Richard Harvey, Category Director for Heating at Wolseley, discusses the options available to installers when carrying out work on multigenerational homes.

Having multiple generations living under one roof can often be challenging, especially if space is limited. Finding ways to maximise the space and get the most from the home without treading on everyone’s toes can seem difficult, but with integrated smart technology it can be easier than you’d think. 

Many homes that have children, parents, and grandparents living together will have separated spaces. This could be a ‘granny annexe’, adjoining or linked flats, or a three-storey house divided up to accommodate occupants. Coordinating these strung-out spaces is helped hugely by smart home technology, and research shows that people have been quick to adapt to new tech, including voice-activated assistants and remote-controlled systems, such as those for central heating, lighting, and more. 

The bathroom is one of the most private spaces of the home, but if your customers are in a multi-generational household, they may find it difficult to maintain a real sense of privacy with so many users. 

Smart technology can help personalise the bathroom in order to preserve that sense of personal space for each individual. It can also help ease any mobility issues the occupants may face. Occupational therapy adjustments are also sometimes necessary additions to the home when looking at an integrated multi-generational household. 

Building additional bathroom space isn’t always necessary, although this may be an ideal solution if you have a busy household. Refitting a bathroom with space-saving alternatives such as hidden cistern toilets, or redirecting bulky pipes to be within walls and out of the way, can free up space and allow for better access in the bathroom.

Underfloor heating may also be an excellent way to save space in a bathroom while maintaining warmth and comfort. To further increase mobility and accessibility, wetrooms or walk-in showers can help, although be aware they are not always suitable for young children and safety should be considered when choosing floor tiles to prevent slipping. 

For the elderly or less able, bathrooms can be difficult to navigate. Traditional technology such as handrails, shower seats, and walk-in baths are still useful and play a huge role in helping make bathrooms accessible. In the age of smart technology, there is also a growing range of bathroom technology designed for those who may struggle to use the bathroom to its fullest extent. 

You can now find bath lifts controlled by remote, or automatic toilet flushers ideal for those with reduced mobility in their hands. Easy refits, like lever taps over pillar taps, also make for user-friendly experiences, and you should opt for thermostatic taps to avoid scalds for both the elderly and the young. With an ageing population and a strain on social care, it is important to have technologies in the bathroom that can allow people to stay at home and live independently for longer.

Similarly, if the household has young children, consider how they might be impacted. Lots of technology in a bathroom can seem enticing to play with, and things like motorised lifts pose a potential hazard. 

Wall-hung sanitaryware or appropriate height cupboards are another good option for improving the accessibility of the bathroom and promoting better safety in the bathroom. 

Given the private nature of the bathroom, finding ways to personalise it to each user, particularly in a busy multi-generational household, is a great way of retaining that sense of privacy for all. 

There are mobile apps that link to the shower, allowing your customer to set the temperature and flow rate, even switching it on before they step in. This is not only unique to each user’s preference, but also creates a seamless experience tailored to your customer.

For a real touch of personal luxury, you can recommend digital showers with lighting settings, music integration options, and even aromatherapy. Customers can adjust the pressure, temperature, spray, and angle of the shower head, all before stepping in. 

With more occupants and users, customers may find their water, gas, and electrical bills climbing with the increased pressure on the bathroom. Smart technology can help not only monitor the utilities used in the bathroom, but may even be able to pinpoint users guilty of wasting hot water. 

Smart taps, meters, and thermo-controls from the likes of Nest, Ideal Standard, and Mira are great options to include in a multigenerational household and can help everyone keep track of their energy use and spend their time in the bathroom fairly. 

Catering to the needs of the multigenerational home poses a number of challenges but, with the trend set to continue, it looks likely that the need for integrated smart technology in the home will only grow. Finding ways to refit an existing bathroom to cope with these needs is often the most cost effective way to make the space accessible and user friendly to all.