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An accessible kitchen.

A New Type of Home for Wounded Veterans

A recent article in Builder magazine called attention to the Wounded Warrior Home Project, the brain child of architect Michael Graves. Graves -- who himself has been paralyzed since 2003 -- wanted to design an accessible home that met the needs of the new generation of veterans of campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The project was undertaken as a partnership between Clark Realty Capital and the U.S. Army and consisted of two homes that would "set a new standard in accessible design."

The accessibility features of the prototype homes deal with the specific challenges faced by returning vets, including loss of limbs, third degree burns, sense impairment, traumatic brain injury, hearing loss, spinal cord injury, loss or impairment of vision and PTSD.

The homes are truly an advancement in accessibility, going way beyond standard universal design. Worked into the homes are features such as adjustable-height countertops and sinks, automatic doors, open-plan living, wood floors and more.

More info can be found in the complete article.

This is great work that Graves and his team have undertaken. We hope to see homes like this springing up across the country.

Accessible features like roll-out cabinet shelves make life in the kitchen easier.

AARP Announces Remodeling Contest Winners

Entrants into AARP's "Recession Remodel" Room Makeover Contest were asked to demonstrate how, even in a recession, bathrooms and kitchens can be remodeled for beauty and long-term comfort and efficiency.

The contest winners were just announced, and they include a farm house kitchen outside Charlotte, North Carolina and a bathroom redone in Snohomish, Washington. You can see images and videos of the winners at www.aarp.org/remodel.

The announcement of the winners comes at the same time that AARP released the findings from a recent poll of adults aged 45 and older concerning the home and community preferences of that age group. The results of the finding are pretty interesting. Eight of ten respondents have a full bath and bedroom on the main level of their home, a sign that folks in this age group are well aware of the growing accessibility needs associated with aging in place.

Potential homebuyers falling in this age category (or even those soon to fall into it) should be thinking about the home they are considering and if it will meet their needs down the road.

Is your home designed to handle your anticipated needs as you age?

Two volunteer Handymen fix the door of a Maryland home.

Volunteer Handymen and Women Help Keep Elderly In Their Homes

Under ideal circumstances, many elderly citizens would opt to remain in their own homes as they aged. But keeping up a house and making it progressively more accessible can be a daunting undertaking, particularly for those who aren't that handy and don't have the money to hire a professional contractor.

Partners in Care, a community service program based in Baltimore, Maryland, has been bringing together volunteers from the community to enable older adults to "remain independent in the situation of their choice." PIC's "Repairs With Care Handyman Program" gives local handymen and women the opportunity to put their handy skills to work on the homes of older adults--everything from small repairs like leak fixing and screen patching to bigger projects for accessibility are tackled by these handy volunteers who, according to Repairs With Care Coordinator Robbie Duncan, have logged more than 1300 volunteer hours.

It's an amazing service that these volunteers provide to the independent-minded older adults in their community. Hopefully this kind of program spreads throughout communities across the country.

Aquatic's Accessible Bath tub features a push-button hydraulic door and a draining system that empties 70 gallons in half a minute.

International Builders' Show Day #2

They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but I'm gonna spill the beans...on my experience at the International Builders' Show, anyway.

Day #2 of IBS 2010 at the Convention Center in the City of Sin didn't fail to deliver, as I was treated to the finest in residential sprinkler systems (soon to be mandated in a state near you), a stainless steel cooking hood built exclusively for an outdoor kitchen, the quietest in garage door openers and home ventilation systems and more.

I just had to TwitPic a very cool accessible bathtub from Aquatic with an automated hydraulic door that lowers and raises with a press of a button. The tub holds around 70 gallons, all of which drains in less than 30 seconds at the press of a button. I'm not at the stage in my life where accessibility is a necessity, but I have great appreciation for those who do and especially for those companies who are meeting the needs of such consumers. Bravo, Aquatic.

