Universal Design

Universal Design, also known as “barrier-free design” or “accessible design” is all about designing and building a home that remains useful through all stages of a person’s life. 

Many of our Customers are seeking out our mountain communities for either a second home or a permanent home for their retirement. While they may be energetic and limber today, it makes good sense to design and build a home that is not only comfortable and enjoyable today, but can also remain that way as people began to slow down somewhat later in life. Mainly, all this requires is a little additional thought during the design and construction process. 

Universal Design Considerations 

Master suite and laundry room on the main floor.

Wide hallways (42”) and interior doors (36”) with ample maneuvering space.

Ample turnaround space in all main living areas.(60” circle)

Entranceways and decks that can be accessed without stairs (stairs are OK now, but there has to be room to add ramps or exterior lifts later if necessary).

Lever handles rather than twisting knobs on opening doors.(Stand in all our homes now)

Flat panel light switches rather than small toggle switches.

Stacked closets that can be converted to an elevator at some future point.

Curbless master shower entrance with ample size shower area (36” x 60”) and conveniently placed controls and handheld shower units.

Pre-blocking walls to accept grab bars in key areas (showers, toilets) if they become necessary.


Universal Design Resources 

AARP - AARP’s page devoted to Universal Design. 

Accessible Design and Consulting - Mostly products that are available for accessible designed homes. 

ADA’s Standards for Accessible Design - A very comprehensive publication. 

The Center for Universal Design - A variety of useful information from the College of Design and NC State University.

Jim Lubin’s Makoa.Org - Jim Lubin is a quadriplegic who created a wonderful website to help people with disabilities. This link is to his accessible design page. Makoa is the Hawaiian word for courageous. 

Universal Design Remodeling Guide - While written with remodeling in mind, all the concepts included apply to new home construction. 


Accessible Bathroom Design by Jessie C. Jacobs 

Accessible Home Design: Architectural Solutions by Thomas Davies, Jr. 

The Accessible Home: Updating Your Home for Changing Physical Needsby Creative Publishing International 

Accessible Housing by Design: Universal Design Principles in Practice by Steven Winters 

The Accessible Housing Design File by Barrier Free Environments, Inc. 

Building for a Lifetime: The Design,and Construction of Fully Accessible Homes by Margaret Wylde 

High Access Home: Design and Decoration for Barrier-Free Living by Charles A. Riley III 

Universal Design for the Home: Great Looking, Great Living Design for All Ages, Abilities and Circumstances by Wendy A. Jordan 

Universal Design Ideas for Style, Comfort and Safety by RSMeans