“The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed.” — William Gibson
As you consider universal design for your clients, don’t overlook the opportunity to embrace the future. Even your young clients will someday grow old, and you want them to be prepared for that future. However, I never suggest to my 30-year-old clients that they may age. I prefer to encourage them to think about resale value and multigenerational living to help them envision a future for the home they live in. Prepare them for the life changes coming, and they’ll be sure to refer you well into the future.
Usually I start the conversation by talking about small children, whether the client has one, two, or none. Window locations adjacent to future bunk beds, two sets of railings on every stairwell — features that will help your clients plan for children to come, or grandchildren.
All homes eventually will be lived in by someone of differing ability due to injury or long-term disability. Every bungee-jumping adrenaline junkie has a friend who broke his or her leg and could not shower for two months. Even if my current client doesn't want grab bars in the bathroom, I add blocking to support ADA-compliant grab bars in the future, document the locations, and leave those photos or drawings with the client.
A common theme is that the baby boomer generation is seeking to relocate to single-level living so they can do their laundry without climbing stairs. My own generation still thinks we’ll live forever and we're not planning to relocate as we age. But every front door I change out for clients of any age is an opportunity to upgrade the job to include a railing on the front porch.
All your clients could use your sage advice on universal design, whether their current reality requires it or not. Your job is to be the voice of expertise on this — and all aspects — of how they interact with their home. The more they respect your counsel, the more likely they’ll consider the choices you offer and not consider what, to you, would be the most painful choice of all: hiring someone else. —Clint Howes owns Revive Construction, in Portland, Ore.