Tuesday, July 29, 2008

house renovations

I sent out 5 or six emails the end of last week looking for leads about house renovation. So far one call, and it is an interesting one from a designer. The man doesn't have particular experience with home design for disabled persons (though he said he had worked with such issues in institutions) but he said he has 50 years experience in design, contracting, architecture, and engineering (he is now semi-retired). I asked him to define what he would do for us and he said he would want to examine the house carefully and take measurements, discuss with us in detail what we wanted, including explaining our alternatives for different cost and quality, and then produce a design for us. Once we have the design, if we wanted his help with finding contractors, etc., he would give us a proposal and we could choose whether we wanted to contract with him for that. I asked him how much having him do a design would cost, and he said $500 to $800. That's worth it just for what we will learn, whether we use his design or not.

John liked my description--he felt that because this man wouldn't be trying to sell us something he would be able to tell us whether the house is really suitable for what I'm thinking we could do with it. So finally I'm making progress. Though meanwhile the roof of the house we live in how is leaking, when I thought I had solved that problem.


Pauline said...

I don't know about the laws in your State, but in most States, calling yourself an architect, or saying you have practiced architecture is a criminal offense unless you are licensed to do so.

Just be wary of big claims. He may be fine, but just watch out. Before you go with any of his suggestions, you might post them, or email me, and we can discuss.

Posting will I think help everyone in a similar situation, but if we need to get vey specific, then email would probably be better.

Google the Americans with Disabilities Act and look for the Architectural Guidelines "ADAAG".

In the guidelines you will find space allocations for toilets and sinks, etc. for making them usable for those with disabilities. Although John is not in a wheelchair now, that will come, even if on a now and then basis.

The space allocations also consider room for a caregiver to assist with batheing and toileting. Look also at the ramp design requirements. Slope is important in being able to navagate when you are in a chair or just weak. Door handles, faucets all should be lever types that don't require a lot of effort and twisting to operate. As John looses his cognative abilities these minor little things might help him do for himself longer.

I don't intend to blow off this guy without knowing him, but just beware. Go look at the ADAAG and educate yourself a bit before you meet with him.

North Carolina also has their own accessibility code that has many more drawings and diagrams, making it much easier to understand. Your local library may have a copy.

pearose said...

ADAAG doesn't really cover the special needs for many illnesses - especially those with memory loss or confusion. It's more of a coverage of space needs for wheelchairs, those assisting, etc - the physical aspects.

With some cognitive disorders, planning needs to understand placement of sinks, mirrors and toilets. Place the toilet near the door so the person can see the toilet as soon as he/she enters. Do not put the mirror near the door because that may distract them as they enter - a big reason that accidents still happen in the bathroom.

The room shouldn't be so big that someone assisting wouldn't be able to grab onto something in case of a problem. ADA and ADAAG guidelines don't address some of the every day problems. There's much more to consider, depending on the symptoms of the illness and the abilities of the caregiver.

Bathroom designs for nursing homes, assisted living and campus independent living needs to be somewhat universal, which is covered by ADAAG and ADA. Personal bathrooms in homes would best serve the users by considering their abilities. Codes will rule, but plan for cognitive disorder dysfunctions as well - something codes will never address because of the diversity of the illnesses and people in that respect. That's where an understanding of the future of the illness will make a difference for the designer.

Pam said...

Pauline: This is the rural south--my ability to deal with good old boys is limited but sometimes they can be useful. Mostly I think I can learn a lot from him about the basic choices, and $500 or so seems reasonable for that even if we don't use his plan. I did hear from the certified aging in place specialist (who is a homebuilder) and he is willing to come and look at the house. So I will schedule that too.

Pearose: I've read just a little about design for dementia and I think that is particularly interesting, but so far no luck finding someone in the area.