"FlexHouse": Canadian for "Universal Design"


Here's how Shannon Proudfoot, of CanWest News Service, presents

Three doors down from their current home in Edmonton, Alison and Peter Faid are building a new house they hope will be their last.

The one they live in now has 62 stairs and an elevated living room that already pose problems for some friends with multiple sclerosis or joint replacements. The Faids -- 55 and 63, respectively, with two grown sons -- aren't ready to retire, but down the road, they don't want to be forced "out the door to Horizon Village or whatever, because of accessibility issues," Alison says.

The answer was a FlexHouse, a concept that originated with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) in the 1990s but never caught on in the mainstream, despite the alluring sales pitch that it means never having to move again. The basic principle -- a house that grows with its occupants and their future needs -- is also called universal design.

In a way, on the principle that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," it is encouraging to see people flocking to claim Ron Mace and companions' concretization of the goals of the Disability Rights Movement in architecture -- the seven principles of Universal Design. Much like AARP has popularized this product of crip culture through its extensive online resources on lifespan home design the concept continues to win converts. Taken to the next step of neighborhood and municipal planning we have the Liveable Community movement and Age-Friendly Cities.

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