Top Ideas for Truly Universal Design
It is said that renovating a house to accommodate the needs of mobility-impaired persons will increase its property value by as much as 25%. People see the value of future-proofing their home for aging or sudden health challenges. There’s also a convenience factor in making it easier to carry laundry, luggage, the vacuum, or even moving furniture.
People are living longer and many desire to stay in their homes as long as possible. Whether building a new home or renovating an existing one, plans can be made to allow for aging in place. Considering mandatory space requirements, a good place to start planning is with upward/downward movement. Recent technological advances give us several good options to move between floors utilizing chair lifts or platform lifts.
Chair lifts provide a seat for one person that moves up/down the length of a stairway. With many safety features, these lifts are easy to use and affordable. Both straight and curved stairways can be accommodated by a chair lift that attaches to stair treads and can be placed on either side. Chairs fold away when not in use and swivel seats are highly recommended for ease of movement. Chair lifts are powered by battery or electric sources but A/C power with a rechargeable battery is ideal. They are available both indoors and outdoors.
Platform lifts can accommodate anyone including those in wheelchairs, power chairs, or scooters. The most common platform lift is also called an elevator. In addition, there are open vertical platform lifts best used for shorter distances and incline platform lifts that move mobility devices like a wheelchair up/down a stairway.
Home elevators are not only for the rich and famous anymore. New technology allows better affordability, a slimmer profile, energy efficiency, quieter operation, and customization. Elevators are typically enclosed with solid walls and/or glass and move between floors. Today, there is no need to dig a pit or shaft or provide space for a machine room. In many cases, little to no construction is required. A few power options exist: pneumatic, battery, cable/pulley, and hydraulic. In some cases, a separate dedicated power line does not need to be installed. The fun part is choosing size and finish materials like flooring, walls, lighting, and hardware. Check safety features between manufacturers when deciding what works best for your needs.
Open vertical platform lifts, sometimes referred to as “porch lifts” are a lower cost option typically suited for for situations with a smaller number of stairs. These lifts look like an open cage with swinging doors.
An incline platform lift transports most mobility devices up/down a staircase. This is a good option if there is no space for a vertical platform lift. While the lift takes up a majority of the stairway, some models fold to within 13” when not in use. They are available for both indoors/outdoors.
Ramps, of course, are another option best used outdoors. The disadvantage is space requirements: 12” horizontal travel is needed for every 1” of vertical travel. Ramps can also cause fatigue.
Also, when planning for barrier-free accessibility, keep in mind that extra square footage is necessary to maneuver wheelchairs and other mobility devices through wider hallways and doorways. Kitchens and bathrooms also require special design. Stairlifts, platform lifts, or home elevators will become necessary to remain living in the same house. The costs for these Universal Design features will be miniscule if a need arises due to accident, health problems, or aging.
This guide is to help homeowners differentiate the new concept of “design-build” and traditional “design-bid-build” method of project delivery. Most people would wonder, why would anyone dare to drop “bid” from the design-build project delivery? The real question is, who is in charge of the bid portion of the project?
Building projects 4,000 years ago were delivered by architects in charge, A.K.A. “Master Builders”. Therefore, it was the Master Builder taking overall responsibility for the project including design, bid, and construction. However, from the beginning of the 20th century, the legal world has crafted a new traditional design-bid-build project delivery (notice even the wording “new traditional” is a contradiction in terms). This has placed the owner in charge of the design, estimates, and construction of their homes. In most cases, this method inherently results in miscommunications, compromised home design and construction budget overruns. These plights then cause adversarial relationships amongst the owner, builder and architect.
Fortunately in the 21st century, homeowners realize that this new concept of “design-build” is NOT new at all. They have discovered that it is not worth the time and effort to keep track of the design, estimates, and construction independently. Today, educated and savvy owners opt to go with design-build project delivery for their homes. It is an absolute must for cost- and time-conscious construction without design compromise.
