With a large aging demographic in the Baby Boomers, Universal Design has become a popular buzzword used in the design industry when addressing the concerns of this market. Universal Design is simply design principles that are implemented for ease of use for a “universal” customer base…simply put, anyone can use the space, regardless of physical ability. A space that implements Universal Design (UD) principles will increase the market that a home can be sold to (buyer won’t have to retrofit the space) and increase ease of mobility for all occupants (commercial or residential).
If anyone has ever undergone any type of physical therapy and/or had an elderly relative move in with them knows the time & effort that goes into retrofitting the space, especially the bathroom. Kohler has made a commitment to bringing UD to the forefront of their new designs & suites, realizing the importance of UD in the coming years as the Baby Boomers continue to age.
Kohler has come up with “20 Design Solutions” that you can implement into your space as you remodel, get your home ready to sell or start to think about the future needs of your family in your current space.
l Vanities should be wall-mounted or a console design that offers easy access & mobility for seated users. Look for pullout storage options & other features like retractable drawers with easy close hinges.
l Mirrors should also contain built-in storage so that grooming implements are within easy reach.
l Faucets are very important in UD…think single-lever handle or motion sensor so that those with impaired mobility (arthritis). Kohler uses low-flow aerators to help cut down water usage so that you’re eco-friendly as well.
l Lighting, as in all design, is key for safety in any space as it makes any task easier (i.e. you can SEE what you’re doing!). New fluorescents & LED lights offer increased energy savings, dimmable ballasts offer you options in creating whatever ambience you desire. Motion-activated controls provide you with complete lighting control & energy savings. Remember: you want the 4 layers of lighting in your space (general, task, accent and ambient).
l A transfer seat or built-in ledge in the bath should be flush with the top of the bath to make it easier & more comfortable, without compromising a good soak for others.
l Think about “therapeutic bathing” with BubbleMassage options (i.e. jetted tub).
l A separate bath and shower is becoming more popular in new construction and any bath remodels. This is key in UD as those who have problems getting in and out of a tub without help, can more easily use the separate shower for bathing needs.
l Bath & shower controls should be placed close to the opening or approach side of the bath/shower opening for safe & easy access.
l Thermostatic Shower System is equipped with independent volume and temperature controls with offer versatility, and allow each person to “design” their water delivery.
l A handshower option is perfect for those in wheelchairs (or kids and dogs). Mounted on an adjustable side bar, this accessory can operated from standing or sitting position of varying heights.
l Shower seats can be free-standing or integrated into the shower enclosure itself. Both offer increased versatility for all users.
l Grab bars are not the basic silver bar you are used to seeing in hospitals anymore. Decorative bars come in a variety of colors, styles and with matching accessories. They are easy to install next to the toilet, shower or over the bath for added safety.
l Steam showers are another new option that help create a relaxing environment while helping improve the circulatory & respiratory systems.
l Kohler offers Shower Receptors which offer an “elegant substitute” to standard tiles, are easier to maintain and come in a variety of materials & color options.
l Radiant floors, becoming a staple in northern climates, are a cost-effective and easy to install. This is also an energy efficient option as you are heating the space from the floor up.
l Exhaust fans are a must in bathrooms to help eliminate moisture (reducing mold/mildew) and save energy. Kohler offers a “GREEN” exhaust fan with has a timer feature and low noise output.
l Water heaters that are “on demand”, such as Renai, are a great choice to help you lower your utility bills. On demand or tankless water heating only heats water as you need it, instead of heating a full tank of water until you need it. This eliminates the need for the storage tank and offers increased efficiency.
l Integrated bidet seats offer hands-free cleansing for greater comfort and well-being for those who may need some extra help with grooming. Also, from an eco-friendly standpoint, having a bidet also eliminates the need for toilet paper.
l Comfort height toilets (this is one of the big trends in toilets as seen at previous KBIS trade shows), a seat height comparable to a standard chair, this makes sitting down & getting up easier for people of all ages.
l Kohler offers a variety of water conserving products (look for the WaterSense label) which will help save you money as well as help to conserve water. Toilets, showerheads and faucets are all tested to deliver exceptional performance and still yield a 30% water savings.
While the above items in no way shape or form constitute all UD principles, this helps to give you a sense of some of the things to keep in mind whenever you may or not consider implementing UD into a remodel or retrofit. Kohler is helping to lead the way in bringing UD to the forefront of their customer’s minds.
***Kohler products are available at all local Home Depot, Lowe’s and Menard’s.***