January 18, 2009

Green, Universally Designed - and Beautiful

The sun sets on the boating season

Image by slack12 via Flickr

Beauty resides in attitude as well as good design. How a space is embodied brings to life the inclusion designed in by intention.

For much of the past two weeks I have been inspecting accessible private yachts moored up and down the Atlantic Coast of Florida with the director of Waypoint Yacht Charter Services. The tour was a feast of luxury, design, and hospitality aboard vessels valued at $40 million and more. Innovative designs included features like articulated carbon-fiber boarding ramps that double as exterior wheelchair lifts connecting the garage and swim deck to the salon deck. Appointments included custom furnishings, high tech toys, and memorable art.

Consistently, it was the story behind the boat -- the crews and owners themselves who give life to good design - that were the most impressive discovery.

One would expect super-service at this level of luxury. What could not be predicted was the way in which a crew with a genuine desire to serve can become so intimately knowledgeable about their boat, destinations, and guest's needs that the application of Universal Design manifests as a life-orientation rather than simply an approach to a design problem set.

Back home in the San Francisco Bay Area the San Francisco Chronicle recounts the story of a landside remodel that incorporates green and Universal Design.

When Iris Harrell and Ann Benson decided to remodel and expand their 22-year-old San Mateo County home, they had two goals: The project had to be as environmentally sound as possible, and the design had to meet their needs for today and in the future...

In addition, Harrell's brother had to use a wheelchair for six weeks after foot surgery. The experience was an eye-opener for everyone: Even though he has a single-level house in Reno, he couldn't negotiate the 4-inch riser at the front door until he got a wheelchair ramp. Staying at his sister's two-level house would have been an even greater challenge.

The couple realized that several neighbors had left their two-story houses and moved into single-level homes because of stairs. Benson and Harrell love living where they are and want to stay. As Baby Boomers, "we all think we're still 17," Harrell said, but what about 30 years from now? That's why the principles of universal design - tailored to meet the needs of people of all ages and abilities - were so important.

Source: Iris Harrell and Ann Benson's home remodel

In all these cases it is the process of entering into another's reality and building outward that is the secret success behind Universal Design's user-centered focus.

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Full Disclosure: Harrell Remodeling Design + Build in Mountain View, California consulted on our home remodel providing inspiration toward the design which won the 2006 Universal Design Award for San Jose.

Posted by rollingrains at January 18, 2009 06:08 PM