In the building industry certain general practises have come out of the needs of the end user and quite often solely for the convenience of the building industry. Since the turn of the 20th century a lot of materials and products have been geared toward standardization. It has made sense to build with things that are standardized to provide cost effective construction techniques.
There are many examples of new products providing shorter build times and in some cases better overall esthetics’s and performance. So why haven’t we embraced some of the “universal design” changes to make our homes more livable?
Well I think it’s partially generational fear. Fear of cost, fear of living in an institutional environment, fear of needing some of these things in our own lives, fear that we will become the gravity for our elderly families needs. Specifically the current generation has unfounded anxiety about new trends and ideas that could make our homes more accessible, more livable if you will, all without an institutional look.
There are some things that could easily be implemented into our standard housing without any real cost or dramatic change to the looks of our homes and they could be done from day one. It would certainly be more cost effective to build these in a new home rather than renovate later on.
Wider doorways for the interior of the home. Most bedroom doors and bathroom doors could be up-sized to 32” wide instead of the typical 30”, much easier to negotiate with a walker, wheelchair, or even crutches. Not quite the 36” typical barrier free door opening, but better than the existing.
Light switches mounted lower on the wall and plugs mounted higher up the wall. Easier access for everyone in the household.
Using hi-mount toilets.
Lever handled door hardware.
Fewer elevation changes within the home.
So why are we not adding these items if the extra costs are so minimal? .
When were buying a new home, most of us are able bodied individuals and we don’t see the need for spending money on accessibility items. It’s not really our fault that we don’t buy into these things. The builder usually never offers them.
Ask any builder and they will tell you that they need to insure that they get a good return on the product they build and although these would be nice to have they are not necessarily needed by the majority of the population. Which is true but do we really need hardwood floors and granite counter tops? Sure they are nice to have but they will do nothing for you if you need an accessible home after a change of health or maybe even an accident.
It would be great if we could have all things, both functional and beautiful, but we are still a ways off building homes that are truly livable for everyone. For Universal Design to become mainstream, it just might have to be made part of the National Building Code.
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If you’re in Edmonton, St. Albert, Sherwood Park, or the surrounding area and are looking for a contractor for you renovation project, visit our website at www.nordalta.com/contact.php to find information on how to contact us. We’d be happy to speak to you about what we can do to get the ball rolling on your next home or office project. You can also leave comments with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Breault is a project coordinator for Nord Alta Construction. You can find the company website at www.nordalta.com. You can also find Michael and Nord Atla Construction on facebook at www.facebook.com/NordAltaConstruction, on twitter at www.twitter.com/Nordalta, and on LinkedIn.
Robert Breault is the president and owner of Nord Alta Construction. You can find the company website at www.nordalta.com. You can also find Robert and Nord Alta Construction on facebook at www.facebook.com/NordAltaContruction and on LinkedIn.