To begin evaluating how a universal design strategy might be applied in a given home (regardless of whether that home is designed for owner- or renter-occupancy), we will use both techniques – the outside in and the inside out – but we’ll start on the outside.
The chief concepts of universal design – accessibility, comfort, convenience, safety, and visitability – need to be understood on the outside of a residence before moving on to the inside to see how they are applied within the walls. Understanding what is going on – and what needs to happen – outside is the first step in evaluating the soundness of a home and property design before we ever walk through the front door.
In addition to the major design aspects that we would like to see present, other concerns such as sustainability, security, and maneuverability (freedom of movement) also begin on the outside and then continue on to and throughout the inside.
So, we start from the street – much the same way that the TV renovation shows do when they evaluate a property.
Beginning literally in the middle of the street facing the home, we look at first impressions, the general condition and upkeep of the property, the yard, landscaping, driveways, sidewalks, and other factors that contribute to or detract from the initial impression, safety, and value of the property.
On TV shows, often such properties are vacant, but the point is that we want to do a similar outside-in evaluation as we pay attention to important components of the home and yard.
As we stand in the street or at the curb, we begin looking over the front yard and the entrance to the home.
From the vantage point of the front of the home, we observe and note things we like and things that need to be addressed from a universal design standpoint to make living in the home that much more enjoyable. Unless the home has recently been renovated or was designed especially well from the beginning, it’s going to need some changes.
The occupants of the home may not object to it the way it is now because they have adapted and compensated their lifestyle to get along with what their home provides. They have learned to live with the home in the condition it is in now – even with its shortcomings and challenges. In fact, they may not even consciously recognize things that jump out to us.
We begin making notes about what we see and what we would like to suggest to the residents as specific areas and items that can be improved. Not all will require construction or help from contractors beyond what we can lend to the project, but many such homes will.
After our assessment – first from the outside and then moving to the inside – we will look at budget and priorities and determine a course of action.