Universal Design Gets Attention

    As more Americans choose to “age in place,” the demand for universal design homes and products is likely to increase. Both AARP, with its 35 million members, and the 235,000-member National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) are paying attention to this new idea. Both organizations feature universal design in their publications and Web sites and have started a training collaboration.

    NAHB publications Nation’s Building News, 50+ Builder and Sales and Marketing Ideas have increasingly featured articles on universal design. In the March 13, 2006, issue of Nation’s Building News a universal design expert who exhibits at many of the group’s events discussed how easily homebuilders could adopt the concept. On the home design section of its Web site, AARP gives prominent coverage of universal design, including an article on how the coming wave of retiring baby boomers is likely to make universal design more popular.

    NAHB and AARP started a training program in 2002 to certify professional home remodelers as aging-in-place specialists; the program now has 1,000 graduates. While universal design is much more affordable when it’s implemented in a new building, rather than in a remodel, many older people living in existing homes would rather retrofit them than move out. As in new buildings, the intent is to make the renovations all but invisible to visitors.

    To read what AARP and NAHB are saying, go to www.aarp.org or www.nahb.org and search for “universal design.”


    David Holtzman is a planner for Louisa County, Virginia, a freelance writer, and a former Shelterforce editor.


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