If you really believe in the remodeling services you provide, can you sell them more effectively?


What if you actually live them as well?


For Mike Vowels of Stewardship Remodeling, which serves the greater Seattle and Puget Sound area, the road to recovery is paved with a passionate conviction, borne of first-hand experience, that “there is a sustainable relationship between green building practices and universal design.”


If green building is the hottest thing going in remodeling, universal design – in the remodeling context, designing homes to be usable for all people, as with aging-in-place renovations – isn’t far behind. Vowels can honestly lay claim to expertise in both areas.

Positioned for Future Growth

A committed conservationist as well as a wheelchair user since 1985, Vowels has become a popular figure on the writing and speaking circuit, educating homeowners and building professionals alike on the compatibility of green building and universal design. He frequently writes remodeling articles for a local newspaper, speaks often through his local Home Builders Association and at home shows, and, at the International Builders' Show in Las Vegas this January, was selected to serve on the National Association of Home Builders’ CAPS (Certified Aging-in-Place) Board of Governors.


“We are positioning Stewardship Remodeling to be the ‘known’ contractor expert on the subject of ‘Designing for Life & Remodeling for the Future,'” says Vowels, citing the name of an educational presentation he is developing, while also preparing to teach CAPS and CGP (Certified Green Professional) courses.


Much more than a compelling and eloquent speaker, though, Vowels also lives the green and universal life. His home, for instance, is also the Stewardship Remodeling office and a showcase of what the company does so well. A stunningly gorgeous site-harvested log home on six wooded acres, it not only incorporates many green building materials, such as second-use materials, solar technology, and rain barrels, but it is also fully and seamlessly wheelchair accessible. (See the home and more at the Stewardship website.)


Excise the 'Ugly Factor'

For instance, the home is not stark and institutional but lush, interesting, and organic. Universal design features are integrated into the design: extra-wide hallways and door openings, ground surfaces that are flush with each other, wide decks with plenty of turnaround room for wheelchairs.


The home has been featured extensively in the media, and last fall hosted 250 people for a “green living event.” There, and in every opportunity to preach the gospel of universal and green, Vowels strives to get the "ugly factor" out of concepts related to helping homes accommodate people at all stages of life.


“You need to be careful when presenting the subject of ‘aging-in-place’ because some people are uncomfortable with the language or how skillfully you convey the subject,” he says. “People don’t want to think of themselves in walkers or wheelchairs,” he says, and if you start talking the talk of aging-in-place without great visual aids and examples of seamlessly integrated home upgrades, “their eyes soon glaze over.”


People are open, however, to considering how they might live safely and comfortably, and stylishly, in their homes over the long term, Vowels says.


“I’m the guy in the wheelchair, and I don’t want my home to look like a guy in a wheelchair lives there,” he says. He is careful with language; instead of ‘ramps,’ for instance, he refers to ‘stepless grade changes.'” No “roll-in showers” for him, but instead “curbless European showers.”


“Look a little closer,” Vowels wrote in a newspaper article last year. “A Universally Designed Green home can be visually indistinguishable from conventional homes. The difference is in the details.”


Learn much more about Stewardship Remodeling, and see a detailed case study of Vowels’ home and office, at www.universalandgreen.com.


Click here for a previous Remodeling interview with Mike Vowels.