though it seems as if people started talking about universal design
only recently, the concept of adaptability was developed in 1997.
Today, itís part of nearly every design discussion as awareness of
its importance has increased.
design embraces flexibility, which allows families to grow with their
home for a much longer time. It allows homes to adapt to familyís
changing needs versus forcing them to move," says Nathan Wachtl,
senior design consultant at S.J. Janis Co.
universal design experts ó Wachtl, Pekel Construction and Remodelingís
David Pekel and Chris Egner of Four Seasons Sunrooms ó say universal
design is commonly confused with the concept of aging in place.
"Thatís one of the biggest misconceptions about universal
design ó that itís a politically correct term for aging in place
ó but itís not. Aging in place is generally in response to a
situation, whereas universal design should be anticipated."
faucets, wider hallways and motion sensor lighting are just some
examples of universal design in the home.
design allows a space to adapt to a familyís changing needs
versus being forced to move," say Nathan Wachtl of S.J.
Janis Co. The firm renovated the kitchen (opposite), and
received a gold award from Milwaukee/NARI for its remodel of the
bathroom (above), which features a barrier-free shower.
finished a project in which the owners asked for a design that was
universal and full of "serenity" for their 26-year-old
starter home. "From a closet and second entrance we made a true
master bath with improved flow," Wachtl says. "We installed
a zero threshold walk-in shower with bench seat and steamer unit, and
designed a curved tile projection for moisture protection and so that
cold water doesnít drop on the clientís back."
people to incorporate universal design into any remodeling project or
new construction. "Homes with universal design are usable to a
larger group of people and allow them to stay in the home for a longer
time," he says. "This adds value to the home." Itís
also important to be aesthetically pleasing, not institutional
looking, he says.
The experts say
universal design is part of the evolution of the home industry.
"A long time ago we used to put 28-inch doorways in houses,"
Egner says. "We donít do that anymore because thatís too
small. This is the same. Universal design is one more way things are
evolving to bring more value to what weíre doing."
agrees: "For example, look at how kitchen use has changed over
time. The kitchen is not just for cooking anymore ó children do
their homework and are helping out with cooking; the husband is
prepping the food."
design is not just something to consider when remodeling.
"Adapting is inherently more expensive than building from
scratch," Pekel says. "You can program new spaces to employ
universal design principles, which project the current situation but
work in the long term, as well.
of a home is to think of a reason for universal design," he says.
"I have a
client right now whose spouse is dying. The hospice advisers said the
best thing is for the spouse to come home. We are remodeling the house
that this couple has owned all their lives so that a visiting
caregiver can come to them," Pekel says. "It is so much more
desirable for those who want to stay at home that they can. Theyíre
happier because itís familiar to them, and they have memories there
that canít be replaced.
"To my way
of thinking, you should be able to live in your house as long as you