Staying at home is important not only for the elderly, but also for people who need care in general, both practically and mentally. It often happens, however, that the current home is not sufficiently adapted to certain care situations. A temporary adjustment or extension of the home can then provide a solution.
This is the context that gave rise to the idea of the House Plus project. We want to develop a mobile care unit that solves the needs within a care situation on site. In this way, we can temporarily adapt a home with, for example, a ground floor bedroom and/or bathroom extension. On top of that, we want to make these units as ecological and circular as possible: the modules can be placed outside or inside the house, are easy to build up and break down, and can be used again and again. The user would not be an owner, but could rent the modules.
Product developer Bruno Van Son and the customisation company Kunnig are currently building the first prototypes, while students from the Construction Department of Odisee University College are being used as critical sounding boards.
We have developed a concept that is modular, circular, ecological and embedded in the social economy, thanks to the cooperation with the custom-made company Kunnig. Moreover, we provide an educational contribution to students of the Odisee University College, who are used as sparring partners.
In order to understand the needs and the vision on the concept of mobile care homes, our design was tested by ZorgLab Aalst among various target groups (the elderly, informal carers and care providers).
In addition to easy assembly and disassembly, we paid much attention to the maximum use of sustainable, ecological and recyclable raw materials for the construction and composition of our care modules.
In cooperation with the manufacturing company Kunnig, we optimised our design and finally created a first prototype.
MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED
The realisation of the prototype in cooperation with the custom-made company Kunnig was a great challenge. It was especially difficult and time-consuming because Kunnig was used to a mere implementer's role, whereas in this project it was really allowed to think along. That called for a change in thinking.
From the government's point of view, in terms of spatial planning and urban development permits, there should be more space and clarity regarding the permit and placement options for modular care units. A clear legal framework at the Flemish level could greatly simplify the placing of a care module.
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WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
House Plus will certainly continue to exist after the support of Flanders Circular. In the meantime, we have already developed a second prototype (2a) that is being finished in Kunnig's studio in Hoboken. Consultation with all players will soon follow to find out what is still needed to move on to the first test phase on the site. The aim is to make concrete agreements with care seekers, care providers, but also with intermediaries and care providers.
Furthermore, we have already made the first contacts with a care company in Antwerp. The relaunch of the project can be embedded in a project of the province of Antwerp on healthcare economics. There is already special interest in our concept, especially because of the link with the social economy.