Universal Design Living Laboratory

image from:  www.udll.com

Last year I was approached with a rare opportunity to be part of a very unique team for the Universal Design Living Laboratory.  

What makes the project unique is that is being built from the ground up with the facets of universal design as the main unifying factor for all disciplines involved.  Not only that, but, it is also going to be a “living laboratory”, meaning open for guests to tour and better understand the goals of universal design.  The project Owners are Rosemarie Rosetti and Mark Leder. Rosemarie suffered a spinal cord injury years ago leaving here in a wheelchair and since then has devoted herself to speaking out to the world on universal design.

As a Lighting Designer, what does Universal Deign mean to me?  Small things that can be a big impact to the ease of someone living there, like locating switches and receptacles within reach of anyone in a wheelchair. Think about the kitchen and how you might reach a light switch located over a standard height/width countertop if you were in a wheelchair.  By keeping the goal of the space in mind, we were able to make small adjustments that will hugely impact the owner.  We made sure light fixtures were fully shielded and won’t provide higher angles of glare to those in seated positions. We specified light switches and dimmers with larger buttons or paddle style switches for ease of use for anyone with limited tactile ability. These are all pretty simple things to accomplish, if you think about it.

Along the basis of more thoughtful design, the Owners then decided to also build green. The house is hoping for a LEED Gold rating .  Within that avenue, we are tackling new ground through the integration of newly developed LED products. I have tested dozens here in my office to determine what will actually work and feel appropriate to a residential living space and meet our energy goals. I had a lot of reasons for looking at LED vs. fluorescent, most were not energy efficiency related, rather lighting quality related. Out goals were to achieve the “instant on” when a switch is turned on, rather than deal with the warm up time of compact fluorescent products. It is also allowing us an opportunity to dim with a fuller dimming curve then the fluorescent would have allowed and hopefully provide a much longer lamp life. Along their energy goals, we are hoping to power the exterior lighting with photovoltaic panels.  It has been a great opportunity to embrace current design trends and see how far we can go.

Ground-breaking was September 23, 2009 and much of the framing is already in place.

I have not been alone working on this project, I wanted to note that, along with Tec, the Universal Design Living Laboratory has over 100 corporate sponsors who see the value this project has to offer the public. If you get a chance, stop by the website at www.udll.com to see the progress made so far and those involved.