familyThe Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system was established in 1998 by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes, and neighborhoods. What was invented by the USGBC over a decade ago is not the future of the home building industry; it is what is entrenched in our building codes that define green building.

Through the incorporation of universal design we might not be able to predict the future of home building but we can certainly invent it. And if done right, it will be more than just the inclusion of grab bars and ramps; it will support a lifestyle of support and convenience.

More expense shouldn’t necessarily be included in incorporating universal design in our future homes, it simply will require more design process thinking and that all begins with the architect and rethinking their traditional relationships with design. The fact is, homes are laid out based on the front door and how the person experiences entering the home. The problem is the majority of people enter their home through the garage door.

This means that locating the kitchen and pantry for shorter walking distances is crucial since dropping off grocery bags, coats, hanging keys and removing dirty shoes is a daily task for most homeowners. Take the case of most production homes; the family has to – in most cases – walk through two doors to gain access to the home; the laundry room door and then another access door. When you are talking about universal design, this makes no sense since empty nesters aren’t doing laundry for a family of five to six people. How convenient would it be if the laundry room was located near the master suite? Why not build in a horizontal laundry chute where the dirty clothes can be dropped into the laundry from the dressing area or closet?

Keep in mind that universal design isn’t just intended for the aging population, it’s all about convenience.  It’s about creating a living environment that benefits grandchild as well as grandmother.

It is true that the sector that benefits the most from universal design is the aging population because if given a choice, they prefer aging in place in their own home. By incorporating universal design in homes, homeowners will have the ability to do so.

Here are a few ways to incorporate universal design in your home:

  • Single-level living: Changing the layout of the downstairs to allow freedom of movement
  • Or adding a lift as needed
  • Eliminating level changes on the ground floor
  • Widening door approaches
  • Adding a zero-threshold shower
  • Installing Arthritis Association approved hardware for Milgard windows
  • Motion-and touch activated faucets from Kohler

All of these make living easier for everyone; from the dad with muddy hands to someone with arthritis to the young child just learning how to open windows.

More and more forward thinking cities are becoming early adopters of Green Building Codes that follow the USGBC’s lead and more will follow. It is up to home builders to build ageless living homes for future homeowners.

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