Houses with bikes in front

Husbanken (The Norwegian State Housing Bank): Design for all - a good sales argument

A new Norwegian standard for the universal design of buildings was issued in 2009. Husbanken used part 2 of this standard on housing as a basis for its own guidelines on basic loans, i.e. in principle all housing receiving basic loans should now have a universal design.

The requirement is for houses to be designed in such a manner that everyone should be able to use them without the need for special solutions. Basic loans are awarded for building houses and these projects must satisfy certain physical requirements with respect to both universal design and energy.

"This is now based on the new standard," says Eli Clarke, Senior Architect at Husbanken, Region West.

Life-cycle housing
Ms. Clarke explains that the requirements for universal design/accessibility are incorporated in the policy of Husbanken's owner, the Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation.

"We are now experiencing tremendous pressure about having design for all because the "elderly wave" is about to descend on the country in earnest during the next few years. We will then also need to make arrangements for accommodating welfare technology," says Ms. Clarke, who says that the concept of life-cycle housing is perceived as being a good sales argument among developers and estate agents when dealing with all generations of property buyers.

Not like other banks
"Husbanken has participated in drawing up both NS 11001, Universal Design of Building Works, and NS 11005, Universal Design of Developed Outdoor Areas. This work has been extremely valuable when designing Husbanken's basic loan guidelines. One of Husbanken's most important targets is to promote increased building of universally designed and environment-friendly housing, and its basic loans are an important tool in this respect. This means that the standard of any housing financed by Husbanken must exceed the statutory requirements, e.g. the requirements contained in the new Technical Regulations (TEK10)," says Ms. Clarke.

We have a lot to learn by participating in standardisation work since we are sitting on committees composed of specialists from other sectors who may possess other types of experience and challenges than our own.

Ms. Clarke says that they have had many in-house discussions at Husbanken about how the standard would affect different types of houses.

"We have to take into account blocks of flats, steep terrain, terraced houses and detached houses. What type of exceptions should we accept? This discussion is ongoing, but in principle all houses receiving basic loans now need to be universally designed," says Ms. Clarke. She says that it has been important to draw up guidelines which are as precise as possible because it takes time for those involved in a project work to out all the new requirements contained in TEK10 and thus also Husbanken's requirements.

"This is also why we have used the standard as a basis for our guidelines in which we refer constantly to the standard," says Eli Clarke.

Involved in standardisation work
"For those of us who are working on the design of housing, it is natural to participate in the standardisation work associated with such. It provides us with the opportunity to influence things as we proceed with our work, we receive a lot of information about what is taking place in this specialist area and we bring a lot of expertise back with us," says Eli Clarke.

Recommends participation
"There are many good reasons why we participate on several different standardisation committees," says Assistant Managing Director Inger Vold Zapffe at Husbanken. "It is so that we can influence the standards, because after all we are involved in housing policy, but it is also so that we can learn and keep up-to-date."

"Another important point is that when the parties concerned are involved in developing standards, this provides a good basis and has a binding effect on the participants,” says Ms. Zapffe. She would not hesitate to recommend that others should set aside specialist and financial resources for participating in committee work on new standards.
"Because you then have the opportunity to influence things, to develop your own work and to make lots of useful contacts," says Ms. Zapffe.


The Norwegian State Housing Bank is the main agency implementing Norwegian housing policy on the national level, and provides loans, grants and guidance as well as initiates new development and research. The bank has about 350 employees, spread across six regional and three central offices.

The primary vision for the Norwegian housing policy is adequate and secure housing for all. The overall objectives are

  • to seek to ensure that everyone has an adequate, secure place to live
  • building matters are dealt with in an efficient and user-friendly manner
  • homes, buildings and outdoor spaces are environmentally friendly and based on universal design principles.
Inger Vold Zappfe

Inger Vold Zappfe


Eli Clarke

Eli Clarke

Last updated: 2014-11-24