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The Concept of Universal Design

“Universal Design” is a concept to help people design their homes at an earlier age so their homes will be more ready for them as they age. If you are like the majority of Americans over the age of 55, you may want to continue living in your existing home as you age because it is a familiar environment. According to research, older home owners are now overwhelmingly “aging-in-place,” which means they are now living in their homes longer because they feel safe, independent and more comfortable. So, if you are thinking about remodeling, purchasing or having a new home built, you may want to consider incorporating some features into your home that will help you as you get older.

First off, you will want to have a clear path of travel to the entry of your home. You may also want to consider a low step entry with a low threshold, a sensor light focusing on your front door lock, a non slip floor covering in your foyer, a peep hole in your front door, and a surface to set packages on once you open the front door.

Then there may come a time when you, or someone you love, will be forced to deal with getting around in a wheelchair. That will force you to make some modifications anyway, so there are some things you could do ahead of time to make that transition easier. A couple of things to think about would be to consider using 36 inch interior doors to bedrooms and bathrooms giving you a full 32” clear width opening to those rooms. You may also want to try and design in a 5 foot by 5 foot turn around space in the living area, the kitchen and at least one bedroom and one bathroom. Hallways should be well lit with a minimum of 36 inches of clearance or even wider. Levered door handles is another idea to consider, which would allow easier entry access into your rooms and closets.

There are other ideas to consider also, such as having extra windows for more natural lighting, a wider garage with a higher garage door opening to accommodate lift vans, adjustable or varied counter heights with removable base cabinets to allow easier access to cabinets and counter tops. A couple of other ideas may include roll out trays, cabinet drawers and lower upper cabinets for easier reach.

Adding bracing in walls around tubs, showers, and toilets for installation of future grab bars would be something to seriously consider when building or remodeling. Installing a curbless shower and a toilet that is about 2 ½ inch taller than a standard toilet are also things to consider when designing a bathroom.

A couple more ideas may include a front load washing machine for easier handling. Adjustable closet rods and shelving, lighting in closets, rocker switches and programmable thermostats are a few more ideas that can be incorporated into your home to make your life more sustainable as you get older.

The term “Universal Design” was coined to describe the concept of designing home products that are not only pleasing to the eye, but also usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age or ability. For more information on the “Universal Design” concept, call American Housing Remodeling at 727-546-6611, email us at or stop in at our Design Center at 6580 72 Ave North in Pinellas Park, Florida.



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Remodelers are already incorporating many green practices into their projects, such as energy efficient windows, “Energy Star” appliances, low flow plumbing fixtures and designs that minimize lumber and material waste. American Housing Remodeling, Inc. realizes this and knows the importance of green construction practices. That is why when designing our remodeling projects,  energy efficiency, including water and resource conservation, sustainable or recycled products, and indoor air quality considerations are incorporated into the process of adding a room addition on to a home.

“Green” conscience homeowners can appreciate the fact that they are doing something good for the environment and their family.

Some “Energy Saving” ideas that can be incorporate into a home are:

Compact Fluorescent Lighting: One of the easiest things you can do is to change your light bulbs. It’s best to switch out incandescent bulbs with CFLs in areas that are lit for extended periods of time, typically two hours or longer.

Programmable Thermostats : Install a programmable thermostat to set your heating and cooling equipment to automatically turn on or off to match your schedule and create a comfortable and energy-efficient living environment.

Ceiling Fans: Ceiling fans and dehumidifiers use less energy than air conditioners and can help to make the home comfortable during the warm months.

ENERGY STAR® appliances: When buying or replacing appliances, choose energy-efficient models. Federal ENERGY STAR-rated appliances are designed to use 10%-50% less energy than standard appliances and save an average of 30% over standard models.

Front-loading clothes washers : Front-loading clothes washers use less water, less energy, and less detergent. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, front-loading washing machines can use about 40 percent less water and 50 percent less energy than conventional washers.

Insulation: These days, you have a choice of insulation materials. You may be interested in environmentally-friendly materials such as energy-efficient spray foam insulation.

Right-Sized HVAC Equipment: When you decide to remodel, it’s a great time to evaluate your home’s heating and cooling equipment. Selecting more efficient, correctly sized heating and cooling equipment will save money. Remember that bigger does not always mean better. For the most efficient system, you really want your HVAC system to meet your needs, not surpass them.

High Performance Low-E Windows: Consider replacing single-pane windows with high performance double pane insulated Low-E windows. The Low-E coating is a microscopically thin, virtually invisible, metal or metallic oxide layer deposited on the window glazing surface primarily to reduce the U-factor by suppressing radiative heat flow

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