Archive for Saturday, September 23, 2000

Universal design’ comes home

Lawrence contractor builds in features that help people with disabilities

September 23, 2000

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Ron Durflinger is ready to bring a home equipped for aging or disabled residents to the masses, without anyone noticing.

The area home builder is incorporating universal design elements including lower cabinets, wider doorways and high electrical outlets into his latest project in western Lawrence.

Lawrence home builder Ron Durflinger is taking a new approach with
housing construction. He's starting to add features that appeal to
both an aging population and people with disabilities. In a house
being built on Harvard Road, the kitchen features lowered cabinets
and a sink that can be adapted to wheelchair use. Some cabinets
also have pull-out shelves for easy access.

Lawrence home builder Ron Durflinger is taking a new approach with housing construction. He's starting to add features that appeal to both an aging population and people with disabilities. In a house being built on Harvard Road, the kitchen features lowered cabinets and a sink that can be adapted to wheelchair use. Some cabinets also have pull-out shelves for easy access.

The 2,050-square-foot house at 5228 Harvard Road looks like many of the other models in its new, growing subdivison.

And that's all by design.

"It's an accessible, adaptable house that's marketed to the typical buyer," said Durflinger, president of Durflinger Homes Inc. "We want to try to help everyone feel they're in the mainstream. Inclusion in a normal neighborhood is an important thing for everyone."

The project is part of a growing trend in home construction and remodeling, said Bob Mikesic, advocacy and ADA coordinator for Independence Inc., a Lawrence-based independent living resource center for people with disabilities in Douglas, Franklin and Jefferson counties.

Mikesic already fields dozens of phone calls from people interested in modifying their homes to handle wheelchairs and other equipment or needs, he said.

Independence Inc. keeps a list of eight contractors who specialize in such work.

"Inclusion in a normal neighborhood is an important thing for everyone."

Ron Durflinger

Durflinger's name soon could grace the top of another list for new construction that fits the needs of older and disabled residents.

"There's a market for it, especially as home buyers reach their senior years," Mikesic said. "With all the advances in medical treatment, people are living longer, and with all kinds of disabilities and changes in living conditions. There will be a huge increase in demand for housing with accessible features."

Durflinger is looking to tap into that demand with a subtle approach.

On Harvard Road, the new ranch home on a basement doesn't look much different from others nearby, but a closer examination reveals a series of changes:

Doorways are 3 feet wide, or up to 50 percent wider than those in a typical home.

Electrical outlets are installed 6 inches higher than normal.

Overhead kitchen cabinets are 2 inches lower, and the bottom of the sink cabinet can be removed easily to allow someone in a wheelchair to pull up and wash dishes with ease.

The master bathroom includes a wide shower with reinforced walls, to accommodate installation of grab bars at any height or angle.

Durflinger also hung floor joists instead of stacking them atop the foundation, which lowered the front door entrance by nearly a foot. That eliminated the need for steps out front, and helped include design elements that could handle a personal elevator to the basement if installed later.

The features added about $4,000 to the home's cost, Durflinger said, or less than 2 percent of the list price.

"It's really not that much, Durflinger said. "I'm going to start doing some of this in all my houses."

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