House: Accessible Housing by Design—Living Spaces.
Ottawa: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, 2010.
www.cmhc.ca/od/?pid=66095 (September 18, 2012).
Accessible path of travel
Fig 7-7
Dining
Buffet
Clear
path of
travel
Clear path of travel
Access to
furniture
& storage
Turn space
& access to
windows
Space at
furniture
Space at
door and
controls
FIGURE 6-7
Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation
flexible housing subdivision
Living close to the Arctic Circle, the Tr’ondëk
Hwëch’in need energy-efficient housing that
provides good indoor air quality. They also need
housing which is flexible enough to accommodate
extended families and allows for future expansion to
meet the changing housing needs of growing families.
In 2003, the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation
designed and built a flexible housing community
near Dawson City, Yukon. The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in
flexible housing design includes many features
to support aging-in-place and ensure the houses
can be adapted as occupants’ needs change. The
foundation, walls, roofing, plumbing, electrical
and mechanical systems were designed so that future
additions can be easily accommodated. Plumbing
was roughed-in to allow for the conversion of a
walk-in closet into a wheelchair-accessible shower
room. Other accessibility features included wide
door openings; low thresholds; easily accessible
phone jacks, electrical outlets, light switches and
thermostat controls; and bathroom sink cabinets
with a removable module for easy wheelchair access.
Also, windows were strategically placed to ensure
occupants could look outside from a seated position.

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One estimate, published in 2002, which compared the
initial construction costs of a flexible house with a
benchmark house was that it could cost from 2.0% to
5.5% more to construct a house with all basic flexible
features and that would allow future conversion to
create a liveable attic space and a basement suite.10 The
higher end of this range was related to the installation
of open roof trusses in the attic (rather than normal
trusses); this alone increased the initial construction
cost by approximately 3.5%. Even at the higher end
of the range, the increase in cost would have more than
paid for itself through future savings in renovation costs,
by a factor of 9.6.11
Flexible housing design in action
There are many examples of flexible design in Canada.
Some of these were specifically designed as FlexHouses
(e.g. see text box Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation flexible
housing subdivision). Along with energy efficiency, water
efficiency, and healthy indoor environments, CMHC’s
EQuilibriumTM
Housing projects incorporate many
FlexHousingTM features (see Figure 6-8). The CMHC
FlexHouse demo home at the Canadian Centre for
Housing Technology (CCHT)12 in Ottawa (see text box
The CMHC FlexHouse demo home) demonstrates many
approaches to achieving flexible housing as well.
Home renovations provide an opportunity
to add flexible housing features
In 2010, about 64% of Canada’s housing stock was at
least 30 years old. If our housing stock is going to meet the
changing needs of the population, it will require significant
renovations and adaptations. These renovations provide an
opportunity to increase the flexibility of the housing.
FlexHousing™ may be combined with other performance
metrics to provide a well-integrated set of sustainable
housing criteria. This could include the following
sustainable features:
Energy efficiency—Including a wide variety of energy-
efficient building methods, systems and electrical
appliances helps reduce monthly operating costs and
minimize greenhouse gas emissions.
Resource efficiency—Using durable, environmentally-
friendly building practices and construction materials
saves on life-cycle costs and reduces resource extraction
and processing. Resource-efficient landscaping
techniques such as xeriscaping and rainwater collection
combined with water-efficient appliances and fixtures,
conserve water and reduce maintenance costs.
Lower environmental impact—Locating housing in a
mixed-use neighbourhood close to public transit reduces
the need for personal vehicle use and contributes to
the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and
other pollutants.
10 See “The Cost of FlexHousingTMResearch Highlight Socio-economic Series. Ottawa: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, 2002.
www.cmhc.ca/od/?pid=62791 (March 3, 2012).
11 “The Cost of FlexHousingTMResearch Report. Ottawa: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, 2002, p. 12.
www.cmhc.ca/od/?pid=63081 (March 25, 2012).
12 The CCHT is a research facility dedicated to the evaluation of technical innovations for housing. The Centre is jointly operated
by the National Research Council (NRC), Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and CMHC. As well as the FlexHouse, the CCHT
research and demonstration facility includes two highly instrumented, identical, two-storey houses with full basements. These houses,
each 2,260 sq. ft., are built to R-2000 standards and use simulated occupancy to evaluate the whole house performance of new
technologies in side-by-side testing.

