Green Smart Tech & Universal Design – How They’re Changing Accessibility in Homes
According to the New Zealand Disability Survey, one in four citizens live with a disability. This rises as age increases, as well as a great deal of other factors. Due to the universal experience of either living with a disability or knowing someone who does, accessibility has increased steadily over the last few decades. Rising along with this awareness is the cultural movement to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle, as well as technological innovation through smart technology. The three of these have combined to help offer a new level of accessibility in environmentally sound homes, from the garage, the front door, and every room in the home! Even if you are pregnant or will be carrying a baby around your home – smart, practical design can benefit you too and really add some numbers onto your resale value.
Mobility disabilities are the most common, but smart technology aids in this immensely. Most smart technology – take the growingly popular Alexa, for example – is voice activated. This allows an individual to set alarms, reminders, and other various helpful tools, as well as providing easy entertainment that doesn’t take complicated setups. The hands free trait extends from voice-activated technology, to motion-sensing doorbells, and even technology as revolutionary as self-driving automobiles.
This smart technology helps to be greener and more environmentally sound as well. This is mostly due to their lower energy use, as they’re in sleep mode until activated. The lower energy use helps to lower your carbon footprint while simultaneously keeping the bills down, which is just about as helpful as it gets!
Biotechnology brings it home
Wearable smart technology is one of the most current trends while also serving as one of the most helpful. Popular products from companies like Apple, Nike, and Fitbit help to keep a read on body data. This is vital for ensuring proper health and exercise are achieved when possible to accomplish the most out of a day for people who are more abled.
Most of these gadgets come with bluetooth connections to the rest of the smart devices in a green home. This makes it so that you can use one to interact with another, effectively linking all of your rooms together into one system. Smart watches connect to speakers and hubs, allowing a user to accomplish a task in the kitchen from the bedroom. This level of accessibility is incredibly helpful in cutting down on needed travel and improving on relaxation and rest.
A Direct Link
Smart technology and environmentally-minded living aren’t connected by parallel lines, but directly to each other. Some apps and devices will notify users when their appliances are leaving a larger carbon footprint to help cut down on emissions and suggest better alternatives. Past that, smart appliances such as refrigerators, televisions, and washing machines use less energy than their relatively-old counterparts. By having such a direct effect on one’s carbon footprint, smart technology and greener homes are directly correlated.
Much of a greener lifestyle is cutting down on usage and appliances in the home and replacing them with smart alternatives. This is incredibly tied with increasing accessibility in the home as well, making everything easier for all lifestyles. The combination of smart technology, environmentally-minded living, and a more accessible home is a winning mixture that is helping to lead the newest generation of home designing.
Look at your Home Layout for Functionality, Accessibility and Better Resale
Of course, more goes into making a home accessible for all than gadgets and gizmos. There are many low-tech options to look for that both provide excellent accessibility and help to keep a house more environmentally-minded. Perhaps the most important thing to consider with a home is the layout.
Consider what it takes to travel around a house. One thing that has become popular in homes recently has been motorized chairs on the sides of staircases that carry inhabitants up and down. Ascending or descending stairs can be a difficult and outright dangerous tasks, so these chairs are among the best ways to tackle such an obstacle. That said, part of being environmentally sound is lowering energy usage where possible, so there can be other ways to conquer stairs.
To that end, better than motorised chairs is simply eliminating stairs all in all. When considering accessibility, removing stairs and staying on the ground floor is certainly one of the best ways to improve home-wide access. Single-story homes remove the cost, hassle, and danger that stairs can present. New Zealand homes very rarely have a basement, which makes single-story homes much more common and increases accessibility in general.
While stairs are most commonly used in homes with more than one floor, smaller stair sets can be used as decoration in other regards. Little sets of stairs are often used on porches, doorsteps, garages, and the sort. The inclusion of these force those that have a mobility-related disability to find alternate ways to ascend and descend stairs that could easily be replaced with a short ramp, or the elevation equalized during construction.
What is UD? In a nutshell it’s the design of buildings, products or environments to make them accessible to all people, regardless of age, disability or other factors. UD is simply functional design for everyone, no matter what stage in life you’re at, your capabilities or your unique requirements. It’s all about making sure your environment works for you.
A traditionally designed home doesn’t cater for 65-70% of the market who may have special requirements. And no, form is not a slave to function, you can have it all and boost resale value!
Green Homes New Zealand is a Lifemark partner and takes an individualised approach to building safer more versatile homes for everyone’s needs.
Accessibility can be increased by the smallest of home design choices. For those with mobility-related disabilities, the simple changing of flooring can prove a challenge. Crutches, canes, and wheels grip differently on tile, wooden flooring, carpets, and rugs, making getting around the home an ordeal.
With this in mind, the accessibility in the layout of a home is improved by making all flooring the same material as far as possible. Carpeted kitchens and bathrooms should probably be avoided, but the fewer flooring changes the better. Differences in elevation among flooring should also be avoided during construction, for the same reason that stairs are best when removed from the layout.
Making a home more accessible is much easier than one may think. Once the goal is in mind and any issues are foreseen, it’s as simple as removing what can cause those issues. A more accessible home is a simple goal to achieve that improves life for any and all inhabitants of the home. Through a combination of environmentally-minded practices, smart technology, and sensible layout, that goal is easily met.