Are you contemplating designing a home remodeling project or designing a new home?

Enter into the planning process asking not only what your needs are now; such as more square footage, upgraded windows and doors, more insulation or greener building components, but also ask yourself “what kind of planning must I do to meet future needs for myself or any family member?” Would the design of your new home or home remodeling allow you to enjoy independent living as long as possible in any situation? To answer yes to these questions you will need to apply the concepts of Universal Design.

The intent of Universal Design is to simply life for as many users as possible. Build a home environment more usable for as many different types of people as possible at little or no extra cost. It benefits people of all ages and abilities and strives to create independent living for as long as possible. Sound difficult? It really is not. Common sense is the key. Begin by asking questions about your future.


When planning your new home, addition, or remodeling project, remember to ask yourself questions such as those listed below in addition to your usual design choices for style etc.

  • What if the future held a change in life style for me or my family members due to health problems or an accident?
  • What if I have an urgent need for elder care of a loved one? Would my design allow my mother in-law to live with us?
  • What if you wish to age in place?

Keeping this type of thinking during the entire design phase of your project will help you to create a living space that will be flexible and accommodating regardless of what life may throw your way. Universal Design would allow your new home to adapt to these types situations at little or no cost after construction. As I mentioned earlier the answers to most of these questions are founded on common sense. Let’s see how Universal Design works.

Building Lot

Using Universal Design the most desirable building lot for a home the elevation of the natural grade would be relatively flat. This would mean that the elevations of access from the exterior and the interior elevation of your home need to be a close as possible to eliminate the need for ramps or lifts. Even though you are able to move up and down grades and stairs with ease for now, think about the future. If your lot has a considerable change in grade at least plan a feasible location of a ramp or lift. I refer you to one of or earlier posts titled Wheel Chair Ramps. As this post reveals, it take quite a bit of square footage for a ramp. Your failure to plan for the future could have dyer consequences. Keep in mind that Universal Design benefits people of all ages and abilities.

Floor Plan

The most desirable floor plan to be adaptable to Universal Design would be the “Ranch” style home. This means that all primary living space is on the same level or main level. Again the Ranch style home would have no stairs or lifts. The most adaptable ranch floor plan would have plenty of square footage. You would need lots of space to create barrier free unencumbered entries, great rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms and wide hallways. The more rooms the more square footage required. You must walk your way through every room on a virtual tour applying Universal Design to end up with the most desirable home allowing it to be completely adaptable to what ever the future brings your way.

In future posts we will begin to look closer at guidelines and tips of Universal Design from the framing of doorways to stacking of closets. Your home does not have to look like an institution to comply with Universal Design and can be a wonderful and convenient place to live now and in the future!

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