Master Builder Best Practices Presents:
Master Builder Best Practices Presents:
Better Living Design (BLD)
Building for Your Future with Better Living Design (BLD)
Life expectancy in the US is nearing 80 years old, and the number of
Americans over 65 now exceeds 40 million. These facts alone push
forward a growing trend in home construction that accommodates people
of various sizes and ability levels. Design professionals, builders, and
homeowners looking for ideas to maximize accessibility in homes can
look at three approaches: 1) Accessible Design, 2) Universal Design
and 3) Aging-In-Place Design. There’s a lot of overlap among them, and
while some people speak about them interchangeably, each has its own
thoughtful foundation that has led to a unique approach to designing,
building, and remodeling. Let’s explore what is best for you and your family.
Accessible Design: Ensuring access for disabled persons
Americans are probably most familiar with accessible design. Since its
passage in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been
mandatory for public buildings and for private buildings that are open to the
public—but not for privately owned, single-family houses. Nevertheless,
“ADA compliant” is sometimes used to describe houses built with the
sort of accessibility features common to buildings required to follow ADA
The ADA is focused on people with physical disabilities—making
accommodations so they aren’t prevented from accessing buildings and
spaces because of a physical disability. It has been crucial in ensuring
access for people with disabilities to places such as schools, museums,
office buildings, and swimming pools. Because the ADA is built around
enforceable requirements, compliance can be measured. This can
lead, however, to designs that meet the requirements but detract from a
Universal Design: Access meets aesthetics
Universal design starts from a position of inclusion by not just focusing
on people with the most common physical disabilities, but by focusing
on everyone. In doing so, universal design accommodates people
who don’t fall into the category of disabled but who nevertheless often
face challenges in navigating buildings and spaces, such as children,
short people, tall people, pregnant women, and the elderly. Universal
design attempts to incorporate accessibility features into a house in an
aesthetically pleasing way. Well-planned universal design creates homes
that are aesthetically pleasing while functional for all. Whereas a ramp
alongside a set of entry stairs might make a house accessible to disabled
persons, a house built according to universal-design principles would
have a step-free entrance designed from the beginning to be accessible to
everyone—not just a person in a wheelchair but also a person pushing a
stroller or pulling a suitcase on wheels.
No design can foresee every disability or complication, but if a resident of
a universal-design home becomes disabled, the home will not suddenly
become impossible to navigate. If that person needs grab bars or a stair
lift, the blocking is already in place for installation. If an elevator is needed,
stacked closets provide the perfect location.
Aging-in-Place Design: Helping you stay at home
While aging-in-place design is easily incorporated into new construction,
it is most often employed when homeowners want to ensure that they can
stay in their present home as long as possible. This is usually preferable
to moving into an independent living facility, and it is much more cost
effective. Many of the most common features of an aging-in-place remodel
will include, wider doorways, lever handles on doors and faucets, curbless
showers—which can also be found in homes built in accordance with
universal-design principles. Aging-in-place design, though, most often is
focused more narrowly on preparing a specific home to be accessible to its
current residents as they age.
Every day, 10,000 boomers reach the age of 65 and it’s going to continue
at that rate until 2030. With this much of the population seeking living
environments that work in their favor, we can expect to see the Better
Living Design (BLD) movement gaining momentum every year.
Master Builder Best Practices Presents:
Communication During The Building Process
Communication is vital to a successful building process
One of the fundamental elements to a successful building experience is communication between the
owner and the building professional on a structured basis. On the owner’s side, there should be a
designated person that will be the contact representative. The contact representative should have the
power to make any decisions pertaining to the scope of work and budget. By having this dedicated
contact representative, the builder will be assured of a single source of communication and avoid
duplicated correspondence and retracting a dedicated path of progress for the project.
As important as this singular source of communication is for the builder, it is equally important to the
owner to have a consistent builder representative. Sometimes it’s the builder himself that corresponds
with the owner or it may be the superintendent. The key for success is consistency by the dedicated
representatives and their commitment to regularly scheduled meetings and/or correspondence.
Your progress report should be on a recurring schedule using the same date and time each week. If
you cannot follow through on this commitment of time, your project will be at risk to an elevated
susceptibility of problems during the building process.
Finding the best way to communicate varies by client but the most likely will be email and not a phone
conversation for your weekly update. If you must use a telephone, make sure that the builder follows
up with a summary for your review. A fax is good as long as both parties have a full time fax line open.
Nothing is more frustrating than a one-way fax conversation. If you decide to have job site meetings,
follow the same protocol as a phone conversation with a summary of each meeting. The number of job
site meetings will depend on the size and progress of your project and are not needed every week.
A weekly Progress Report on the project’s development should have the following subjects addressed
each week. The commitment to maintaining the same format each week will help the project stay on
track and follow up on the previous week’s report. The following Progress Report headings will keep
your project on track for success with your committed facilitation:
#1- What was last week’s job progress
Under this heading, the builder lists all of the phases of construction that were completed
during the last week; such as, “The footers were poured and the block work completed. The floor
trusses were ordered. Received revised window proposal.” This section could also contain pictures to
explain the job’s progress.
#2- Review of confirmed items and questions
This section of the report addresses answers to the previous report and seeks answers for the
upcoming week from the owner by the builders report. An example might be, “Confirmed garage door
has insulated panels. Window treatments will be selected from ABC Window Coverings. Confirmed that
paint selection in family room has been changed to Eastwind Green with A-1 trim.” This section of the
report is to keep an open dialogue on both sides and helps to keep the project on track by maintaining
timely selections, and recording changes.
#3-Schedule look-ahead (tentative projections of the upcoming week).
This section deals with the upcoming week’s projected progress as reported by the builder. A
builder that meets customer expectations has painted a realistic picture of what to expect. Items may
include, “Drywall will be completed with doors and interior trim being delivered by Thursday. Painting
contractor will complete the exterior.” The projection of the upcoming week’s progress helps hold the
builder responsible while aiding the owner in understanding the building process.
#4-Items that require attention
This section addresses items that have not been decided and that need immediate attention in
order to keep the project moving with positive momentum. This area of the Progress Report keeps
everyone accountable and will be addressed in the following week’s report, if a selection or question is
not completed it will remain under section #4 in the following week’s Progress Report under “extreme
attention required.” An example may be, “Need final plumbing selection for master bath shower.
Awaiting final carpet selection. Need your approval for window Changer Order.”
As you can see, it takes effort from both parties to make your building experience positive with a
commitment to scheduled communication. Your selection of a builder will not only result in the quality
of the finished product but the entire building experience.