Integrating Eco-friendly Design with Accessible Home Modifications: 6 Ideas

Integrating Eco-friendly Design with Accessible Home Modifications: 5 Ideas.
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Integrating Eco-friendly Design with Accessible Home Modifications: 5 Ideas. Image Unsplash.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Integrating Eco-friendly Design with Accessible Home Modifications: 5 Ideas

Today’s construction industry has a heavy focus on sustainability. Climate change has become a legitimate concern worldwide, so it’s vital to prepare for it with sustainable design. 

However, where does this leave people with disabilities? Some buildings prioritize sustainability and end up with an uncomfortable and inaccessible environment.

Sustainability and accessibility are not mutually exclusive. Here’s a guide on integrating these ideas into your home. 

How Do Sustainability and Accessibility Design Overlap?

Sustainability and accessibility go hand in hand more than you think. Here are three ways these ideas overlap in daily life. 

1. Technology

Technology is at the core of your life. You have cell phones, computers, tablets and other gadgets at work in your personal life. These devices aim to make your life easier in both sustainability and accessibility. 

Advancing technology helps people with disabilities move, hear and communicate better despite physical hindrances. New innovations also make it easier to live sustainably, with devices like solar panels and wind turbines. Sustainable and accessible design both rely on technology to help people. 

2. Comfort

You want to be as comfortable as possible when you’re at home. Climate change has made it more difficult to maintain comfortable temperatures in the summer and winter. You can make your house comfortable by combining sustainable and accessible design. 

Comfort and accessibility mean your home has wide doorways, low countertops and ramps to help those with wheelchairs. People with disabilities are much safer when they have these amenities in their homes. 

Sustainability and comfort are also intertwined at home. Sustainable homes aim to keep your house comfortable while consuming minimal power from the electrical grid. These structures also have advanced technology to detect pollutants and dangerous gas leaks in the air.  

3. Transit-oriented Development

One of the best examples of sustainable and accessible overlap is transit-oriented development (TOD). This concept builds urban areas around public transit, making it easier to access businesses and restaurants without traveling far.

TOD is sustainable by promoting public transportation and lowering reliance on cars. Research shows public transit produces 45% fewer carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than driving a passenger vehicle. 

TOD is accessible because you have more public transportation, crosswalks and bike lanes. The objective of TOD is to have your basic needs within walking distance, so it won’t take long to access food and entertainment. You can see this principle in cities like Draper, Utah. The Point will design its community to where you can walk 15 minutes or less to access necessities and services. 

How Can You Incorporate Sustainability and Accessibility in Your Home?

Sustainability and accessibility in home design go together like peanut butter and jelly. Here are five home renovations you can use to integrate the two ideas.

1. LED Lights

One of the easiest ways to conserve energy and save money is to install light-emitting diode (LED) devices. LED lights may have a higher up-front cost than incandescent bulbs. Still, their long-term benefits provide a terrific return on investment (ROI).

The Department of Energy (DOE) says LEDs use 75% less energy and last more than 20 times longer than incandescent fixtures. Additionally, these bulbs emit less heat and make your room more comfortable during summer. 

LED lighting supports accessible design because they’re much brighter, helping those with visual impairments. Modern devices let you customize the lighting to your preferences by adjusting the brightness and changing the colors. You can also help those with hearing impairments by pairing fire alarms and doorbells with LED lights. 

2. Smart Lighting

Installing LED lights is terrific, but you can take it further with intelligent technology. Smart lighting lets you control the lights in any room from your phone. You can even adjust the lighting while you’re away. Did you forget to turn the lights off before you left? That’s no longer a problem with modern technology.

Making your home intelligent also opens the door to automation. Smart lighting uses artificial intelligence (AI) to learn your daily schedule and adjust the lights for you. For example, it knows your weeknight bedtime is 10 p.m., and your alarm sounds at 6:30 a.m. to begin your day. Using smart lighting makes hands-off technology and conserves power in the home. 

Another advantage of smart lighting is thermal detection. These devices sense when someone has entered or exited the room and will accordingly adjust the lighting. Automatic light switches minimize energy consumption and allow people with disabilities to avoid reaching for a light switch. 

3. Ramps

Ramps are excellent replacements for the stairs in your home by providing easier access for those with mobility impairments. People with wheelchairs, walkers and other aids can more easily travel up and down the building. 

One downside of ramps is they often contain concrete, a non-renewable material. Concrete also requires a lot of energy to produce. Research shows concrete accounts for 8% of global CO2 emissions, so finding an alternative is best for the environment.  

For example, you could select a wood ramp. Choosing wood is eco-friendly because it’s sustainable and affordable while offering excellent quality. The wood is sustainable because you can recycle it once the material reaches its end of life. Conversely, concrete typically heads to landfills and can’t be useful again. 

4. Windows

Your home’s comfort heavily depends on your windows. Sunlight enters these fixtures and determines how cool or warm your house is by heating up the room. Single-pane windows are often poor for insulation, and you’ll see them in older homes. Upgrading your windows to double or triple-pane increases energy efficiency and keeps your house more comfortable.

Double and triple-pane windows have multiple layers of glass, insulating your home much better all year. Low-emissivity (low-E) glass allows light to enter your home without making your rooms too hot. 

Make your windows sustainable and accessible by helping those with disabilities. Install features like a crank or lever handle to make them open and close. Remote controls can make your windows much easier to open and shut from afar. 

5. Toilets

Going to the bathroom is an essential part of your day, but your toilet can quickly increase your water usage if it’s not efficient. Modern toilets require about 1.6 gallons of water per flush. If your bathroom is older, it may use up to seven gallons per flush, significantly increasing your water bill. 

Make your home more efficient by switching to low-flow toilets. These systems have improved to as low as 1.28 gallons per flush, turning your bathroom eco-friendly. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says these toilets conserve about 13,000 gallons of water and save $140 annually in water costs. 

Another advantage of low-flow toilets is their accessibility. These toilets are typically lower to the ground and more manageable to flush than typical bathroom hardware. Low-flow toilets are slightly more expensive than regular systems, but they save money in the long run with their efficient operation. 

6. Solar Panels

Embracing renewable energy solutions for your home aligns with the broader goal of achieving energy independence. You can mitigate the impact of power outages and fluctuating energy prices by generating your electricity. Furthermore, surplus energy generated can often be fed back into the grid, potentially leading to financial incentives and contributing to the overall sustainability of your community.

Solar panels for homes have gained significant popularity due to their capacity to generate electricity from the sun’s abundant rays. This clean and renewable energy source reduces your carbon footprint and can lead to substantial cost savings over time.

Creating a Sustainable and Accessible Home

Sustainable housing is essential for moving the construction industry and humans forward. Environmentally friendly structures use renewable resources to build and consume minimal energy to power themselves. As great as these homes are, ensuring they’re accessible to all is vital.

Fortunately, sustainability and accessibility go hand in hand. These five ideas demonstrate how to renovate your home for sustainability while being mindful of those with disabilities.

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