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Better Design for a Lifetime

By Erica Christoffer, REALTOR® Magazine

nahb intl builders show logoAccessible design is more than just grab bars; it’s about catering to easier living.

Karen Kassik, residential designer, remodeling design specialist, and president and owner of Home Accessibilities, says that accessible is better for every buyer, from young families to aging-in-place empty-nesters.

“Ninety percent of us have a personal story – either we or someone in our family could benefit from universal design features,” she said during her presentation at the International Builders’ Show in Orlando this week.

flex home bathroom

Universal design features from the 2011 NextGen Flex Home on display at the the International Builders’ Show in Orlando.

It’s all about how your clients live. Wider doorways are more convenient for parents with children in strollers. It’s easier to wash the dog in a  roll-in shower. Kitchen counters at a slightly lower height are easier to work at. Accessible outdoor areas without steps to a backyard or porch mean anyone can come over for the next barbeque (plus, less potential for tripping). These features can all be profound selling tools, Kassik said.

A recent study released by MetLife found that the 55+ population increased to 25 percent in 2010. When this group of people considers their next home, they’re going to want something that will sustain their needs for the long-term.

“It’s become about the flexibility of design, knowing people are going to be in these spaces for longer,” said Martin van Koolbergen of Kaplan Gehring McCarroll Architectural Lighting, Inc.

flex home kitchen

Universal design features from the 2011 NextGen Flex Home on display at the the International Builders’ Show in Orlando.

Kitchens today are all about function first, says Joe Digrado, design coordinator at Danielian Associates. “Bigger is not necessarily better; 10 feet between the sink and the refrigerator isn’t a good thing,” said Digrado.

Dish drawers are a fabulous storage feature, besides being an aging-in-place appropriate, said Kassik.

Another trend real estate professionals will want to keep in mind is there’s often more than one person cooking in a household. Kitchens that can operate with multiple tasks going on at the same time are more appealing to today’s buyers, said Digrado. In universal design, there is at least 48 inches of maneuvering space between counters and a kitchen’s center island, as well as in hallways.

nextgen flex home

NextGen Flex Home

Many of the universal design features presented by Kassik, van Koolbergen, and Digrado were featured in the 2011 NextGen flex-home on display at the International Builders’ Show. Items such as ADA appliances, automated door openers, wardrobe and shoe carousel lifts, and energy efficient materials and products were seamlessly integrated into the home.

Produced by iShow and built by Champion Homes with the help of many sponsors, the NextGen Home will be donated via Rebuilding Together to U.S. National Guard and Army veteran Waldemar Alameda, his wife, and their two children following IBS. Alameda served multiple tours of duty in Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq with distinction. He was injured by an improvised explosive device (IED) while serving in Tikrit, Iraq.

Erica Christoffer

Erica Christoffer is a multimedia journalist and contributing writer and editor for REALTOR® Magazine. She can be reached at echristoffer@realtors.org.

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Comments
  1. Sylvia Lockett

    The picture of the NexGen Flex Home is lovely. However…..how is someone in a wheelchair going to access the front door?

  2. Erica Christoffer

    Thanks for your comment! There is actually a wheelchair ramp at the back entrance of the house.

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