Operating a successful design-build business requires a person with a unique skill set – a rational and practical person who can be conscientious of design quality, construction methodology, and delivery deadlines, all at the same time. Additionally, this person earns respect and confidence with their unquestionable reputation and deep knowledge of various building components and systems, and all aspects of the construction process.
A reputable architect leading the design-build home project is a better choice.
Following are the ten reasons why…
This indeed is the best of all benefits for you as the homeowner – still being free to spend quality time during the design phase with your love ones and family. To accommodate your busy work schedule, many samples of floor and wall finishes, cabinetry, countertops, brick and stone colors, roof styles and texture, etc. will be presented by your design-builder so you can compare and make intelligent choices.
This unique journal is an entire collage of your home project. It has detailed information about the site selection, your family activities, room sizes, budget/estimates, project research/collections, design sketches, correspondence/meeting minutes, construction photos, reports, change orders, etc. A well-written journal sets high performance expectations from your design-builder.
Before construction begins, you will have made final decisions on all designs, project budget, and construction schedule. After experiencing a virtual walk-thru and color renderings, you will be assured that coordination of the design and construction teams will be facilitated by your design-builder.
Your design-builder understands that your dream home is close to your heart. To maintain the integrity of your vision, clarity of communication is provided between you, your architect and your contractor. When designing your new home, each exterior and interior detail becomes a piece of the big picture, and no detail is too small to ignore.
Honest and pragmatic communication is best handled by your design-builder. With your best interests in mind, he aligns the design/construction teams and defines a plan of action. This includes resolution to debates between tradesmen, handling of technical issues, and making decisive design changes as necessary without compromising the overall design.
At the start of design, the construction team is included in the planning, to minimize budget discrepancies and miscommunications. Building frame/components, and mechanical/electrical/plumbing systems are analyzed early on to assure efficient, quality design. This allows you to “put all your ducks in a row” before breaking ground.
Your design-builder and construction team comes in handy when deciding on alternative materials and methods during the design phase of the project. You, as the owner, will appreciate the savings not only for building materials, but also in regards to heating, cooling, and other energy consumption.
Your design-builder will assure that all tradesmen comply with the specifications on your home plans, including building, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing components. He will also detect and remedy all shortcuts and missing items that could be hazardous to your home’s overall structure.
Your design-builder can implement green friendly elements and/or energy free systems in your home project. Also, he can assure that these complex elements blend seamlessly in your home design. For instance, solar panels can be properly located and integrated with the roof geometry for curb appeal or for simple harmony.
The integration of technology into your new home can be coordinated with your design-builder. During the design phase, your added features will be researched and evaluated for durability and quality, making sure your quality of life is as luxurious as your new surroundings.
With the painfully unpredictable, lightning-fast evolution of new inventions for your home, your design-builder with his design and construction team is constantly discussing and researching for every innovative item sought. Some of the examples are showers with integrated tanning system, integrated kitchen sink-dishwasher sink, remote doorbell with camera alert to your smart phone
The Houzz website bills itself as “The New Way to Design Your Home.” Houzz showcases the work of architects, designers, remodelers, and even landscaping contractors who interact with Houzz users to provide inspiration, advice, and product sources for their projects. Sign up for a free account and you can search over three million full color photos of home improvement and decorating ideas, which you can then save to your own personalized Idea Books.
Ask a decorating or remodeling question in one of the discussion areas and get advice from both pros and other homeowners. Articles written by experts in their field offer valuable tips and insights into every topic imaginable, from choosing the right marble countertops to waterproofing your basement. Find a pro in your area for pool maintenance, tree removal, garage door repair, and more. Shopping for the home? You can find light fixtures, furniture, pet supplies, and even holiday décor.
Have fun browsing, saving favorites, and sharing on social media – all from one place. Houzz is an invaluable tool for everyone interested in home design and decoration. It’s a vast source of ideas to use when planning your dream home.