Home Sweet (Forever) Home

Universal design takes usability and accessibility to new technological heights
accessibility bedroom
Photo: Home Builders Foundation

The Tech Advantage

Technological components of universally designed homes add another dimension of independence and freedom. Companies such as ListenUp take systems in the home and integrate them together either with a standalone automation system or a consumer-level product like Google Assistant. Some are voice activated, and some are remote or touch controlled.

“We added automation features to the addition, such as automated window coverings, automated lighting, as well as voice control,” noted Chris Emas from ListenUp.

This means that Lexi can turn on her TV, open and control her shades and turn on her lights seamlessly and without any assistance.

The Builder

When asked why homebuilder Lennar chose to be involved with this remodel, Brad McCoy, the company’s area customer care manager simply said, “Because it is the right thing to do; we did a modification to her home to be able to help her out.” The addition involved additional framing, a restroom, closet, extra space, extra light and a ramp so Lexi could have accessibility to transportation.

The Architect

Architectural Imagineering’s Principal Architect Ken Riley was already a fan of HBF’s projects as he had personal experience with the organization through his own son.

“I contacted them about my son’s house and helping to get him home from the facility and getting the Ranch in so he could come home,” says Riley. “And they did such a good job, and I liked the organization so much, I wanted to pay it forward.”

For Lexi, she loves the additional light that Riley was able to bring into her home and especially the ability to work more independently.

Lexi M's back ramp
Photo: Home Builders Foundation

Aging-in-place, home for life

Much of the U.S.’s population of baby boomers (78 million) and people with disabilities will be able to benefit from a universal design approach to age or live in place. It is more cost effective to initially design homes utilizing universal design features rather than remodeling later. By starting with a universal design approach when a house is being built, it is less likely that modifications will be needed to accommodate unexpected injuries and illnesses.

Universal Design Living Laboratory

On June 13, 1998, Rosemarie Rossetti’s life was transformed forever when a three and one-half-ton tree came crashing down on her and paralyzed her from the waist down. She is now an internationally known speaker, trainer, consultant, writer and publisher who, with her husband Mark, has designed, built, and currently lives in the Ohio-based Universal Design Living Laboratory. It is a top-rated universal design home in North America with three national universal design certifications.

According to Rossetti, the design of a person’s home impacts the quality of life now as well as in the future. “The design of the spaces in a home should be done by a professional who is knowledgeable about accessible and universal design,” says Rossetti. “No one can predict when a person will acquire a disability.”

She adds that as a person ages, there will be a natural decline in a person’s mobility, strength, vision, and hearing.

However, design features can be included to allow the occupants to age in their homes for their lifetimes. Specifically, accessibility and safety features can be added to include grab bars, curbless showers, 36-inch wide doors, natural and artificial lighting, knee space under sinks and cooktops, and 30-34-inch high countertops.

The goal of the Universal Living Design Laboratory is to bring about awareness of the quality of indoor and outdoor lifestyle through universal design, green building, safety, and healthy home construction practices to the public, construction and design industries.

Living in Place Institute

“Everybody toys with the term universal design, but I like to counter that,” says Louie Delaware of Denver’s Living in Place Institute. “There are certain things in universal design that’s supposed to be used by all people. One, the preponderance of the population is right-handed. But if you put a right-handed scissors into the hands of a left-handed person, it won’t work.”

As a result, Delaware says that universal design doesn’t always take the individual person into consideration.

“That is really key because when you’re doing this sort of stuff, you’re trying to do it for that individual.”

Delaware and his wife recently lost their home to the MarshallLS����

Valarie Johnson

Valarie is Editor-in-Chief of Colorado Builder and has a 25-year, award-winning career as a publisher, editor and writer for local, regional, national and international publications. Valarie is a Colorado native and enjoys hiking, traveling, meditating, kayaking, yoga, reading and spending time with her husband and family. She can be reached at [email protected] or (303) 502-2523.

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