07 February 2007

Neighborhood Design, Universal Design

Bob Moos of the Dallas Morning News has been on a housing tear with his last few articles.

The first one is about Baby Boomers fashioning their own neighborhood communities:
Cohousing catching on in U.S.
Cohousing communities aren't cookie-cutter projects. Each is unique. Prospective residents are intimately involved in the planning, though they may rely on an architect and developer to handle the technical aspects of design and construction. Projects usually consist of 20 to 30 households … The latest twist to the nascent trend is cohousing exclusively for people 55 and older.
And it's a twist on what Brent Green talks about in Marketing to Leading-Edge Baby Boomers. But I'm not getting into it here. Read the book or track him down and ask him.

The second article is about universal design and aging in place:
Couple's house is home for good
Incorporating universal design in a home under construction is far less expensive than modifying it later … "Why not spend a few thousand more to build an age-friendly bath now and save yourself the $20,000 to retrofit it later?"
This is a big issue with just about everybody in the housing industry. I wrote something about it not too long ago - and spoke about universal design at last year's NAHB convention.

UD is coming. It's just too early for most Baby Boomers to consider it. However, many are missing the boat now if they happen to be designing their forever dream house. Without some serious nods to universal design, in ten years they might find themselves living in their forever nightmare house.


  1. Chuck,

    You hit the nail on the head: if you're building a house that's designed to last until you're 60+, why not make the tiny extra investment that will greatly increase the probability that you'll be able to live there!

    Disability can strike any of us at any age (imagine a car crash, or a skiing mishap), and all of a sudden you've got this big new need in your life and your options for dealing with it in terms of time and mobility are greatly constrained.

    My personal focus is on "aging in community", not just educating people about "aging in place" (the technical term for what you're describing), but building cohousing neighborhoods where people are actively committed to supporting each other.

    Will I see you at the Boomer Business Summit/ASA/NCOA conferences in Chicago next month? If not, I'd be interested in meeting up to interview the next time I'm up your way... there's quite a few cohousing communites in the greater Seattle area.

    Raines Cohen
    Cohousing Coach, Planning for Sustainable Communities
    Berkeley, CA

  2. Hello Raines …

    I won’t be at The Boomer Summit. I seem to go every other year. Was there last year in Anaheim, skipped Philly, was in San Francisco in 1994 for the first one.

    But I’ve talked three or four people into going. And I have a list of ten or so people who will be attending - and they don't know each other - so I’m planning on sending out a group email to sort of introduce everybody to one another to help break the ice. If you want to be on that list (your name with a small bio) email me. Two or three are in the housing industry.

    Bob Moos of The Dallas Morning News will be there.

    And the 2nd Edition paperback of my book should be there (I hope). My publishers are running the bookstore.


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