architect stock photo - Expert advice: Safe home design

Architect and safety advocate Robert Caulfield shares his advice on how to prevent injury in the home by designing with safety in mind

Each year, thousands of Australians are treated in hospital for accidents that have occurred in their own houses. That’s not even mentioning deaths, the statistics for which are kept by state coroners.According to Monash University, an estimated 320,000 children under the age of 15 make a trip to the E.R. after hurting themselves at home, the bulk of which are caused by a fall.

Over 100,000 adults are treated for falls, slips or trips — many of the more serious due to accidents with ladders and roofs. A further 45,000 receive cuts from contact with glass, knives and tools.

With regards to seniors, the vast majority are treated for falls in and around their homes.

All of these accidents are 100 per cent preventable, but it’s not just common sense that helps avoid such situations.

Sydney architect Brad Inwood of Homesafe Group, says good design means you’re not unknowingly putting yourself or your loved ones at risk.

“Many injuries can be averted if homes have been sensibly planned to minimise falls, slips, maintenance accidents and harm to toddlers. With the assistance of Kidsafe (the Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia) and Monash University, we have been able to estimate the percentage chance of dangers being present in average Australian homes,” Inwood says.

Thus, a home renovation project presents the perfect opportunity to address these issues in the home.

“Home safety design does not add cost nor does it compromise design integrity, but it can save lives — there is no worse situation than seeing your loved ones injured in your own home, and later realising that it could have been prevented,” Inwood points out.

Some things to consider when embarking on a safety-focussed renovation include re-designed stairs, toddler-proof doors, low-maintenance roofs and gutters, non-slip surfaces and safety lighting.

Make sure also that your house complies with current building regulations, such as a maximum gap of 125mm in stair balustrades and correctly dimensioned stair treads/risers.

“In addition, we recommend that upper level windows be fitted with secure screens or have the opening lockable at 125mm,” Inwood says.

This sort of home renovation project not only provides first-class sustainable, economical design but maximises capital gains opportunities.

A house that minimises the potential for accidents, particularly to children and seniors, is undoubtedly attractive real estate.

“We hope that one day there will be a level of awareness of the home injury toll as there is of the road toll,” Inwood adds. “This would help reduce the enormous emotional burden on families, and the financial health cost to government, due to home injuries.”

For those looking for inspiration, or more information about home safety improvements, resources are available. Renovators can download a free home injury fact sheet, do-it-yourself child home safety guide, and do-it-yourself home improvement guide at


Robert Caulfield is a Melbourne-based, international architect. He is the founder of Archicentre, CK Designworks, past national president of the Australian Institute of Architects, a Homesafe Group director and president of Kidsafe Victoria.

By Robert Caulfield
Image by Franck Boston/
From Renovate magazine Vol. 8 No. 5

Originally published in CompleteHome