Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Winnipeg's Bridgwater neighbourhood (with VisitAble new dwellings); and Universal Design

I'm currently visiting Winnipeg, my first time West of Ontario, in order to see for myself all of the wonderful things that have been accomplished in the Bridgwater neighbourhood (http://www.bridgwaterneighbourhoods.com/).  The Manitoba government imposed a 50% requirement for VisitAbility as the developer of this neighbourhood, which will produce 1,100 VisitAble homes once fully developed in 2021.  As with other international efforts for VisitAble homes, there was initial resistance by the housing industry and low interest or indifference from consumers but a few years of experience have fixed these issues.  What we now see in Bridgwater Lakes, one of the four sections of Bridgwater, is inclusive urban design and beautiful VisitAble homes.  I've had the pleasure of touring quite a few of the show homes on Lake Bend Road and they're stunning, the most impressive ones offering walk-out basements overlooking trails and greenspace.

I have also seen some creativity with the VisitAbility requirement, such as this home at 100 Lake Bend Road by Maric Homes.  Granted, this home is listed at over one million dollars but it is quite the home. The exterior not only looks great but they combined traditional stairs as part of the facade, with the no-step entrance achieved by sloping the driveway up to the front door's entranceway.
This creativity also extends into the home to achieve the requirement for wider doors and hallways, and a powder room that can be accessed by anyone.  But it goes beyond this, into beautiful interior design that incorporates Universal Design features, such as in the kitchen.
Maric Homes has achieved the VisitAbility requirements of the Bridgwater neighbourhood and has exceeded it by building this stunning show home that should finally put an end to the myth that barrier-free design is ugly or institutional-looking.  Please allow me to showcase more Universal Design, this time in this master bathroom in New York.  As this photo shows, the design allows anyone into this space but the result is very impressive.
The facade of a home, its kitchen and its master bathroom are three areas of a home where home buyers choose to sometimes spend extra money for the wow factor, so why not get great value for your money and make these features welcoming for everyone. Not only will it ensure a safer, more welcoming and more practical home, but it will allow you to remain there for as long as you wish. And on the topic of value, you'll be able to sell your home to 100% of potential buyers, regardless of age or level of ability, and that simply makes sense for those of us whose home is our largest investment.

I started off talking about VisitAbility in Winnipeg, which then spilled over into Universal Design...it's all with the goal of encouraging all of you to consider these features for any type of new dwelling to make them more sustainable, by giving you one home for a lifetime of enjoyment.

Now, if I could only convince the developers and home builders in Ottawa to catch up to this innovative home design.  Trust me, it hasn't been easy, I've been trying for years. Please reach out to me by email at gervais.roger.p@gmail.com if you have any questions. As a Certified Aging in Place Specialist, and as someone who has worked with adults with various disabilities since September 1994, I'm very passionate about barrier-free design for new dwellings because it's simply the right thing to do.