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The Country’s Most Accessible Home

GBCI: 0910000510

A tour and lessons learned from the Universal Design Living Laboratory, a model of excellence for universal design.
Eligible for 1 CE HOUR.
  • 1 CE

  • LU/HSW

Published on: March 01, 2014

Average: 3.5 (6 votes)


Rosemarie Rossetti, co-owner and general contractor of the Universal Design Living Laboratory will review what works and where the challenges are in her national demonstration home. Participants will identify smart design solutions that provide independence for home buyers with multiple needs and abilities, pinpoint design problems that negatively affect daily living, and gain real-life understanding of universal design, accessible design, adaptable design, aging in place, and visibility. Essential components for kitchens, baths, wardrobe/laundry, and entrances will be illustrated through real working examples, as well as building techniques and products that are essential for any livable home.

Join Rossetti for an in depth tour of this home. Learn what features and products captured the most interest from those who toured this home, as well as those that are providing the most independence, convenience, safety and accessibility. Discover the fine points in design that make this home stand out as a model of excellence.


  1. Incorporate universal design features into residential housing.
  2. Recognize universal design features in the kitchen, bath wardrobe/laundry, and entrance that provide for accessibility, independence, safety and comfort.
  3. Recognize problems in existing homes that limits accessibility and provide solutions to improve accessibility.
  4. Understand how the ZeroStep Certification program can help with Aging in Place, ADA, UD and assistive technology in design, construction and verification.
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Created by

GreenHome Institute
Grand Rapids, MI
United States


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    Brett Little made 2 contributions in the last 6 months

Brett Little

Executive Director
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8 commentsLeave a comment

Architectural Intern, alm2s Architects

Rosemarie Rossetti gives a solid presentation of her home and the design that went into it, yet it's very basic. I was left wanting more. Have they considered aging in the same home? Have they considered design features for other disabilities? Considering that America is aging rapidly and the large number of other physical and mental disabilities that many Americans deal with on a daily basis, this presentation has a very narrow look at universal design. Also, why does the USGBC keep certifying 3,500 sq. ft. homes as green? Kudos on her introduction to universal design.

Chief Engineer, JLL

We also have an accessible home and this was a great comparison and many new ideas to consider for hand i cap and ambulatory people as well.

President, Collaborative Project Consulting, Inc.
Pro Reviewer

This a a presentation that does a nice job introducing the idea of universal design using a real world example of a charming couple's home. It's best understood as introductory insofar as there is no mention of how many of the issues explored in the presentation have been codified in great detail in ADA, UFAS, etc. and should be familiar to an intermediate level professional. Reach distances, counter heights, slopes, threshold heights and wheelchair clearances associated with universal design are presented as if they are the result of Rosemarie's personal preferences when in most cases there are well-researched codified regulations and conventions that should be consulted by professionals. This is a 3 star intermediate course that would be a 4 star course if labeled as Basic.

It should be noted at the outset that this home is not typically accessible from a socio-economic perspective.The couple's home is generous in scale and outfitted with top-end products that are well-credited throughout. This can create the impression that universal design is accessible to only a few. The presentation highlights a Gaggenau side swing door oven that is likely a $5-6k item for example. The principles and considerations however can be justly applied with a little creativity to most other residential projects. I found this a useful presentation and most of my residential projects are agency funded affordable housing serving unique communities. Note that HUD standards would have 2 people with a similar physical situation and family relationships (often without benefit of an outside the home office) striving for the same accessible livability in less than a quarter of the space (as little as 500 square feet for a minimum one bedroom unit... perhaps, kind reader, you can send a note to your representatives in DC).

I recommend that the discussion about reinforcement for grab bar installation be revisited. This is discussed in the presentation more than once and is included in the quiz. The presenter recommends using 3/4" plywood for backing support for accessibility features. While I agree that 3/4" plywood is acceptable for generally reinforcing large areas and may be adequate for things such as general support bars where code allows, my opinion is that solid backing in wood frame construction is preferable. This is achieved by having the mounting area for grab bars and other similarly used accessories be reinforced by installing solid wood blocking of wall depth between studs and fastening the blocking securely to the studs. The solid wood reinforcing should be installed flush with the face of the wall studs so finish materials can be applied to the studs and blocking in the normal manner.

I recommend viewing this course while having an eye on Rosemarie's website ( as there is a wealth of well-curated resource there. The format of having the viewer walk through the day-to-day course of residential life and user experience is exactly what I tell my staff to do when considering design solution and review (for access, furnishability and function) - this is an essential aspect of best architectural practice. In many respects, this is an especially engaging presentation - it's rare treat to have online course given from the heart of an articulate and thoughtful professional.

With all due respect to Universal Design advocates, most of these features are at odds with ADA and other local accessibility codes. While this is a nice home, most people on a wheelchair will not be able to afford an elevator or 3500 square feet. While it works very well for the owners and it is a custom home, this is not a great example of universal design, and for a house that large the Americans with Disabilities Act would come into play regardless, which would already include by law some of these features.

Pro Reviewer

I enjoyed the presentation, I thought Rosemarie was a great presenter, and I thought that the course's unique focus on universal design makes this a good addition to the USGBC Education library. That being said, I would have liked to have heard and seen more a bit more about the environmental sustainable strategies implemented on the home. Also, as a resident of a compact two-story townhouse in an urban environment where density is an important part of our neighborhood, I would take issue with the idea that all homes should take a 'one size fits all' approach to design. If my husband or I ever needed a wheelchair, we would have to sell our home and move, but it is perfect for us for right now. Also, it would be interesting to see another presentation focusing on other aspects of social sustainability (e.g. affordable housing) combined with universal design strategies...perhaps it could also include investigations of integrating universal design with housing in historical buildings.

With all respect for "social sustainability" I cannot understand how Usgbc can promote sustainability using the example of a 3500 sqaure foot home that houses two people, when the first rule of sustainablility as is often quoted, even by the LEED standard, to be that of Reduction! Reduction in materials, reduction of energy consumption, reduction of waste etc etc. I was quite disappointed by this presentation.

Energy Engineer, EnergyLogic, Inc.

This webinar gave me a whole new perspective to home design is a must see for all home designers.

GWS - Facilities Project Manager, Johnson Controls, Inc.

This was a great walk-through. I felt like I was actually walking through the house with a very proud (and involved), homeowner. I would have liked to see maybe a breakout session with the corresponding construction manager to discuss the associated construction challenges on the same house. That would be a way to punch this very great start up a bit and make it more useful as a learning tool for Constructors.

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