Benefits of Universal Design in Custom Home Building | Square Root Home Contracting | Kelowna Builder
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Benefits of Universal Design in Custom Home Building

One of the major benefits of building a custom home is that you get to choose every element from location to materials and design. You will be putting a lot of time and money into building your dream home and you want to be able to enjoy it now and for years to come. It can be easy to get caught up in the endless options of floor plans, furniture, stairs, flooring, etc., but you should also consider universal design (UD) principles. Including some of these principles will help you create a home that is comfortable and enjoyable for you and visitors of all ages and abilities now and in the future!

What is Universal Design?

Universal Designs can be Used by Anyone.
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Universal design refers to designing an environment so that it can be used by everyone, regardless of age, size or ability. Most people want to continue to live in their homes for as long as they can, but as we get older (or our life circumstances change), some houses simply have too many barriers. According to the Centre of Excellence in Universal Design, the 7 principles of universal design1 are:

  1. Equitable Use: Useful for people with diverse abilities, avoids stigmatization
  2. Flexibility in Use: Accommodates a wide range of abilities
  3. Simple and Intuitive Use: Easy to understand
  4. Perceptible Information: Communicates necessary information effectively
  5. Tolerance for Error: Minimizes adverse consequences of accidental use
  6. Low Physical Effort: Minimizes fatigue
  7. Size and Shape for Approach and Use: Appropriate for all users regardless of body size, posture or mobility

Tips for Universal Design in Your Home

How do you incorporate these design principles into your new home? Here are a few general guidelines:

  1. Width of Hallways and Doorways

When hallways and doorways are too narrow, individuals who need to use a mobility device like a walker or wheelchair can have trouble fitting in the space. Aim for widths of 46” and 36” for hallways and doorways respectively. Using pocket doors can be another way to save space.

  1. Level Thresholds

Eliminate barriers, such as steps or thresholds, to enter/exit the home and between rooms. Aim for open spaces to optimize social interaction and to ensure there is enough space to manoeuvre.

  1. Lever Door Handles and Taps

Instead of knobs, which can be difficult to grasp and manipulate, use a lever-style for doors and taps. This will make it easier for many people, including children and individuals with arthritis or limited fine motor skills, to use these features.

  1. Different Surface Heights

Use a variety of heights for counter spaces. A lower kitchen counter with ample space beneath it will accommodate a child, wheelchair user, or someone who needs to sit to conserve energy. A higher surface will be more comfortable and ergonomic for someone who is taller or standing.

  1. Roll-In Shower/Barrier-Free Shower

Not only useful for wheelchair users, but also generally a good idea to decrease risk of slips and falls. It is easier to accommodate a seat (e.g. for an older person or someone who fatigues easily), and eliminates the need to step over the tub edge or a shower threshold.

  1. Main Floor Bedroom and Bathroom

It is always a good plan to have access to a main floor bedroom and bathroom. Again, this is not only beneficial or wheelchair users. Even if your mobility is only temporarily limited (for example, after an accident or surgery) you will be very happy that you don’t need to climb any stairs to make it to the bathroom!

  1. Reinforcement for Grab Bars

Make sure that certain areas (e.g. walls and ceilings by toilet, shower) are appropriately reinforced to allow for easy and safe installation of grab bars should you require them.

Remember, a house that is designed according to UD principles ensures you and your visitors will enjoy it no matter what age or ability level! As you can see, there are many easy things you can do in the initial planning and building phases that will make a big difference in the long run. Universal design is good design. Contact us to see how we can help you build your custom home today.


  1. “The 7 Principles.”Centre for Excellence in Universal Design. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 June 2017.