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National Demonstration Home Features Universal Design and Green Building Practices

Rosemarie Rossetti Ph.D., internationally known speaker and advocate for people with disabilities with her husband, Mark Leder, are leading the way in home construction. Their current project, the Universal Design Living Laboratory (www.UDLL.com), will showcase to builders and the public how universal design and green building are elements that can be included in all new homes and remodeling projects. The Universal Design Living Laboratory (UDLL) will serve as a national model showcasing how this marriage of elements can take place.

Rossetti knows from personal experience the difficulties people face when circumstances change due to either injury or simply aging. Rossetti said, "Ten years ago, my spinal cord injury left me paralyzed from the waist down. I came home from the hospital in a wheelchair and realized just how unaccommodating my two-story home was to me. My life change was sudden; for others life changes more gradually."

Soon to be under construction, this 3,500 square foot ranch-style home is to be built on Clark State Rd. in Jefferson Township in the Columbus, Ohio Metropolitan Area. The UDLL will be open to builders, designers, architects, and consumer publics. Its goal is to teach the public that they can live in a comfortable environment that will enhance the occupants’ quality of life regardless of their circumstance, age or abilities. Completion of the project is expected June 2010.

Rossetti and Leder began designing their home in 2004 and hired architect Patrick Manley to draw the house plans. A team of experts assisted with the design including Mary Jo Peterson, a nationally acclaimed kitchen and bath designer and Anna Lyon, interior designer.

The homeowners faced a unique design challenge. Rosemarie is 4’2” tall when seated, while Mark stands at 6’4”. Both manage separate home-based businesses which necessitate private offices. They desire an easy-to-maintain residence and fully accessible landscaped environment that provides ample space for entertaining and housing extended-stay family or guests.

Universal design is a term coined by Ron Mace at the North Carolina State University Center for Universal Design. Universal design is a framework for the design of living and working spaces and products benefiting the widest possible range of people in the widest range of situations without special or separate design. Universal design is human-centered design, accommodating people of all sizes, ages, and abilities. It provides for accessibility by removing barriers such as steps and integrating features like wider doors and hallways to allow people who use wheelchairs equal access to the house and rooms in the house.

Universal design and “green” building design are totally compatible approaches in home construction. ”Green” is an approach to building homes that conserve natural resources and highlight environmental quality. These homes are healthier in terms of air and water quality. The products used to build these homes emit fewer health endangering gases or volatile organic compounds (VOC). These gases are often produced from paints, stains, carpeting, wall paper, flooring adhesives, plywood, solvents, and synthetic fabrics.

The U.S. Green Building Council, (www.usgbc.org) the nation’s foremost coalition of leaders from across the building industry, promotes buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable, and healthy places to live and work. This non-profit organization has a program in place to certify homes based on their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program. This program is a voluntary initiative that promotes the transformation of the mainstream home building industry towards more sustainable practices. UDLL will submit an application for a LEED for Homes certification with the U.S. Green Building Council as well as the National Association of Home Builders National Green Building Program, and Energy Star.  Michael Holcomb, President of The Alliance for Environmental Sustainability said, “Every great movement begins with a vision. Universal Design Living Laboratory is to be commended for casting the vision of truly sustainable construction by adding the cornerstone of full accessibility to their design.”

Currently there are over 100 international, national and local corporations and organizations contributing products and services to assist in building this home. The home will be open to the public for tours upon completion. Ticket proceeds will benefit spinal cord injury research at The Ohio State University.

Here are some universal design features that these experts agree should be incorporated into floor plans and product specifications:

  • Step-free entrance (a gradual, level grade; no conspicuous ramps)
  • All doors without thresholds that are wide enough for a wheelchair or walker (36”)
  • Wider hallways (46 “)
  • Lever handles on doors and faucets
  • Various heights of kitchen counters
  • Full extension drawers and shelves in kitchen base cabinets
  • Cooktop set into a counter with open knee space
  • Side hinged microwave and oven doors at countertop height
  • Side by side refrigerator
  • Sliding casement or awning windows
  • An elevator to the basement and/or second floor
  • Lower rocker style light switches (36” above the floor)
  • Higher electrical outlets (25” above the floor)
  • Large bathroom with decorative grab bars
  • Wood, non-slip tile and a dense weave, low pile (< ½”) carpet floors
  • Large bathtubs with plenty of grab bars
  • Curbless roll in showers with plenty of grab bars
  • Hand-held shower fixture
  • 17-19” high toilet seat
  • Adjustable hanging closet rods and shelves
  • Front loading washer and dryer
  • Open knee space under all sinks

The Universal Design Living Laboratory will include these “green” elements:

  • Recycled and/or renewable resources in roofing, flooring and insulation products.
  • Appliances, lighting, heating, and cooling systems will be selected to save energy and be more economical to operate.
  • Integrates as much natural light as possible by installing energy efficient windows, skylights, sun tunnels, and glass block.
  • Energy consumption will be reduced by roof and wall insulation improvements.
  • Products used to build this home emit fewer health endangering gases or volatile organic compounds (VOC).

Editor’s Note: High-resolution digital images are available upon request.


Copyright © 2005-2015 Universal Design Living Laboratory. All rights reserverd worldwide.
Copyright © 2005-2016 Universal Design Living Laboratory. All rights reserverd worldwide.