Universal Design Comes to Factory-Built Homes

Manufacturers respond with new designs as more people seek affordable factory-built housing.

September 1, 2005

Thanks in part to the aging baby boomer population, universal design is becoming more widespread in new homes—and now, even in factory-built homes.

Universal design is a concept of building a home that is usable by all people, including those in a wheelchair, without the need for further adaptation in the future. Mark Brunner, spokesman for the Minnesota Manufactured Housing Association, says the versatile design trend has caught on among manufactured home companies who want to appeal to a wider consumer base.

According to the association’s Web site, the average buyer of a factory-built home is 53 years old, but buyers also include young families and singles. Manufactured homes can be built on private properties or in a land-lease community with other manufactured homes.

"Just think how basic features such as level entrances, wide hallways, and larger doors would make the home more accessible to a child in a stroller, to adults moving in furniture, and to a person in a wheelchair,” he says.

The move comes as more people in pricey housing markets consider factory-built home construction as an affordable alternative. According to the Minnesota Manufactured Housing Association, costs can be 20 percent to 30 percent less than on-site construction.

When a factory-built home is universally designed—just as when any home incorporates universal design—it meets a wide span of homeowners' needs both now and in the future, he says.

"There are hundreds of universal design features available," says Brunner. "They make life easier, safer, and promote independence.”

Here are some of the features buyers can expect to see in a universally designed home:

  • Bathrooms that include a 5-foot turning radius, raised toilets, vanities with open knee space, and roll-in showers with handheld showerhead and tub seat.
  • Kitchens that include a 5-foot turning radius, removable base cabinets, loop cabinet handles and drawer pulls, and adjustable kitchen work surfaces.
  • Open and easy access with extra wide 42-inch hallways, extra wide 32-inch minimum clearance in doorways, lever door handles and easy-to-reach light switches, outlets, and thermostats.
  • Security and intercom systems, audible/visible smoke alarms and door signals, and medical alert systems.

(c) Copyright 2005 Realty Times. Reprinted with permission.

Blanche Evans is a writer/editor and CEO of evansEmedia. Formerly, she was a senior editor with Realty Times, where she was named by REALTOR® Magazine as one of the most influential people in the real estate industry.

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