On March 9, the four finalist teams from this year’s HUD Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition (IAH) visited the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara, California (HACSB) project site. Multi-disciplinary teams of graduate students are competing to develop a holistic solution that would allow the HACSB to meet its […]
High-quality design, engineering, and construction; the guiding principles used to assemble a team of building experts tasked with creating a demonstration project embodying cutting edge sustainability. Led by the New Hampshire-based builder Unity Homes and the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, a hand-selected team of product manufacturers and technical consultants have collaborated to develop the 2015 Greenbuild Unity Home. As the green building certification specialists, SWA’s Maureen Mahle and Karla Butterfield are managing the planning, design, construction, inspection, and testing of the modular home according to LEED BD+C Homes v4 Platinum, ENERGY STAR® v3, and EPA’s WaterSense and Indoor AirPlus certification program requirements. For last year’s conference, SWA provided similar services to verify the 2014 Greenbuild Living Home.
Part 2: Dwelling Units
As promised, we’re back with Part 2 of the most common mistakes that our accessibility group encounters when assessing for compliance with regulatory requirements for accessible design and construction. This time, we’ll focus on frequent problems that we have encountered within dwelling units. Remember, in order to save time and money on costly remediation once construction begins – and reduce the risk of exposure to future litigation – it is best to tackle these issues early in the design phase.
Here are just a few of the violations frequently identified by our inspectors:
1. Doors: Clear Width
Every door within a dwelling unit that is intended for user passage must provide the necessary clear opening to provide access to a person with a wheelchair, or other mobility aid. The minimum clear width requirement varies (32 inches nominal or 32 inches minimum), so it is important to consult federal, state, and local codes to ensure that the specified doors will comply. This requirement applies to all doors within the unit – it does not matter whether there are multiple doors providing access to a particular room.
Specifying user passage doors that are 3’-0” or 2’-11”, including doors to closets deeper than 24 inches, will help to ensure that a compliant clear width is achieved.
2. Kitchen Clearance
The minimum clearance between opposing elements in a kitchen depends on whether the kitchen is a galley kitchen (40 inches) or a U-shaped kitchen (60 inches). Clearance is measured between the furthest projecting element of opposing countertops, appliances (excluding handles), and base cabinets.
Often, the range and refrigerator are not aligned with the edge of the countertop, as commonly drawn on plans. These appliances frequently project beyond the edge of the countertop and often compromise the required minimum clearance. If larger appliances are selected (or substituted) after kitchen layouts have been designed, it is important that the layouts are reassessed with the updated appliance dimensions to ensure that clearances are maintained.
3. Outlets, Switches, and Environmental Controls
Switches, electrical outlets, thermostats, and other controls intended to be used by the resident must be located within accessible reach range. Noncompliance often occurs when reaching over an obstruction to access the controls is required (e.g., kitchen countertops). Often, electrical subcontractors install light switches and outlets at a consistent height, which while compliant for an outlet mounted on a wall in the middle of the room, will not necessarily work for an outlet mounted over a counter. We highly recommend installing all switches, outlets, and other controls no more than 44 inches above the finished floor, measured to the top of the electrical box.
Dimensioning to the top of the electrical box for outlets mounted high on the wall and the bottom of the electrical box for outlets mounted low on the wall will ensure that all operable parts are fully mounted within accessible reach range.
It is never too soon to think about accessible design requirements. The earlier these common problem areas are taken into consideration, the easier it will be to ensure compliance with accessibility laws and regulations once the construction phase of the project begins. By planning ahead, it is possible to address the most widespread issues in the design phase, significantly reducing the amount of delays in the field. A little effort now could eliminate a lot of headaches later.
On April 21st the four finalist teams from the 2015 HUD Innovation in Affordable Housing (IAH) Student Design and Planning Competition gathered at the HUD headquarters in Washington, DC to take part in the Final Four Jury and Awards Presentation (you can read more about the competition here). There, the graduate student teams presented their final submissions to the jury and audience for either the rehabilitation or redevelopment of Bayou Towers, a 300-unit residential high-rise that is home to over 500 senior citizens of the Houma-Terrebonne Parish in Louisiana.
Earlier this week, we posted a video about the CT Zero Energy Challenge’s first-place winner, the Benker/Wegner Residence. Today we bring you the story of the third-place winner in this year’s challenge, the Taft School’s Residence. Aside from housing faculty members, the home is serving as a teaching aid for Taft students to study the design details of a high-performance home, and to understand the experience of living in one.
After installation of a 13kW photovoltaic (PV) system, the home achieved a HERS Index of -14! The SWA team is providing certification support for a slew of exciting green building programs including the stringent Passive House US™ Certification, LEED for Homes, Living Building Challenge™, and ENERGY STAR v3.1.
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