Built for life—Buyers look to universal design for forever homes

The owners of two of the country’s most outstanding universal design homes share the stories behind their houses
Victoria and Richard Parsons of Parker, Colorado, wanted to build their forever house. (Photo: Sterling Custom Homes, Inc.)

The value of universal design extends beyond the increased accessibility it can create for homebuyers and their families.

“Let’s say you have a beautiful home, and you put it up for sale,” proposed August. “If it’s already accessible, this is important for new buyers.”

By 2035, the age 65-plus community in the U.S. is expected to increase to 79 million, a jump from just 48 million today. On top of those numbers, about 40 million Americans living in their own home have some kind of physical disability. August notes that Colorado is one of the healthiest states of the country, meaning people are living longer.

“Colorado should adapt more quickly because it gives buildings a competitive [advantage]. If you can design [an accessible] product from the very beginning on paper, you can do things more cost effectively,” August noted.

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He said trying to adjust for universal design features after the initial planning can increase the cost of things like cabinetry and closets by 10% to 15%. However, he said, this is still a more cost-effective option than the price of a nursing home in Colorado, not to mention more appealing to an active aging market.

August also noted that after the economic crash of 2008, the length of time people spent living in their homes increased to over 12 years on average. We’re facing another economic downturn; one that is making people around the world consider their health and that of their loved ones, not to mention their ability to spend a lot of time in their homes.

While August mentioned that not every builder will undertake a universal design project, the Rossetti home, which also serves as an educational space, shows that there is significant interest in universal design in the industry. Rossetti documents the people who come through her home to learn from it—people ranging from architects, designers, engineers, builders, developers of apartments for senior living and students. Over the last seven years that her home has been open, there have been thousands of visitors. Public tours are guided by volunteers, and aided by a written and recorded script of information about the home, created by the Rossettis.

“The home continues to live and benefit certainly everyone in Columbus, Ohio, and everyone around the country,” said August.

Abbey Blakeman is a strategic communications and marketing student at the University of Denver.

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