Flexible House Design

A well constructed home will stand long enough to see many families come and go in its lifetime, and they won’t all have the same needs. When drawing floor plans, flexible design can make future
changes easier.

By Emmanuel Cosgrove

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Design basics for flexible housing
Depending on the stage you are at in your life, you might have kids, they might be gone or you might want to have some in the future. Design floor plans that work for you right now, but that can be easily adapted to accommodate different family dynamics in the future.

Flexible housing starts with a basic layout that allows for functional expansion in the future. Lay out your interior floor plan so that if you need to expand out or up, space is already allotted for access.

For example, this can be easily accomplished by:
• Designing a bedroom so part of it can serve as a hallway for a future expansion while maintaining a reasonable size room.
• Expanding into attics – keep this is mind when designing your roof, consider rafters or a truss design that allows for head room, as well as a logical access that doesn’t interrupt the flow of the lower floor.
• Finishing basements is quite common for adding space to a home, but be sure your walls are well-constructed to prevent moisture damage. If you are pouring a basement floor but don’t intend to finish it right away, consider installing radiant floor tubing as a future heat source.

Plumbing and wiring
Some of the biggest challenges in changing the layout of a home include plumbing and electricity. Imagine how much easier it would be to convert a bedroom into a granny suite if you planned ahead for a separate entrance and ran wires and pipes for a kitchenette and bathroom.

If you anticipate different uses for a room, you might only have to make a cut in the drywall to find a stove plug, water lines and a drain. Compare this to ripping out walls and running new electrical and water feeds throughout your house.
A note of caution; do not actually hook up water and electrical lines, simply have them ready. The same thing applies to water; run lines towards a main water feed ready for future installation ,and allow enough slack for them to be easily connected.
Pre-framing rooms for future changes can also save materials, money and headaches. You can prepare for future changes by framing door openings inside interior walls at sensible locations, or including a header to easily convert two small rooms into one larger room.

Emmanuel Cosgrove LEED® AP Homes, is one of Canada’s most sought after voices in the field of green building. He is a co-founder of Écohabitation and Ecohome, and directs multiple initiatives that contribute to reducing the environmental footprint of Canadian homes.