Universal Design is basically designing for the senses.
This not only includes those who have challenges to overcome, but also providing a comfortable space for anyone who might be visiting and includes planning for the future of those who live in the home.
When designing for sound, the most obvious issues include buffering against traffic, airport, train and other exterior noises.
Designing for sounds isn’t limited to just outdoor noises though, we need to take into consideration sounds that carry within the space. This may also include providing a way to not only block the sound of family members who have a different schedule but also providing something like white noise for sleeping (no matter what your schedule is: babies, night shift, illness, etc).
We have found that having hardwood throughout the house that the sounds carry everywhere. So consider having solid core doors and interior insulation added to reduce the impact.
When designing for lighting, we have to keep in mind comfort as well as safety.
Dimming switches, blackout curtains and even Vitamin D bulbs are some of the options that allow different light sensitivities to be addressed.
Indoor and outdoor pathways and stairs need to be lit up and the most efficient way to do so is to have motion sensor or timed lights. You can also install these in pantries, mudrooms and bathrooms. Modern technology is also helping make lighting systems in homes more user-friendly by allowing voice or app-activated switches.
We have had several clients who need new ventilation based on new HVAC codes but with as much energy efficiency as we are creating in the home, sometimes ventilation suffers.
Some clients have allergies or sensitivities that are set off by smells left by the previous owner. Painting can help to cover up a smell but be sure that your ventilation is up to bar to avoid Sick Building Syndrome (which occurs when materials are off-gassing and make the inhabitant sick).
Designing for touch obviously includes using materials that our clients like the feel of – textured stone vs a glossy finish on countertops, backsplashes and other surfaces, for example, but it includes so much more.
When was the last time you counted how many thresholds are in your home? Thresholds may need ramps if mobility is a struggle – even a 1-inch drop can cause difficulty. Likewise, doorknobs can be very hard to open if a person has limited mobility with hand or arm issues and installing handles is a simple switch that makes life much much easier.
In the kitchen, we recommend using induction stoves for safety and space efficiency. Unlike electric stoves, when using an induction stove, the surface is only heating the pot or pan on top of it and when that pot is removed, the surface won’t burn a hand that is accidentally placed there.
Unless you have wallpaper that tastes like snozzberries, please refrain from licking your house 😉