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Benefits of Universal Design

November 10, 2014

According to the most recent report from the NAHB 50+ Housing Council, the 55-plus population will continue to increase by more than 2 percent every year over the next 7 years, reaching 85 million by 2014.

The report also goes on to state that by the year 2012, the share of U.S. households age 55 or older will pass the 40 percent mark for the first time in history.

Universal design definitely makes sense for empty-nesters or retirees as baby boomers are getting older. Over the past 20 years there has been a definite shift in home buyers asking for universal design features and CL Design-Build is eager to provide them. As its use becomes more widespread, the costs associated with it will continue to come down.

Designing and building a home to accommodate its owner's physical needs for today and into the future does not mean that it must have obvious entry ramps, sterile institutional bathrooms and unsightly wall-mounted grab bars. When done well, universal design can be a completely invisible part of the home's design. Incorporating even the most basic elements of the concept into your projects will result in homes that are more comfortable, user-friendly and appealing to a much broader buyer market.

Basic universal design features that won’t break the budget:

  • Develop floor plans that feature an open design with limited interior hallways
  • Use wider doors that provide a 32-inch, or preferably 34-inch, clear opening
  • Make interior hallways 42 inches wide or wider
  • Ensure there is a full bathroom on main floor with a roll-in, minimum 36-inch by 48-inch shower with seat and appropriate clearance in front of the shower
  • Install bracing in bathroom, shower and tub walls so grab bars can be installed in the future
  • Shower and sink fixtures with lever handles, possibly handheld shower head at shower or tub
  • At least one bedroom on the main floor
  • Specify comfort-height toilets and plan for additional clearance on either side of the toilet and sink
  • Create at least one, no-step entry into the home from the outdoors with a slope no greater than 1 in 12
  • Lower switch height for lighting and environmental controls in key rooms and raise the height of electrical outlets in those same rooms
  • Use lever-style door hardware and strategically positioned "loop" handles on drawers and cabinets
  • Use rocker-style light switches, illuminated if possible
  • Include elevated dishwashers; counter-height microwave ovens; easy-glide cabinetry hardware; and enhanced task lighting
  • Minimize use of carpeting and uneven floor changes in high traffic areas
  • Use pocket doors rather than swinging doors where possible
  • Opt for double or bi-fold doors for closets
  • Front loading washing machine
  • If two-story home, stack storage spaces so with the removal of the intermediate floor, future installation of a lift or elevator is possible without major structural changes

 

Resources:
Center For Universal Design: www.Centerforuniversaldesign.org

U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): www.hud.gov/groups/fairhousing.cfm

Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines: www.hud.gov/library/bookshelf09/fhefhag.cfm


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~ Bob and Ann Elwood

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