As I was being shown Overhead Door's best and newest in garage doors, a nearby employee opened the garage door behind me using the company's new whisper-quiet garage door opener. Though standing but 10 feet away, I neither heard nor felt the door being opened. Such was the smooth and silent operation of the new line of garage door opening products. As impressive as the doors themselves, to be sure.

A new building code being adopted by states across the country (including Ca, NH and Pa) mandates a fire suppression system in residential new home construction. So a visit to Tyco's booth was in order. Their residential sprinkler system featured unobtrusive, recessed sprinkler heads that are covered by a white plate that installs flush to your ceiling, more resembling of a lighting fixture or sprinkler than anything else. When the temperature in a room hits 135, the plate falls away, exposing the sprinkler head. Temperatures of 160 then cause the sprinkler to engage, releasing gallons of water onto the affected room to suppress a blaze. A clear life-saving and possibly house-saving product if I've ever seen one. Retro-fits are possible for the existing home, too.

Be sure to check back with On The Level as we sift through the hundreds of press kits to find those blog-worthy nuggets and new products.

I'd blog on, but the roulette table calls.

Photo courtesy of Inclinator.

Make Your Home Ritz-ier

The idea of having an elevator in a home is a relatively new one and, wouldn't you know it, there's now a luxury version. Inclinator® recently introduced their model, the Inclinator® LX, which makes your home look more like the Ritz. The elevator boasts "solid wood with raised hardwood marquetry veneer panels" and a gearlesss traction motor guaranteeing a smooth, almost noiseless ride. It can hold up to 950 pounds in case you want to stuff the whole family in there. Each elevator is handcrafted, allowing home builders and homeowners a range of design possibilities.

2005 © Tracy Quinn McLennan, all rights reserved
Bella (left) with friend, Porter, enjoying a rest during her first birthday party.

Dog-Friendly Homes

To me, home means not just the house I live in but who spends time there with me: my family and good friends.

As homeowners, my husband and I have undertaken dozens of remodeling projects. Most of these projects involved updating something (that old wallpaper had to go) or fixing something (like the leaky roof). Some, however, were customized for the inhabitants of our home, like our golden retriever, Bella.

For dog owners across the country, our homes undergo transitions to make our best canine friend feel comfortable. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than 36 percent of U.S. households owned dogs as of 2002, which means about 38 million homes. Dogs are adaptable beings. They will not be impressed by your fancy new barbeque (unless you're handing them freshly cooked pieces of grilled steak from it), and they do not notice whether your new bathroom vanity is modern-chic or old-world European. Home remodeling with dogs is more about incorporating their needs into your lifestyle.

Some critical areas of the home to consider when you have a dog are: the yard/relief area (we fenced a large section), relaxation dens (such as a bed or special corner of a room where your dog can get away and rest quietly), pet-friendly floors (we have hardwood throughout, which makes cleanups easy) and safety and access (just as you'd do with childproofing, you should ensure that dangerous items are kept out of your dog's reach). This list is certainly just a starting point; there are many ways in which you'll need to customize your home for your dog.

For some entertaining reading, dog lovers should check out Dogster's: For the Love of Dog Blog.

Homeowners can age in their own homes with wise remodeling Homeowners can age in their own homes with wise remodeling

Planning to Stay in Your Home

In a country that now boasts more than 73 percent home ownership, the issue of staying in one's home as we age has become a big topic in America. Many grown children complain that mom and dad should move to an elder community. Many seniors prefer to stay in communities they know in surroundings that are familiar. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the Remodelors Council of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) along with the NAHB Seniors Housing Council are working to educate homeowners and homebuilders about Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS). These housing specialists understand the principles of universal design and how to update a home to make it livable at all stages of life. When certified, a construction company, contractor, or designer can display the CAPS logo, ensuring that they are trained and knowledgeable in aging-in-place construction, products, and issues. With an aging population that is craving independence and mobility, CAPS firms and designers can help homeowners make remodeling decisions to benefit their future lifestyles and make their homes more valuable to a wider market. If you have parents or relatives who want to remain in their homes as they age, consider contacting a CAPS professional for a review of the property and a game plan for increasing safety, comfort, and accessibility.

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