Whole Home Blog

Incorporating Universal Design into Your Home

Posted on August 11, 2014 by kim

Universal Design BathroomIf you’re thinking about building your own home, or have begun the planning process, you know there are plenty of considerations when it comes to the design, from room size and ceiling height all the way to kitchen cabinets and finishing touches. Building a home is a labor of love, and applying the principles of Universal Design can help to ensure you live comfortably in your home for many, many years to come.

Universal design is a framework for the design of living and working spaces and products benefiting the widest possible range of people in the widest range of situations without special or separate design. Universal Design means convenience for all lifestyles and life stages. That means a family can live comfortably in their home longer. And although Universal Design was created as a standard for new construction, it can also be incorporated into existing homes. Incorporating these principles into your home makes it more welcoming to any and all visitors, and carries a family through multiple life stages.

There are seven principles of universal design, which can be incorporated into the design of a new home:

1. Equitable Use: the design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.

2.  Flexibility in Use: the design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.

3. Simple and Intuitive Use: use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.

4. Perceptible Information: the design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.

5. Tolerance for Error: the design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

6. Low Physical Effort: the design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.

7. Size and Space for Approach and Use: appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use, regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility.

In an article featured in Homecare Magazine, Karen Braitmayer of FAIA architectural consulting firm said that the principles of Universal Design are not always apparent. “At first glance, there isn’t much difference,” says Braitmayer of this architectural concept. “If you look closely, you will see at least one no-step entry, wide hallways, doorways that are a bit wider than standard residential construction (to allow wheelchairs, walkers and scooters to pass through) and one bath and bedroom on the main floor; the main floor bath will have a bit more clear floor space. These are subtle Universal Design features that make the house usable by a broader range of people over a longer lifespan.” While these details make aging in place a priority, they don’t mean the house won’t be livable—or pretty—now.

 “As our lives change, a house that is flexible allows us to remain in the same home over time,” Braitmayer points out. “Having a no-step entry means that baby strollers can roll inside, new appliances and suitcases can be rolled right in, and if friends or family use a mobility device, they can visit independently. A main floor bath that has extra floor space allows someone with a broken leg or who is recovering from surgery to be at home comfortably rather than moving into a rehab or nursing facility. As we age, moving to a main floor bedroom allows senior members of the family to remain at home once climbing stairs becomes a challenge.” 

For more examples of Universal Design, view the complete Homecare Magazine article here. (http://homecaremag.com/universal-design/feb-2014/understanding-universal-design#sthash.GwJ2Bpoz.dpuf) 

To learn more about how to make your home accessible for all, call Whole Home Modifications and speak to one of our Certified Aging in Place Specialists, at 513-482-5100. 

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