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Flexible housing design features in selected EQuilibriumTM Housing projects
Avalon Discovery 3
Harmony House
Red Deer, Alberta
Burnaby, British Columbia
Expandable attic space
Designed for easy conversion to barrier-free living
Self-contained secondary suite
Home office space with washroom access located at main entrance,
separate from main living area of the home
EchoHaven
Inspiration – The Minto Ecohome
Calgary, Alberta
Manotick, Ontario
Wheelchair accessible ground floor
Adaptable to accommodate secondary suite or home office on ground floor
Flex space in undeveloped attic and basement with large windows
for future development
Green Dream Home
Urban Ecology
Kamloops, British Columbia
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Unfinished attic space above garage can be developed to expand living space
Adaptable to accommodate a home office
Rough-in for future secondary suite in walk-out basement
Accessible, open-concept floor design on main floor
Low-threshold level rear entrance area protected from weather
Two-piece, barrier-free washroom located on main floor
FIGURE 6-8

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Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
Canadian Housing Observer 2012
6-12
The CMHC FlexHouseTM demo home
In 1996, CMHC sponsored a design contest to promote the FlexHousing™ concept. Architect Nicholas Varias
of Nouvelle Development Corporation of London, Ontario was the national winner. An adaptation to his award-
winning design was constructed at the Canadian Centre for Housing Technology (CCHT) InfoCentre1 in Ottawa
in 1998 and is available for viewing. The house was designed to be easily adaptable from a two to three bedroom
house and subdivided into two separate living units. The list below includes some of the design features:
1
www.ccht-cctr.gc.ca/eng/infocentre.html (May 8, 2012).
Bevelled, no trip, no step threshold at entry;
An entry foyer designed to permit separate
occupancies and access to a home office;
Wide doorways and hallways;
Stacked oversized closets for a future elevator;
A shower and bathroom area that can
be converted to accommodate laundry
equipment;
Moveable wall on the second floor to
convert one bedroom to two small
bedrooms;
Rough-in for washer and dryer provided
on second floor;
Work surfaces in kitchen at various heights;
Open space under sink and cook top to permit
use while seated;
Optional roll-out cabinet in kitchen for extra
storage and work space;
Windows with low sills to allow outdoor views
from a seated position; and
Roof with an attic truss design and roughed-in
plumbing and electrical, allowing for future
conversion to living space.
Credit: CMHC
The CMHC FlexHouseTM demo home
at CCHT InfoCentre
Fig 7-9
FIGURE 6-9

Page 13
Sustainable Housing and Communities - Flexible Housing
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
6-13
Moving forward
The rationale for, and basic approaches to, achieving
flexible housing and community design are becoming
increasingly well understood by consumers and industry,
and there is scope to apply them more broadly, with
resulting benefits to both current and future occupants.
Given changing demographics and shifting social,
economic and environmental pressures on households and
the housing sector, there may be greater demand for
flexible, well-integrated housing and community options
to better meet needs going forward.
Glossary
Accessible
An accessible house includes features that meet the needs of a person with a disability. Most accessible houses
feature open turning spaces within rooms, wheel-in shower stalls and kitchen work surfaces with knee space below.
Adaptable
An adaptable house is designed to be adapted economically at a later date, for example, to create a home office or
to accommodate a change in household composition. Features to accommodate someone with a disability include
removable cupboards in a kitchen or bathroom to create knee space for a wheelchair user, or a knock-out floor
panel in a closet to allow installation of an elevator.
Aging-in-place
Aging-in-place refers to the ability to remain in one’s home safely, independently and comfortably, as one’s age
and abilities change.
Disability
Disability is an activity limitation or participation restriction associated with a physical or mental condition
or health problem.
Universal house design
Universal house design recognizes that everyone who uses a house is different and comes with different abilities
that change over time. Features include lever door handles that everyone can use, enhanced lighting levels to
make it as easy as possible to see, stairways that feature handrails that are easy to grasp and easy-to-use appliances.
Visitable
A visitable house includes basic accessibility features that allow most people to visit, even if they have limitations
such as impaired mobility. Basic features of a visitable house include a level entry, wider doors throughout the
entrance level and an accessible washroom on the main floor.