Why Should Remodelers Care?

Aging in Place Design, Universal Design, Green Remodeling – my head hurts!

Old-school contractors like me have had a lot coming at them the last 10 years. These new “design approaches” challenge us to re-think the way we have always done things and how advise our clients. No one really likes change so we tend to push back. After all, in our heads we are “experts”. We haveexperience designing, specifying and executing the construction of our renovation ideas. This article will encourage you to embrace these new ideas, continue learning and take your remodeling expertise from “good” to “GREAT!”.

Don’t panic. There is good news for remodelers. The first good thing to know is that, because of the needs of your clients, you are already doing a lot of things right, and have been for years. For example, you probably already know that installing wider doorways, attractive grab bars, and increased lighting for clients who are seniors really works for them. That’s good aging-in-place and universal design. You have undoubtedly been putting in energy efficient A/C systems and double pane windows in every job for years before your new construction counterparts did so.These are now considered “green building” ideas.

This article aspires to give you some new universal design ideas to incorporate into your projects and give some feel for why this is the best way for you to design and build.

[Verification of your knowledge
by an independent organization – a way to prove that you have
the knowledge needed for the job
• Professional growth and development
• Enhanced job opportunities]

Our work is very challenging. We work for families, tearing apart their usually-occupiedhomes while they are living in them. We owe it to them to bring our very best practices to the table.

Both NARI and the NAHB have released newUniversalDesign courses recently. The NAHB courses, called ”Universal Design/Build” are a two-day set and cost an average of 200.00 per day for members, average. More for non-NAHB Members. Currently, the courses do not result in a UD designation, but this may change. See the details at http://www.nahb.org/generic.aspx?genericContentID=161862
The NARI UD courses help achieve a designation called “UDCR”, or Universal Design Certified Remodeler”. The designation costs members $299.00 ($399.00 for non-members). See the details at http://www.nari.org/pdf/UDCRManualandApplication.pdf.
These new courses really dogive you new ideas you can apply to the unique needs of your client’s families.

Universal design is “inclusive design” — building and remodeling homes filled with features that provide comfort and convenience, regardless of age, stature, or ability. While UD certainly has a lot of overlap with “Aging-in-Place design, there are some notable differences.

Here is an example of the difference between AIP and UD: Let’s say you are building a bath sink vanity. If you built it with an open knee space under the sink, with clearance for a wheelchair user, that would be a typical aging-in-place element. If you added a removable cabinet front that could convert it easily to a typical sink base with a floor and cabinet doors, that would be a “universal design” element because it could easily be converted to fit a variety of user’s needs.In a nutshell, a ging-in-place design tends to focus more on the special needs of an older or “special needs” client. It tends to have more “accessible” features, but there are many overlapping ideas. For example, installing ½” pressure treated ply wood on the walls of the shower or tub surround walls people can add grab bars or seats wherever they want, is both an aging in place and UD idea. So are most of the adaptive design ideas, like stacking closets for a future elevator

The underlying theme of all these ideas is customizing living spaces, not following set guidelines like the ADAguidelines. If you have an elderly or special needs client the CAPS and the UD courses will give volumes of new ideas to suggest when you are sitting at the kitchen table with your clients. So will the Universal Design courses.

Here are some specific UD ideas you may not be putting into your projects – but should… [do side bar of the TOP TEN UD FEATURES FOR REMODELELRS]

Kitchen & Laundry areas

  1. Include as much storage space as you can between 24” and 46” – the range that is comfortable for a standing or seated user.
  2. Put in as many full-extension, soft-close drawers and pull-out storage possible. By pull-outs I mean pull-out pantries, spice or utensil-racks,not pull-out drawers/shelves behind cabinet doors. Those require two operations to open and close – inefficient. You can put so much more stuff in real drawers than cabinets.
  3. Create 1 or more knee spaces in lower cabinets for a roll-under island with shelving. These provide a place for a seated user to work and the island still provides the always-needed storage.
  4. Consider putting in a side-opening oven (provide example brands & photo)instead bottom-hinged one.
  5. Under the oven, install a pull-out shelf, with a tile or stone surface. This will provide a convenient (and safer) landingspace for hot dishes.
  6. Design the drawers to be deepenough to store dishes and other heavy kitchen objects Add more compartments to organize spices, small appliances, cookware and cooking implements.

What’s in this sort of education for you?

  • Verification of your knowledge by an independent national organization – a way to prove that you have the knowledge needed for the job
  • Professional growth and development
  • Enhanced job opportunities


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