U.S. Department of Housing
& Urban Development

Helping HUD improve livability & access in homes for older and disabled Americans.

U.S. Department of HUD - Townhouse Accessibility Design Retrofits

The Issue

HUD identified a housing issue that was in need of some innovative solutions. Semi-detached and non-detached residential buildings -- e.g., townhomes and rowhouses -- typically have walk-up entries, narrow floorplans, and functionality spread between several levels of the home. This presents particular challenges for elderly and/or disabled residents when modifications are required to improve access, safety, and usability.

Our Approach

Home Innovation Research Labs, with our strong engineering and building science focus, along with experts from the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA), teamed to propose a multi-phase approach to creating practical and meaningful solutions to solve this issue. The team will draw from previous research, a literature review, focus groups, and an interdisciplinary advisory team of leading experts in the fields of universal design, accessibility, and aging-in-place to help bolster the depth of knowledge used to inform the project.

Our Solution

Based on our unique and interdisciplinary approach, HUD awarded the Home Innovation & IDeA Center team a three-year, $835,325.00 grant to (1) study the typical opportunities, needs, and solutions for retrofitting for accessibility in townhouses and rowhomes; (2) identify best practice solutions; and (3) develop construction guidance and ROI benchmarks. The primary deliverable is a plan book of specific and coordinated accessibility modifications to meet budget, construction, and geometry constraints unique to the target housing types.

Along the way to creating the plan book, Home Innovation will develop a set of prototype designs, construct them in our full-service testing laboratory, then bring in stakeholder groups to test and comment on solutions through an iterative process to ensure optimized final designs. This is where having an on-site market research facility, which overlooks our laboratory floor, as well as decades of market research expertise significantly benefits our clients.

The Result

This project is ongoing. Construction processes will be documented to support a Builder/Remodeler Guide, including a comprehensive set of specifications and a cost-benefit analysis for recommended design solutions. Already, the project has the support of AIA, NAHB through its Certified Aging-in-Place (CAPS) designation program, and more than a dozen other stakeholder groups. It is a vital next step in the mission to help our growing older and disabled populations continue to live in their homes safely, happily, and constructively.


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