How to Choose the Right Lot for your New Home
Universal Design and Accessible Homes: What to Look For
Looking for a lot for your new Universal Design home requires even more foresight than a traditional custom home. Here’s what to keep in mind to help ensure the special features that make your home easy to use don’t end up costing a lot more than you’re ready for.
No reputable builder can tell you the final cost for your new home until he knows where it’s being built, and what work on the lot will entail.
If you have a new home plan in mind, the lot needs to be able to fit it. If you have some flexibility in your final design decisions, you have more options – but it’s still important to know the overall cost of construction can be dramatically different when a lot isn’t compatible to a Universal Design home.
Here’s what you need to know:
Smaller lots usually require multi-story homes – which necessitate the use of a stairway or elevator.
A flat or gentle slope is the best terrain for a universal design home.
Steep slopes are usually more suited to a split-level home or daylight basement home. Since an accessible home requires that a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen all be located on a single level, this could require a much broader footprint for one of the levels. Due to the nature of a split level home, each level would also require a separate stairway or elevator – the floor cannot be navigated with a single system. If you opt to move dirt in order to avoid a split-level home, find out how much that will cost before committing to the lot.
Soil: Sandy soil is the best natural soil for construction. Heavier silts and softer clay may require additional work, especially if a septic system is required. The cost of additional fill may be even higher to complete accessibility requirements.
Water: Foundation footings and slabs need to sit above the water table (depth where water sits year-round.) If the site has a high water table, your builder will need to fill to raise the grade. This also could necessitate extra cost, in maintaining accessibility to at least one entrance.
Building Envelope: Set-back, side-yard requirements and no-building areas may mean the lot is not as big as it appears, in terms of usable space. This could mean that the one-story home you have in mind cannot be built on the lot you have in mind.
When your Universal Design builder inspects your lot, he will be able to show you what it will take to orient a home on the site. Ask an experienced accessible home builder to inspect the lot before you buy.
If you love the lot, be prepared for possible changes to your floor plan, including basics such as moving the parking area from the low side to the high side of the home.
In addition to the special needs inside the home, the lot also needs to accommodate a smooth transition into the home through level or step-less entrances.
Just as the property may need to have dirt moved in order to provide its Universal Design interior, exterior access may require bridges, ramps, berms, or sloped walkways.
If the home is built so that the ground slopes upward to it, grading can ease the incline with gently rising pathways. Your builder may also recommend that a berm be created alongside the home, in order to accommodate a paved ramp.
Don’t forget to make sure you’re thinking beyond your Universal Design home, itself, when considering the usability of your lot!
It's not as hard as it sounds, with the help of an experienced accessible home builder.
*Universal Design (UD) (encompassing “aging in place,” “accessible living,” and “barrier-free living”) is an approach to building that makes everyday actions easier.
Universal Design meets the needs of the present and the future.
Consider universal design concepts for your next home - universal design is most cost efficient and effective when incorporated directly into your new home.
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