Nikki Golden, CAE 2014-12-30 23:07:34
Universal Design: A Trend That’s Here to Stay Suppliers can assist by using universal design principles in products, education. By 2030, the number of people over the age of 65 is predicted to be more than 20 percent of the population. In addition, according to the National Council on Disability, in 2007, 35 million households held someone with one or more disabilities. Factor in all of the households with children, and it’s no wonder that the remodeling industry is finding a lucrative niche in universal design. According to Bryce Jacob, CR, UDCP, vice president of Dave Fox Remodeling in Ohio, universal design is “in a nutshell, designing spaces for all cycles of life that we experience. It’s creating spaces and products for people of varying sizes and abilities to use comfortably through their entire lifespan.” Jacob teaches a class on universal design for the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. Modeled on the program developed by the North Carolina State University College of Design, this program focuses on the seven principles of universal design: • Equitable use: Design is useful to people of varying abilities. • Flexibility in use: Design accommodates a range of preferences and abilities. • Simple and intuitive use: Use of design is easy to understand, regardless of knowledge, skills, or concentration level. • Perceptible information: Design communicates necessary information effectively to user. • Tolerance for error: Design minimizes hazards and adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions. • Low physical effort: Design can be used comfortably with a minimum of fatigue. • Size and space for approach and use: Appropriate size and space is provided for reach, manipulation, etc., regardless of size, posture, or mobility. Universal design is the way spaces will be designed going forward, according to Jacob, from new construction to remodeling. He likes to equate it to the luggage industry and the manufacturers’ decision to sell only wheeled luggage. “It’s so logical that it’s become standard practice. It’s simply smarter design that all members of a family can easily use,” Jacob says. “The challenge for remodeling, however, will be to fit entire home modifications into people’s budgets. They may have to prioritize changes or phase their projects to manage their investment.” How remodelers incorporate universal design There are a variety of universal design features that can be added to a home, from widening doorways to at least 32 inches wide, zero barriers (no steps into the home or between rooms), easy-to-grasp knobs or handles (think ergonomic), hand-held showerheads, and grab bars. Lighting also plays a large part in universal design, with an emphasis on task lighting to ensure visibility. Unfortunately, universal design is somewhat stigmatized, bringing to mind images of clinical-looking spaces, white grab bars in the shower, and sacrificing cabinet space to accommodate wheelchairs. As a remodeling contractor, educating the consumer about incorporating universal design features can benefit those who live in the space—without sacrificing style. For instance, a standard 36-inch kitchen counter might work great for someone who’s of average height, but what about when your kids want to help you make cookies? Rather than set them up on the kitchen table, wouldn’t it be easier to have a bi-level counter so that they can work with you? “Items like grab bars need to look like more like fixtures in the home, the same way they’re incorporated seamlessly into cars,” Jacob says. “We’re currently working on a bathroom project for a handicapped person, and we’re incorporating a chair rail, which they can use like a grab bar, around the entire bathroom.” The entry to the home is another area that Jacob points out could use improvement. “There is no reason that we need to create steps into the entry unless your house is on a hillside,” he says. “In that case, it might be more challenging, but it’s still doable.” He points out that products have come a long way, and where you might have once had steps from the garage to the main house in order to keep vapors from getting into the house, doors now have better seals, which alleviates that issue. “It requires more thinking on the part of the contractor, but I really think that this is how we’re going to build going forward,” he says. Products are key to universal design success Product selection has played a part in moving the universal design movement forward. “One of the things I’ve noticed is that products are easier to get,” Jacob says. “Cabinetry, in general, has come so far from when I started. In 2004, soft-close drawers were this ‘Oooh, look at this thing’ reaction. Now they are mainstream, along with pull-out shelves.” Jacob also refers to adaptable cabinetry available for bathroom vanities, which can be modified by the homeowner by removing the center panel at the bottom if there is a need for wheelchair access. The plumbing industry has been ahead of the curve in terms of universal design elements, according to Jacob. “Lever handles have been around for a long time,” he says. “They’ve done a good job at making great-looking faucets that are easy to use.” Lever handles make it easy for kids to have better independence with controlling their water use. The availability of hand-held shower heads with diverters has also helped the universal design efforts. In fact, 90 percent of the projects Jacob’s firm completes include hand-held showerheads on sliders. “The way I explain it to homeowners without physical challenges is that it’s the same as having a spray nozzle at your kitchen sink—it makes cleaning the shower a breeze,” he says. As a contractor, Jacob feels it would be useful if manufacturers and distributors educated him on the universal design features of the products so that he can do a better job educating the consumer. Especially with the amount of information available online, remodelers are in great need of information so they are more knowledgeable than their clients. “Vendors need to provide success stories on how other contractors have used a product successfully, to show the benefit,” Jacob says. Lunch-and-learns or after-hour educational sessions on how products can be used would be very helpful. “The way I see it, the contractor is the next product in the universal design supply chain,” Jacob says. “You can have a great, functional faucet, but if you can’t physically get to it because of the room design, that’s a problem.” He also urges manufacturers to continue to combine form and function. “Be steadfast in the products you design,” he says. “If the design you have makes the most sense, do what the luggage manufacturers did—get rid of the nonwheeled luggage.” The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is the only trade association dedicated solely to the remodeling industry. The association, which represents member companies nationwide—comprising 63,000 remodeling contractors— is “The Voice of the Remodeling Industry.” Its mission is to advance and promote the remodeling industry’s professionalism, products, and vital public purpose. BY Nikki Golden, CAE The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI)
Published by SupplyHouseTimes. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://digital.bnpmedia.com/article/In+The+Spotlight/1897288/240646/article.html.