Universal Design is becoming more and more important in our homes, whether we like it or not. And most often, we don’t like it.
Face it. The idea of living in a “Universal Design” home does not sound appealing to you. People don’t want to be faced with their own mortality, and no matter how well-designed a home can be, mention the words “Universal Design” and all you can think of is a nursing home.
Fortunately, the Universal Design philosophy is subtly making its way into the mainstream. Even if we don’t call something by that term, products and homes are being designed to be easily accessible and usable by a greater number of people. That’s when “Universal Design” becomes just good design.
Induction cooktops, which are gaining popularity in the United States, provide a great example of this concept. Using magnetism to transfer heat directly to a pan, induction cooktops work faster and waste almost no energy. But their primary Universal Design benefit is safety. The cooktops themselves stay cool, virtually eliminating the risk of accidental burns – an important feature for households with small children.
Homeowners are also choosing to incorporate automation and technology in their homes – lights that turn on and off automatically when you enter and exit a room, security systems that integrate with smart phones and tablets, heating and cooling systems that know when we’re home and when we’re away. These may seem like modern conveniences, but they are examples of Universal Design at work. As less manual work is required to perform simple functions in a home, it becomes safer, easier to use and more accommodating to everyone.
No matter what our age is, we can all benefit from the principles that Universal Design advances. As home builders, remodelers and product manufacturers continue to embrace these principles – without the stigma the term Universal Design carries – our homes will become more comfortable and livable.
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