Practical Approaches to Building Homes

Consider your life cycle –

While most of us know that conserving resources, energy efficiency, indoor air quality and water conservation correlate to responsible building, not many of us consider our life cycle when we think of building, remodeling or adding onto our homes.

Limitations in a persons physical abilities are experienced universally without regard to age, race, class, income, education, religion or gender – Mobility issues begin at birth, can come on suddenly during life and are almost a certainty as our bodies age.
 
Implementing Universal Design strategies, Visatibility concepts and Aging In Place principles when planning a home, an addition or a remodeing project will result in a better living environment and more valuable home.

Universal Design is creating environments to be usable by all people to the greatest extent possible without the need for adaptation. It is an approach to designing for building, adding onto and remodeling homes that incorporates readily available products as well as building features which can be useful to meet the needs of many from a multigenerational family to first-time home owners.

Universal design is about aesthetics and functionality as well as affordability.
It is a paradigm shift in the design approach and in building homes.

You can read more about how we can design, build and remodel homes so they become a part of their environment and are more functional for their occupants in our blog article The Modern Home.

Visitability is more than a concept – it is an international movement to change home building practices globally so that virtually all new homes offer three specific accessibility features whether or not designated for residents who have mobility impairments:

You can read more about Visitability in our blog article Accessibility – An Introduction to Visitability.

Aging In Place is the ability to live in one's own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level for as long as possible. People can age-in-place in their own homes by remodeling their living environments and adding supportive care services when necessary, and by designing and building additions and new homes to meet varying abilities.

The five major areas of a home that should have extra consideration during design are the entryway, the halls and doorways, the lighting, the kitchen, and the bathrooms.

Universal kitchen design can include modular cabinetry that pulls out from beneath the counter-top or appliance configurations such as ovens mounted lower with doors that swing instead of opening downward. Other options include refrigerator, freezer and dishwasher drawers, and microwaves that mount below the countertops.

In bathrooms showy bathing vessels and jetted tubs are quickly being replaced by curb-less showers with built in benches or, on the simpler side, portable chairs that can be moved to accommodate users of wheelchairs or walkers. Offsetting and lowering the shower valve is another wonderful design approach. Offsetting the mixing valve eliminates the possibility of scalding and adds a level of convenience by allowing the water to be easily controlled from the side of the bathing area instead of from within it. Lowering the valve reduces the range of motion required to operate it making it easier for both children and adults to operate.

Entryways without steps that have porches that are covered and large enough to include shelving or benches beside the doorway at the most used entrance are a universal design element that addresses mobility issues, as are hallways with minimum widths of 42 inches and doorways with minimum clearances of 36 inches.

Designing lighting systems that respect energy limits aligns perfectly with aging in place, universal design and green building standards. When a home is designed to take advantage of natural light, it requires less artificial lighting, offers improved visibility, and saves energy by making effective use of artificial lighting and making temperature control easier. A well done lighting design will benefit young eyes as well as aging ones. The best designed lighting systems provide plenty of natural light while incorporating artificial lighting that is scalable in brightness to task, has switching devices that are easy to operate and reach, and is comprised of ambient, overhead and task lighting fixtures.

R T Lincoln, AMB, CGP, CGR, CAPS

Ready to take aging-in-place, universal design and green building or remodeling to the next level in your home?

R T Lincoln & Associates Inc. is a Certified Aging In Place Specialist and a Certified Green Professional.
Contact us today
or call us (919) 283-9543.

Housing designs that support occupants of varying ages and physical abilities now and require no significant modifications as occupant needs change during their life cycle are clearly as superior to the standard homes built today as a green home building project is to one that is not certified to meet the NAHB Green Building Standard.

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