Safe And Functional For Everyone

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 UD in 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.

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 homebuyers 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!


Universal Design Contractor: Amber Valley

At Amber Valley we know that everyone has different needs, and designing homes to be as accommodating as possible is always the right approach. We also believe that good design is universal. Our goal is to bring Universal Design to the homes of those who currently need it or to those who are remodeling with the future in mind. We want to see Universal Design implemented all over West Michigan and the Greater Grand Rapids area. Remodeling for Universal Design takes more than just a remodeler. It takes someone who can see through the eyes of various needs and abilities.

Universal Design is a specialized style of development that aims to make buildings, environments, and fixtures as easy as possible for everyone to use. By taking simple steps we can create home and business properties that are naturally friendly and easy to navigate and use, no matter an individual’s age, health, or any disabilities that might be present. As we age, or in many cases after an accident or injury, we find our needs have changed. However, our homes don't automatically change with our needs. That is why our goal is to create beautiful environments in your home that adapts with you as you needs change. If you are looking to build or remodel with Universal Design features, we would be glad to bring our experience to play for you and your remodeling project.


Every room in your home can be made to fit Universal Design without making it look like an institution because the accessibility can be hidden in the background.


Levers vs. knobs

Pocket doors

36” doors


Grab Bars / Bracing

Wider ledge/deck around tubs

Curb-less showers

Plywood backing throughout bathroom

Pull out privacy walls for toilets

Pull under vanity


Door pulls that are not knobs

Touch control faucet or single lever

Removable base under the sink

Dishwasher drawer

Pot filler

Drop down or pull up cabinets

Multiple countertop heights

Bring everything to you—50% of all contents accessible from a seated position—Pull out drawers

Side door oven

Raised dishwasher with storage underneath

Kitchen sink with drains towards the back.




1/20 and 1/12

step less access from garage – motion activated fans to remove any CO from the space


Lower switches (38 vs. 42)

Higher receptacles (18 vs. 16)

Paddle switches

Easy to control thermostats

Motion activated lighting and fans


Solid surfaces.

Laundry and Closets

Combining laundry room with closets

Elevated, front loading W/D with storage below

Pull down closet rods

To learn more, please contact our team today.