Tag Archive for: Universal Design

Universal Design

Universal Design is all about creating supportive spaces for everyone. Not only because by 2030, the population aged 65 and over is projected to surge by 65%, but also to create beautiful, flexible spaces for the rest of us. We need to design homes that are accessible to everyone from grandma to grandkids.

What is Universal Design?

When you employ Universal Design principles – the flexibility of the spaces supports the users, instead of users having to adapt to how a space is designed. For instance – a family may have a person who is 5 feet tall and a person who is six feet 3 inches tall. If you plan the kitchen and the master bath carefully, you create comfortable spaces for both. You also want to design your home for “visitability.” Think about your relative or friend who has trouble going up stairs. Maybe there is a friend of your child who is in a wheel chair. Or taking care of your mom after hip surgery with a pleasant and accommodating space to recover.

Why is Universal Design so important to New Construction?

  • With a greater variety of people living in a home today, there is a demand for flexibility and multi-tasking within spaces so it works well for all the people who come into it.
  •  Most people want to age-in-place in their home. Universal Design concepts support and inspire us to continue a healthy and active lifestyle in our own homes.
  • Sustainability is a factor. A universal home design will last without major future remodeling. Less future cost and waste. When planning your home, think how the needs of the space can change throughout a family’s lifetime. It is better to plan the design right the first time instead incurring large remodeling costs later because the hallway and doorways are not wide, you didn’t plan a space for a future elevator, and didn’t plan for a shower without a threshold.
  • Higher resale value. If you want to sell your home, a home that is universally designed has many more potential home buyers.
This wide hallway is a beautiful feature and also accommodating.

This wide hallway is a beautiful feature and also accommodating.

Universal Design is best and most easily incorporated during the planning phase of your home. At this point it will be the least costly and most natural. Basically it will be invisible and more of an enhancement to the overall home design. Outside of the kitchen and bath areas; also consider the entries to a home, improving the lighting and creating easy access to storage.

The Universal Design principle is simple: To create a home that anyone could live in.

Raised washer & dryer

We have long been advocates of incorporating Universal Design features in our homes, which targets the ease of use for all people in the home. Many times universal home design is transparent: The home is designed to be convenient and spaciously comfortable for all, without compromising the aesthetics of the home.

The Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) designation is the result of the work of the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers  (in conjunction with the Home Innovation Research Labs) and AARP.  Randy Thelen and Jason Thelen recently attended two full days of training to meet the needs of the burgeoning market for aging-in-place home modifications.

Demographic trends indicate that homeowners prefer to stay in their homes as they get older and would prefer to adapt their homes to their changing needs in order to maintain their independence. Remodeling and revitalizing the home for aging-in-place could range from installation of bath and shower grab bars, adjustment of countertop heights, to the creation of multi-functional master suites and the installation of elevators.

Indeed, millions of the Baby Boom generation will turn 55 years old this year and millions more will cross this significant threshold in the next 15 years. About 80% of all Americans age 55 years or older currently own their own homes. Members of this population tend to be healthier and wealthier, and expect their homes to reflect their active and independent lifestyles.

Said Randy Thelen, “Attending the CAPS classes gave me greater insight on how home modifications offer easier recovery from accidents or illnesses. The improvements can also help people avoid injury and live with greater safety and independence as they age in place. And these additional modifications not only make a home more comfortable and appealing, they also inherently add value to that home.”

Very few homes will ever be completely universal, that is to meet everyone’s needs always. There will always be the need for modification, accessibility features and assistive technology to bridge the gap. And isn’t  it reassuring to know that adapting the home to meet your changing needs does make it possible to live in your home the rest of your life?