|Planning your home with Universal
Finding information on how to
build a Universal Design home, or retrofitting your existing place with UD features,
is just a click away on the Web.
for Universal Design at The University of North Carolina is
a wealth of information on the history and philosophy of Universal
Design, but it also has practical advice, including books and publications
on installing UD features.
These features can be as simple
as lever handles for doors and sinks (for those with poor hand strength),
improved lighting, thermostats with large, easy-to-read numbers
for failing vision and nonslip floors and bathtubs. They can also
be as complex as widened doorways and thresholds flush with floors
for wheelchairs, adding a bathroom to the ground floor, or installing
AARP also has numerous articles
Design as part of its campaign to help people age in place.
Along with the National
Association of Home Builders Remodelors Council, AARP has a
list of people, by state, who are Certified
Aging-in Place-Specialists, or CAPS. These are remodelers, designers,
architects and health-care consultants.
AARP also has extensive information
on the features that go into universal design and even virtual home
tours of UD homes. Its Web
site has checklists for bathrooms, kitchens, doorways, lighting
and walkways and explains why each feature is important. You can
even rate your own home and see if it's up-to-snuff.
The National Association of Home
Builders has a free publication on accessible building products,
available online or by calling (800) 638-8556.
chains Lowe's and Home Depot also have a wealth of information on modifying kitchens,
bathrooms and other parts of homes with Universal Design products and features.
Home Depot has a series
of books that include chapters on remodeling tips and guides for incorporating
Universal Design elements. Lowe's has a whole section of its Web
site devoted to incorporating UD into your remodeling projects. Kohler's design
page lays out the elements of Universal Design for kitchens and bathrooms.
Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification at the University
of Southern California also provides resources at its Web site for finding home
modification programs and experts. It puts out a monthly newsletter on home modification
How much more expensive is a Universal
Design home versus a traditional home? That depends on a number
of factors, say experts, but conventional wisdom holds that adding
UD features can add up to 7 percent to the costs of a home.
Of course, remodeling is always
more costly than designing something from the beginning, says Richard
Duncan, senior project manager with the Center for Universal Design,
so designing elements at the beginning will save more money than
converting a home down the road when the need arises.
Some products that go into UD homes
add marginal costs, such as rocker panel light switches, Duncan
says, while others might be pricier, such as front-loading washers
The biggest cost can be the entrance,
which in a UD home should be 3 feet wide. Revamping a doorway could
cost up to $700, whereas if it is included at the beginning it might
be as little as $5, says architect Charles Schwab, whose book "Universal
Designed Smart Homes for the 21st Century" walks builders and
homeowners through the process of creating a UD home.
Adding a zero-step entrance to
an existing home averages about $1,000 versus about $150 in a new
home, according to Concrete Change, an organization working to make
all homes accessible.
But compare these costs to paying
for a nursing home or assisted living facility, which average $50,000
a year, Schwab says. Investing in a Universal Design home can allow
people to avoid these costs for a longer period of time and promote
independence. Schwab incorporates green
home building into his recommendations, which he says also ultimately
saves money -- particularly in the impending face of high fuel costs.
There are some funding sources
that could help fund remodeling projects that incorporate Universal
Design, according the National Resource Center on Supportive Housing
at USC. Its FAQ
page lists a number of possibilities, including programs through
Fannie Mae and the Department of Veterans Affairs, home modification
loans through Bank of America, and possible deductions for some
remodeling through the Internal Revenue Service.
Kamerick is a freelance writer based in New Mexico.