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Combining Environmental Sustainability With Accessibility
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Combining Environmental Sustainability With Accessibility

Homes that incorporate accessible features from the very foundation provide a very comfortable living for their occupants for decades to come, with no need for expensive modifications down the road. In addition, having an accessible home means there are no restrictions for people who visit your home. However, if you take extra measure to make your home accessible, why not make it sustainable at the same time? While some green upgrades can be done immediately, others can be applied later on, so there’s no need to rush. Here are the most important thinking points.

Wider driveway

By making your driveway just one meter wider, you eliminate the stress of getting in and out of the car, as well as make parking easier. For the reference, public disabled parking spots are 240 cm wide by 540 cm long, with a shared area along one side of the space. Instead of classic paved or asphalt driveway, you can make a permeable driveway, as an excellent sustainable option. These surfaces allow for runoff to absorb into the soil, recharging aquifers and reducing the danger of flooding. In addition, permeable driveways reduce the heat island effect. Add a wide and flat path between the driveway and the front door, taking caution there are no steep inclines, curbs or stairs.

User-friendly doors

Having user-friendly doors means building doorways that are wide enough for wheelchair access, installing doors which are easy to open, and handles easy to operate. While round handles often feel difficult for people with motoric disabilities, a D-shaped handle is the best choice. A doorway which allows for wheelchair access is at least 813 mm wide and should open away from the person, to the inside. While this is a bit wider than standard door measures, as a matter of fact, large entry doors are quite trendy these days, as they impose the feeling of opulence and grandeur, improving the home’s curb appeal.

Choice of flooring

There are several flooring options that are highly unsuitable for accessible homes.  For example, trying to ride a manual wheelchair over thick under-pads and plush carpets may feel like pushing over a sandy beach. On the other hand, wood laminate, tile, and vinyl work well with all types of chairs and ambulatory walkers. The latter two options would be a great choice for bathrooms, kitchens, and entryways since wheelchairs can track a lot of mud and debris on rainy days. For improved traction, a 2” tile works much better than large tile, which are better left for the walls. For the rest of the rooms, wood laminate is durable and attractive, plus it’s cheaper than hardwood, making it a more sustainable choice.

Aiming for net zero

In theory, a net zero energy building produces as much or more renewable energy than it consumes over a year. This is largely achieved through energy conservation methods, like high-grade sustainable insulation, as well as through additional energy-saving and energy generating technologies, such as rooftop solar panels. An advantage of residential 10kw solar systems is that even if you don’t manage to cover all your monthly bills by the free energy, you’re becoming increasingly independent from today’s fluctuating energy costs. Additional features of the passive home design include heat recovery and ventilation systems, triple-pane tilt-turn windows, and skylights that reduce the need for electric light for the better part of the day.

Bathrooms and amenities

People with impairments use bathroom amenities in different ways, and it may take a bit longer to use them. You can solve this issue by adding an extra bathroom to your home from the start. Alternatively, adding a separate toilet will make things much easier while someone’s in the shower. The choice of flooring and good drainage are essential, as they ensure that occupants are safe from slips. For added traction, you may add non-slip mats between the shower and the rest of the bathroom. An accessible bathroom has taps and fittings within an arm’s reach from the chair, while a wall-mounted sink allows the chair to get close. In order to stay true to living green, you should include water-saving elements such as dual-flush toilets, low-flow shower heads, and tap aerators, especially if you’re planning for two bathrooms.

Assistive technologies

Perhaps one of the greatest aids for enabling people with disabilities to perform daily tasks intelligently and independently comes in the form of smart home technology. Home automation solutions are highly customizable, allowing each homeowner to create their own smart environment, from wall switches to thermostats and window blinds. In addition, there are many automated devices on the market, such as overhead fans, which can be used to increase the efficiency of a heating or cooling system, as well as various timers which can be used to activate lights or garden irrigation systems.

Tweaking the home towards accessibility not only improves the occupants’ daily routine and safety, but also saves time and motivates them to stay active. However, easier for people can also mean easier for the environment, as many of the accessible solutions pair excellently with those which increase the home’s sustainability.  

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/140068985@N08/28207068941

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