Universal Design as ‘Preventive Architecture’
Universal design homes also accommodate wheeled devices such as baby strollers, wheeled luggage, dollies for moving furniture, wheeled walking devices and wheelchairs. Lever door handles make it easier to open the door — even when carrying sacks of groceries, a small child or other parcels. Lever faucet handles make it possible to adjust the water temperature easily when hands are slippery with soap. Stacking a walk-in storage closet on top of a walk-in pantry creates a shaft that can be converted into a personal elevator (pulley system) in the future.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration applies the principles of ergonomics to work environments to reduce the risk of injuries to workers. UD homes incorporate the ergonomics principles to reduce the risk of injuries to residents. In a sense, universal design is a form of "preventive architecture.” Fall prevention is one of the most important elements in today's “aging in place” movement.
Most people prefer to be in the familiar setting of their own home when they don’t feel well. UD homes facilitate recuperation at home. Many long-term-care insurance policies now provide for in-home care, but most traditional homes are not adequately designed to support it. UD homes give people the freedom to choose where to recuperate from illness or injury, not to mention “age in place” with dignity as they get older.
With the medical advances of the past decades, it has become common to see families with four or five generations still alive and well. However, even healthy seniors are finding traditional homes increasingly difficult to navigate.
Universal Design Provides Lifestyle-Enhancing Benefits
UD homes are frequently referred to as "transgenerational" homes because they accommodate people of all ages and abilities. The entire family can gather to celebrate holidays and special family events, thanks to inclusive universal design features.
So why don't all new homes incorporate UD principles? Unfortunately, there are several misconceptions about UD homes. Many builders don’t think that there is a market for universal homes. There is always a desire for more convenience, comfort, safety and accommodation for all family members, but the public is only now becoming aware of the lifestyle-enhancing benefits of universal design, so they haven’t asked for it. Fortunately, the mainstream media and AARP are educating the public about the universal benefits of universal design, increasing the demand for UD throughout the country.
In fact, 88% of the buyers in an award-winning community with universal designed homes in Murrieta, CA, were able-bodied people. They bought the homes simply because they loved the open, spacious floor plans and convenient design. They were pleased to learn about the future benefits of being able to “age in place,” but their initial desire to buy them was due to the enhanced aesthetics and ergonomic benefits they could enjoy from the first day they moved into their new homes.
Universal Design Adds Minimal Costs to New Construction
Many fear that universal design will add too much to the cost of the home. At this time, the added expenses could range from $1,500 to $5,000 per home because the features are new and not well-incorporated into common building practices. As builders begin to incorporate universal design more consistently, the cost could drop because of a higher sales volume of these products and more familiarity with this approach.
Adding fundamental UD structural features will increase the base cost of the house minimally. However, these additional costs for special UD options normally can be charged directly to the buyers, increasing the developer's profit.
Many developers think UD features are unattractive. In reality, well-done UD actually enhances aesthetics by creating brighter, open and user-friendly floor plans.
Universal homes truly have universal benefits. Incorporating universal design during the initial phases of new home design will lead to optimal results. However, incorporating universal design into the design of a major remodeling project can be effective, too. Expand your share of the market by being the leader in offering the most value-added product.
Susan Mack, OTR/L, CAPS, is president of Murrieta, CA-based Homes For Easy Living Universal Design Consultants. An expert on universal design and winner of several aging-in-place design awards, she has spoken at regional and national conferences, including Building for Boomers & Beyond: Seniors Housing Symposium. For more information, e-mail Mack, call her at 760-409-7565 or visit her Web site, www.homesforeasyliving.com.
National 'Aging in Place Week' Events Slated in 20 Cities
National Aging In Place Week is Nov. 7-13, with events planned in more than 20 cities across the country.
The week of events is sponsored by the National Reverse Mortgage Lender’s Association (NRMLA) and the Aging In Place Council — which includes the NAHB Remodelors™ Council, NAHB Seniors Housing Council and NAHB Research Center.
For information, e-mail Darryl Hicks, Aging In Place Council, or call him at 202-939-1784.
Attend the 2005 Seniors Housing Symposium in Metro Washington, D.C. Area
Learn more about the fastest-growing segment of the housing market. Plan to attend Building for Boomers & Beyond: Seniors Housing Symposium 2005, the premier educational and networking event for industry professionals serving the burgeoning 50+ market. For more information, click here.
'Boomers on the Horizon' Available at BuilderBooks.com
Capitalize on the niches, needs and opportunities of the rapidly growing 55+ market by learning their preferences in "Boomers on the Horizon: Housing Preferences of the 55+ Market", available at BuilderBooks.com. This book depicts boomers who are on the verge of drastically changing the building industry. To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665 to order.
Enter the 2005 Best of Seniors Housing Awards — Entries Due Nov. 5
Enter your community design, clubhouse, models or marketing and merchandising in the 2005 Best of Seniors Housing Awards competition.
The competition has more than 100 categories to choose from, including active adult, assisted living, continuing care retirement community, congregate care community, renovated seniors housing, special needs housing, seniors multifamily and more.
For details, visit Call for Entries, or call 800-368-5242 x8220.
Learn More About Seniors Housing Through the Seniors Housing Council
To learn more about seniors housing, join the NAHB Seniors Housing Council. The council provides information, education, networking and recognition opportunities for its members and represents NAHB on seniors housing issues. For more details, e-mail Jeff Jenkins or call him at 800-368-5242 x8292.