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Universal Design and How it Benefits the Average Homeowner

What is Universal Design and who is it for?

To answer, take a second and think about people… Tall people, short people, babies, senior citizens, athletes, homebodies, and those who are missing a sense like hearing or sight, those who can’t walk well or at all, or those who live with mental or developmental issues.

Universal Design (UD) is a construction philosophy that has been adopted with this variety of individuals their ability levels in mind, and it considers how we—as homeowners, contractors, and society—can build buildings, spaces, and products to serve the greatest number of people possible no matter what disabilities or challenges they may or may not experience.

What does Universal Design include?

This approach goes beyond the related principle of Barrier-Free Design, which strives to set up buildings and spaces to make moving around as easy as possible. UD principles also consider layout, fixtures, dimensions, construction materials and much, much more.

For instance, houses built with  in UD mind will likely have a smooth, ground-level entrances without steps (a barrier free design choice), as well as wheelchair accessible hallways (four feet or wider), lever handles on doors rather than nobs (for those with limited hand strength or function), slip-resistant walking surfaces, and carefully designed lighting features (including natural lighting) to assist those with poor vision or who might be shut-in for long periods of time.

The list goes on, touching on everything from bathroom products to architectural style, and the result is a dwelling that is perfectly comfortable and normal for a fully functioning family while also providing as few obstacles as possible for residents who might have special needs, challenges, or disabilities.

But say you’re remodeling and you don’t have any special needs. How can Universal Design help you?

1. Aging in Place

Just because a homeowner is fully mobile and capable right now doesn’t mean they will stay that way. We’re all getting older every day. We all face risk every time we get in a car or go to the store. Accidents happen, leaving people just like you and just like me homebound or immobile for long periods of time.

And then there’s age. It slows us down, takes our flexibility, balance, and strength, and eventually makes activates like walking up or down stairs or taking a shower difficult or even dangerous without the right precautions.

UD gives you a dwelling that is better suited for these kinds of situations, and which will be far more useful in countless ways when you face those situations.

2. Resale Value

Generally incorporating UD even when not required by law is often a good financial decision as well as a practical one. Many of the recommendations can be included during new construction at little or no additional cost without changing the layout or look of the home as a whole.

UD can also make the home far more attractive and valuable to a niche set of home buyers who are specifically looking for barrier free homes or who have special needs that they are considering when shopping around.

In short, Universal Design is here to stay, and there is no reason not to embrace as a core design principle for your next construction or remodeling project. For more information, or a Universal Design consultation to help meet your needs and explore your options, contact Amber Valley Construction today!  

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