Housing design trends can come and go. But one design strategy might survive the test of time. Universal design is the design of products and environments usable by most people, regardless of age or ability. Sometimes called “lifespan design,” it merges the principles of accessibility, ergonomics, and green design. The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University, a national resource and technical assistance center, identifies UD’s key attributes, according to Caring.com.
- General appeal — UD houses appeal to the widest range of people.
- Flexibility – Spaces are easy to use and accommodate for many preferences and abilities. For example, the main living area should have one bedroom that can flex into a study or craft room, one full bath, and a laundry facility.
- Simple and intuitive use — UD homes feature controls and appliances that are easy to figure out.
- Essential information is clearly presented — Appliance controls feature symbols and colors.
- Protective features — UD minimizes potential hazards in the home. For example, double handrails on both sides of the staircase or a curbless shower provide safety and convenience for both the young and elderly.
- Efficiency of use — Switches and controls are within reach and simple to adjust.
- Appropriate size and space — Floor plans accommodate for all types of people. For example, wider hallways (five-and-a-half foot versus four-foot) are essential for residents with physical disabilities.
While Universal Design is closely related to aging-in-place, it also makes sense for those who want to stay in their houses for the longer term or market them to the largest number of potential buyers. If your household is looking to remodel using universal design concepts, consult with a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS). Most CAPS professionals are remodelers, but general contractors, designers, architects, and health care consultants are also entering the field, reports the National Association of Home Builders.