Universal Design in Construction: What you need to know, and why it applies to you

Steps to take for building and remodeling with everyone in mind

By Hire It Done

Universal Design – you may be familiar with it, or perhaps it is a new term to you. Either way, your daily life is affected by its principles. To design is to make choices. By definition, Universal Design is choosing to make products and environments that are usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible. Universal design strives to improve the original design concept by making it more inclusive. Think of recent changes in kitchen utensils that make them easier and more comfortable to hold and operate, digital thermometers that have easy to read displays or faucets activated by touch or motion sensors. These are all examples of applying the principals of Universal Design.  

In the remodeling industry, we like to think of Universal Design as design with everyone in mind. This means creating a functional, beautiful space for people of all ages and abilities. This can be especially helpful for older family members, or people with disabilities, but also helps children, very tall or very short people and anyone who may experience temporary diminished physical abilities. These principals are most often applied in the kitchen and bathroom, but have started showing up in all rooms of the home.

Do I Need Universal Design?

You may not need it today, but we all know life happens fast. These concepts go way beyond accessibility – they provide striking design aesthetics, including more open space and great lighting. If you are thinking of remodeling, ask yourself a couple of questions:

  1. Will we staying in this home for more than 3 years?
  2. Is there any possibility of disabled or elderly family members visiting or coming to stay with me?

If you answered yes to either question, consider integrating design with everyone in mind into your next project.  

Taking the Next Step

When giving advice about a remodeling project, at Hire it Done, we talk about the contractors – and they are vital. But we should also talk about designers. There are several different kinds of designers in remodeling – those who run independent businesses, those who work for building groups or remodeling companies, those who specialize in textiles and color selections, and on and on. It is ALWAYS a good idea to work with a designer on a large remodeling project, especially a kitchen or a bath. A word of caution though – a line drawing of cabinetry is not a comprehensive design. It is one essential step in a project. How can you identify a designer who is right for your project and your budget?

  1. Ask your contractor if they have a designer on staff
  2. Make sure the designer has experience with Universal Design, and is certified by a professional organization. There are several such certifications: CAPS and UDCP are the most common
  3. Ask to see examples of projects where universal design was used 

Once you are comfortable with the designer, a home visit is absolutely necessary before an estimate and design can be provided. At your home, you can talk with the designer about budget, how you want the space to function and any special needs or wants you currently have or anticipate having. The designer and contractor can then put together a plan specific to you and your family.

We asked Barb Baker, who is CAPS certified, and President and CEO of Transitions Remodeling, a Hire it Done approved contractor, for a few pointers on what to look for in a designer, and what trends she is seeing in universal design.  

On designers:

  1. After you have verified that they have the qualifications you are looking for, make sure there is a personality match – designers work closely with their clients during stressful time periods, that can often last several weeks or months.
  2. Don’t be afraid to tell them your wildest ideas, even if you think they are beyond your budget –your designer may be able to help you get what you are after in a budget friendly way.

On trends:

So many great things are happening in the remodeling industry right now! New hardware is giving kitchen and bath cabinets functionality our parents only dreamed of, scuff proof paint and slip resistant floors in gorgeous finishes are common, and the variety of designs available for items like grab bars and railings make it easy to design spaces that are accommodating and stunning at the same time.  

Planning Your Project

The planning stages of a major remodel can take anywhere from weeks to months. It is a good idea to start talking to the professionals 3-6 months before you want to begin. This will allow time to explore options, change designs and get delivery of your specified components.  

The professionals at Transitions Remodeling can guide you through the process from start to finish, and would be happy to give a free in home consultation.  If you are not quite ready for that, we highly recommend visiting their showroom in Farmington Hills. There you will see all the latest and greatest in universal design on display, one of  the largest selections of cabinetry in Metro Detroit, and a friendly, no pressure staff ready to answer any questions you may have. Of course, Transitions Remodeling takes on traditional remodeling projects, too.  

From now until the end of the year, visit hireitdone.com to take advantage of Transitions Remodeling special 10% discount just for the Hire it Done audience. Some restrictions apply. This may be just the thing to get that remodel on the calendar for 2018!

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