Primer

Beyond Accessible: Universal Design for Green Buildings

By planning ahead for all ages and abilities, designers reduce the need for renovations and may extend building service life.

July 28, 2013

A focus on “accessibility” often results in separate facilities for people who rely on wheelchairs, walkers, or canes. Universal design encourages spaces that can be easily navigated by everyone, regardless of age, height, sightedness, dexterity, or mobility.

The practice is championed by supporters of aging in placeas well as by groups that advocate for wounded veterans. According to an American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) survey, 73% of adults 45 and older wish to stay in their current residence “as long as possible,” but fewer than half have basic accommodations for universal design. The Wounded Warrior Project notes that “an unprecedented percentage of service members are surviving severe wounds or injuries”—1.7 in the U.S. for every soldier who has died in battle since 2001.