A design approach that encompasses specific design features that ensure that a new house or apartment will meet the current and future needs of most households. The space is designed for any ability, not just specific disabilities. The space can adapt to changing needs over time and allow for life to happen. The space makes life easier if you have a baby in a stroller and a trunk full of groceries or if you are aging-in-place and start facing mobility issues.
A lifetime home is not an often talked about green idea. However, building a home that can adapt to your changing needs reduces the chances of you needing to move. This reduces energy and materials used in the future. It also encourages you to build a more durable, energy-efficient, home since your timeline for thinking about costs will be many more years.
The key factors to think about for a lifetime home are:
A place to arrive at your home that is safe, comfortable, and accessible for all abilities.
An entrance that is wide enough, weather protected, has a level landing, and is properly lit at night.
An open floorplan and doors that are wide enough for a wheelchair or walker. Avoid tight corners.
Turning spaces for a wheelchair or walker in all spaces – hallway, kitchen, bathroom, closets.
All living functions on the same level or an elevator to access other levels of the home. This includes a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and living room. The bathroom should be accessible for someone in a wheelchair or someone assisting the user in the space.
A roll-in shower with a rear linear drain to prevent flooding.
Blocking or plywood underlayment on walls in areas where you might need grab bars in the future. This includes the shower, around the water closet, and hallway.
Hoists blocking in bedrooms and bathrooms to give the appropriate ceiling support that might be needed in the future.
Easy to open windows – casement windows are a nice solution as you can crank them out from a seated position.
Front mounted controls, adjusted electric outlet and light switch heights, accessible HVAC controls.
Multi-height working surfaces in the kitchen with some roll under seated space. A bonus would be a sink that has a removable base cabinet should you ever need that option. Don’t forget storage, a wall cabinet mounted at traditional heights is not easy to use from a seated position, so a large pantry closet can be used for accessible storage.
An energy-efficient building envelope. It has to be efficient to be affordable.
A durable home that does not require daily maintenance and will last for, well, a lifetime.
A heathy indoor environmental quality. This is very important to consider for a lifetime home and touches materials used (VOCs) and the ventilation strategy for the heating and cooling system. Your home should not make you sick.
Affordable – probably the most important aspect of a lifetime home is to design and build something that you are comfortable paying for and can afford over a lifetime.
Weatherization is the practice of using cost-effective strategies to modify a building to decrease energy usage and increase comfort. The broad approach of weatherization includes building envelope improvements, heating and cooling system strategies, electrical systems modification, and appliance upgrades.
The benefits of weatherization start with reducing monthly energy bills. From air sealing to insulation, strategies used in weatherization will benefit energy usage and comfort in the building for many years.
Pervious concrete is rare in our area, but is growing in popularity. It is simply concrete that allows water to move through the material into a storage area under the pavement. The storage area is typically a gravel bed. By capturing stormwater (rain) and allowing it to seep into the ground, groundwater is recharged, pollutants are filtered, and erosion is reduced.
This pavement approach can be used to reduce the need for retention ponds, swales, and other stormwater management devices. A pervious concrete mixture contains few fines (sand and small aggregates) allowing “holes” in the material that water flows through into the storage area. Typically the voids represent 15% – 25% of the total assembly. It does require annual cleaning to avoid the voids from being filled with debris.
Pervious paving can be made of concrete, pavers, or asphalt. In our area, pervious paving is more expensive than traditional types of pavement. However, if you also calculate the stormwater measures it is more competitive.
The 4 C’s: You have to be able to effectively convey the information from design to construction in a Clear, Concise, Correct, and Complete method. Air Infiltration: The uncontrolled inward air leakage through cracks and holes in the building envelope and around windows and doors of a building caused by the pressure effects of wind and/or the effect of differences in the indoor and outdoor air density.
Biophilic Design: premise that we can learn from nature to create better buildings and build better buildings by connecting to nature
Blower Door Test: used to determine total air leakage of a home’s thermal envelope.
Building Automation System: technology that can be used to control the heating and cooling systems in a building. It can also be used to control lights on a room by room basis or a fixture by fixture basis. It can also be used to monitor security systems and even entertainment systems.
Cohousing: type of development where residents collaborate together on the design of their own neighborhood
Composting: practice of mixing organic waste that can biodegrade quickly to create a planting medium called compost
Conservation: act of preserving, guarding, or protecting the resources we have available on this planet
Geothermal Heat Pump: heating and cooling system that transfers heat to and from the ground through a loop to condition the air inside of your home or business.
High Efficiency Water Heater: High efficiency water heating can save you a considerable amount of energy each day. There are several systems used to efficiently heat water for usage inside a building. The most common is either an on-demand water heater or a heat pump water heater.
Recycled Content: process that takes a waste material and converts it to a new product, thus reducing the consumption of raw materials, potentially reducing energy usage, and diverts materials from a landfill
R-Value: measure of the reduction of heat transfer across a defined path
Solar Reflectance Index: measure of the constructed surface’s ability to stay cool in the sun by reflecting solar radiation and emitting thermal radiation
Stack Effect: movement of air into and out of buildings, driven by air pressure, temperature differential, and moisture
Stormwater: water that comes from precipitation (rain, snow, sleet…) and does not soak into the ground
Sustainability: Development that meets the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Vegetated Roof: partially or completely covered roof with vegetation over a waterproof membrane
Water Conservation: takes into account activities to manage fresh water resources, protect the water environment, and to meet current and future demand for fresh water.
Zero Energy Ready Home: This program, once called Challenge Home, focuses on conservation strategies to reduce energy load and prepping the home for solar PV panels.
R-Value is a measure of the reduction of heat transfer across a defined path. An R-Value of a product will provide you with information about the thermal performance of that specific product. It does not tell you the R-Value of the system (fiberglass, wood studs, sheathing, siding making up a wall assembly).
There is a test to determine R-Value where a sample of material is placed inside a testing chamber. This chamber has a hot plate and cold plate. The test determines how much heat goes through the material. This test does not factor into it, wind, humidity, human error, or temperature outside. These factors will greatly influence performance of the product being used with a given R-Value as well as the overall assembly of parts. Before you settle on a particular product with an R-Value you find acceptable – think through the entire assembly and climate you are placing the product.