Why Universal Design?


As applied to housing, universal design means accommodating design features that are integrated into the overall design of a home. The result: the home works better for a wide range of people and is appealing and marketable to various demographics.

Research shows that consumers will gravitate toward ease-of-use and convenience features that are well-integrated into the design of a home. Universal design-constructed homes can look like any other home in a neighborhood but have features that are handy with lasting utility. These homes are a terrific long-term value that works well for residents and guests long term.


  • Added home value
  • Retained home value (resale value)
  • Reduced remodeling costs later
  • Delayed moves to care settings
  • Faster returns from hospitalization
  • Reduced health care costs

Each feature included in the Toolkit is coded with the applicable universal design key analytics and principles. 


I - Innovation and quality of architectural design
Designs that go beyond the ordinary and customary can have wonderful outcomes: adding natural light, bringing the outside in, enhancing the spaciousness of smaller spaces, improving interior connections all

R - Replicability of design concept
Totally unique solutions, that can’t be applied on other lots or home styles aren’t terribly useful. Features with and “R” designation are particularly applicable to other home renovation situations in a variety of settings.

S – Sustainability
This is often considered environmental ecology or the preservations and enhancement of the natural world as much as possible. Universal design provides a matching set of values: social ecology, which allows the full integration of al individuals with family and community life. A sustainable approach uses less building materials and less waste because of a diminished amount of removed and demolished sections of the home. Projects also enhance sustainability because potential renovations are eliminated or reduced such as by adding or subtracting interior wall panels and modules instead of needing major rebuilding and renovations.

A - Affordability/low maintenance
home features that can’t be afforded might as well not exist. And home features that require infrequent replacement and low maintenance over time save a family’s energy and money. Renovation costs of these homes can be far lower than standard homes due to minimized construction over time.

C - Outdoor features that promote family life and community interaction
We now recognize how beneficial interaction with neighbors is for everyone. Gone are the days when retreating behind closed doors is a good idea. Home and landscape designs that bring household members outside create the positive informal interactions that are so important in our daily lives.


Principle 1: Equitable Use
The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.

Principle 2: Flexibility in Use
The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.

Principle 3: Simple and Intuitive
Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.

Principle 4: Perceptible Information
The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.

Principle 5: Tolerance for Error
The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

Principle 6: Low Physical Effort
The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue

Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use
Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user's body size, posture, or mobility.


AARP Future of Housing Initiative 

Harvard’s Housing America’s Older Adults

5 Essential Facts From “Housing America’s Older Adults”

What is Universal Design?


Universal Design Institute Resources Pages

Universal Design Homes

Better Living Design Goals

Strategies to Meet the Housing Needs of Older Adults

Community Characteristics

AARP’s Livability Index

Home Technology