universal design

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Fusing Green and Universal Design

These two design approaches are totally compatible

Posted on Aug 10 2017 by Rosemarie Rossetti

On June 13, 1998, my husband, Mark Leder, and I went for a bicycle ride on a rural wooded trail in Granville, Ohio. After riding for a few minutes, Mark thought he heard a gunshot and slowed down to investigate. As he scanned the scene he saw a large tree falling. He shouted, “Stop!” But the warning was too late. I was crushed by a 7,000-pound tree and paralyzed from the waist down.

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Image Credits:

  1. Photo #1 through #9: Mark Leder
  2. Photo #10: Scott Cunningham

Tile a Barrier-Free Bathroom

How to create a roll-in shower

Master tile setter Tom Meehan combines a time-tested mortar base with a modern waterproofing membrane and a linear drain to create an easy-access shower.

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Universal Design

Should your house be ready to accommodate neighbors, friends, and relatives with special needs?

Posted on Jun 13 2014 by Martin Holladay

Why are most interior doorways only 30 inches wide? Why are so many doorknobs hard to grip? And why do so many homes have a long stairway between the front door and the bedrooms?

Two typical answers to these questions would be, “because that’s the way we’ve always built houses” and “because these houses meet code.” (Those two reasons happen to be pretty weak, by the way.)

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Image Credits:

  1. Image #1: Athene Rafie
  2. Image #2: Noah Manning

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Nurturing Eco-Development in the D.C. Area

Posted on May 1 2009 by Richard Defendorf

A Maryland-based architect-developer goes green on an eight-home project in the Washington suburbs

Like most urban and suburban regions in the U.S., the Washington, D.C., area has a fair amount of decent looking housing stock that is, in most cases, green-challenged. But one architect-developer in the D.C. area has begun an eight-home project intended to change how builders and remodelers in and around the nation’s capital think about energy efficient and sustainable construction.

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Image Credits:

  1. Showcase Architects & Developers

Downsize and Upscale

Posted on Dec 18 by Christina Glennon


A planned community's modest model home raises the bar for production houses

This picturesque spec house, with its steep roof and shingled gable, is a great example of how traditional shapes, colors, and textures can be re-arranged into a house with a contemporary floor plan.

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Kitchen for a Lifetime

Posted on Dec 18 by Christina Glennon


This kitchen was built for comfortable living as the owners ease into their golden years

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Green Neighborhood in North Carolina

Durham, NC

Oct 15 2008 By Rob Wotzak | 0 comments

General Specs and Team

Location: Durham, NC
Cost (USD/sq. ft.): $65/sqf

Completed: 1998-1999
Bedrooms: 2-4
Bathrooms: 21/2

Living space: 962-1,974 sq. ft.

Owner/developer: Sherri Zann Rosenthal
Builder: Craig Morrison, Cimarron Homes
Architect/designer: Jeffrey Davis
Landscape architect: Ken Coulter, Coulter Hart Jewell Thames
Engineer: Jim Thames, Coulter Hart Jewell Thames
Environmental building consultant: Arnie Katz, Advanced Energy Corp.
Geothermal contractor: Bill Evangelist, Evangelist Service Co.


Foundation: slab on grade, 1 in. EPSExpanded polystyrene. Type of rigid foam insulation that, unlike extruded polystyrene (XPS), does not contain ozone-depleting HCFCs. EPS frequently has a high recycled content. Its vapor permeability is higher and its R-value lower than XPS insulation. EPS insulation is classified by type: Type I is lowest in density and strength and Type X is highest. insulation at perimeter and extending 20 in. under slab (R-3.6)
Walls: 2x4, 16 in. o.c.; damp-spray cellulose (R-15)
Windows: low-eLow-emissivity coating. Very thin metallic coating on glass or plastic window glazing that permits most of the sun’s short-wave (light) radiation to enter, while blocking up to 90% of the long-wave (heat) radiation. Low-e coatings boost a window’s R-value and reduce its U-factor., double-pane, argonInert (chemically stable) gas, which, because of its low thermal conductivity, is often used as gas fill between the panes of energy-efficient windows. -filled on east-, west-, north-facing; south-facing, clear (not low-e), argon-filled (Caradco)
Roof: 2x8, 16 in. o.c.; vented; blown cellulose on flat ceilings, fiberglass batt in sloped ceilings (R-30)
Garage: None


Heating/cooling: closed-loop 1.5- or 2-ton GSHPs (water furnace)
Water heating: electric water heater
Annual energy use: 19 MMBtu average

Although solar hot water was not included in the initial construction, water heaters were located for future solar collectors.

  • Windows laid out for ample daylightingUse of sunlight for daytime lighting needs. Daylighting strategies include solar orientation of windows as well as the use of skylights, clerestory windows, solar tubes, reflective surfaces, and interior glazing to allow light to move through a structure. and cross-ventilation
  • Passive solar design, including slab floor as thermal massHeavy, high-heat-capacity material that can absorb and store a significant amount of heat; used in passive solar heating to keep the house warm at night.
  • Roof overhangs, reflective roof, and natural cross-ventilation reduce cooling load

Water Efficiency

  • Low-flow plumbing fixtures
  • Drought-tolerant, native plants

Indoor Air Quality

  • Most flooring is concrete or wood


Green Materials and Resource Efficiency

  • 100% recycled PET carpeting
  • Most materials locally sourced


None: (development predates most certification programs)

Twenty-two homes in a cluster made for walking

Eno Commons takes the idea of green homebuilding to another level — the community level. The Durham, North Carolina, project includes 22 energy-efficient homes that, in accordance with the community concept at the heart of Eno Commons, encircle a comfortable walking path while car traffic and parking are kept to the perimeter.

Lessons Learned

Even with such a dedicated, team effort, there are usually surprises. Because the first two horizontal loops for the ground-source heat pumps were so destructive to a site that was to be left 75 percent undisturbed, the remaining loops were inserted into drilled vertical wells at significant extra cost. On a less serious note, even though local building officials were uncomfortable with the lack of driveways, buyers were most interested in the home sites farthest from the parking area.

Rob Wotzak is assistant editor at GreenBuildingAdvisor.com

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Image Credits:

  1. Triangle J Council of Governments
  2. Robert Heinich
  3. Scott Gibson

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