The change our building industry needs – collaboration not legislation.
What does it take to inspire industry-wide change? Martin Locke, Managing Director of Martin Locke Homes (MLH), believes Townsville’s Construction Industry has proven it has the power to achieve it, after the MLH team and over 60 of it’s trade and supply partners banded together to raise more than $150,000 to build ‘Nolan’s Home’.
After hearing Nolan and the Rooms family’s heartbreaking story they joined forces to build an all-accessible, Platinum Level forever home for Nolan and his family. Now, Martin is working with key industry stakeholders, developers, builders and all three levels of government to put together a Silver Level Pilot Program which will put Townsville at the forefront of positive change where accessibility-friendly homes are the norm and not the exception.
When Martin Locke first met Nicole and Christian Rooms, he couldn’t help but be touched by their situation.
Their now six-year-old son, Nolan, is living with Cerebral Palsy and struggled to access all rooms in their house, which meant that Nolan and his two brothers were virtually living separate lives. It was a heartbreaking story that truly touched the MLH team and further inspired them to create change – not just for the family but also for the industry.
“We didn’t think we could raise the $100,000 shortfall needed to make this home happen and some thought it was too ambitious, but the fact that we raised the $100,000 within a week, plus an additional $50,000 on top of that blew us all away,” Martin says. “The Rooms’ family dream has become a reality because of the many local trades and suppliers who pitched in and it has changed a family forever. The industry is made up of some real characters and genuinely good people, especially the tradies, and when they give, like they did for Nolan’s Home, it demonstrates a side of the industry that goes unnoticed. That is the character of the industry we all love, the true Aussie way of humbly giving, even when there are many reasons not to.”
Martin’s passion for accessible housing began upon building his first fully-accessible home for Cootharinga North Queensland ten years ago and seeing the impact even a small step can have on the ability of a person with physical impairment to move freely around their home. He opened his first display home with accessible living features in 2010 and all MLH new-home designs are in line with the principles of the Livable Housing Australia Guidelines (LHAG). Since then, he says he’s been very proud to see several other well established and socially conscious builders adopting accessibility-friendly features in their homes. However, Martin has also gone above and beyond to ensure that accessible design is adopted and upheld on a wider scale and not just by a select few.
“I have been working with key stakeholders within the community and building industry to put together a Pilot Program that will also involve all three levels of government. The Pilot Program will see Townsville lead the nation in how to collaborate together to achieve more accessible-friendly homes for everyone,” Martin explains.
There are several incredible benefits that come with building accessible homes – and they don’t just help those who plan to live in them either.
“There are some very basic accessible design features, which when incorporated at the time of building both future proofs a home and helps save taxpayer dollars, as it costs up to 20 times more to renovate these design features in an existing home,” Martin says. “It is a known fact that the ageing and disability sectors are growing faster than any other. For this reason alone, it makes absolute sense, both in the head and heart, to future proof all new homes to at least the basic level of accessibility. It is only a matter of time when the market will demand this as a standard inclusion because they will see first-hand that a home that has these accessible features, will sell and rent for more than a home that does not.”
With huge benefits for everyone both in and outside the industry, it’s easy to see why Martin and his team are pushing for change – so what can we do on a micro level? Martin says that, “collaboration as opposed to legislation” is a key element to creating this much-needed change.
“A large regional city like Townsville, has an opportunity to show the nation what can come from collaboration, which must be tangible action,” Martin says. “We don’t need more legislation to make us do something that saves the taxpayer money, plans for the future and improves people’s lives. To have as many new homes designed and built to the Silver Level of the LHAG does just that.”