center of design Center of Design for an Aging Society





Project Description:
Two new attached homes built and attached to an existing home in Portland, Oregon.

The Home for a Lifetime Project demonstrates an approach to building homes which is sustainable for the environment and the building occupants throughout their lives. Few identify the common solutions that are shared by both of these growing trends. Both demand a holistic approach to home design and construction.

houseTo maintain their independence older adults require access to public transportation and close proximity to goods and services. These amenities are found in urban areas. However, the majority of older homes are not wheelchair or walker accessible. Attached housing or row houses appear to be the common solution for in-fill housing to meet the requirements for increased density in the inner city. However, to our knowledge, there are no local examples of in-fill housing that are wheelchair accessible.

The Home for a Lifetime places the emphasis on the needs and quality of life for all those who live there throughout their life span. Thus older adults will be allowed to age-in-place, to remain in their neighborhoods, and interact with people of all age groups, rather than being isolated in a senior community. In a recent AARP poll, 84% of those questioned expressed a strong desire to remain in intergenerational neighborhoods. Children and young adults need the wisdom and time that elders have to offer. Everyone benefits from maintaining these relationships.

Key Issues
Due to diminished vision and reduced reaction time older adults begin to rely on public transportation, bicycles, electric carts and walking. Therefore, the use of a private auto is reduced, but requires housing to be located close to goods, services, and public transportation. This project is located in the heart of Portland’s Johns Landing area with shops, restaurants, and bus route 2 blocks away.

Indoor Air Quality: Older adults are particularly vulnerable to indoor pollutants due to their decreased ability to resist them, and preexisting respiratory problems. Their conditions are typically exacerbated due to the amount of time they spend indoors. Also, tests to establish acceptable standards for indoor air quality are typically performed on healthy young adults. To protect the health of older adults, the interior finish materials are non-toxic. Miller Paint’s No-Fungicide and Low-Biocide paint has been used throughout. The cabinetry is constructed with Medite II which is no more toxic than solid wood.

Fresh air intake units with air-to-air heat exchanges are provided in each unit. The Velux skylights have electronic controls to open and close the skylights, with an added feature of a rain sensor to accommodate the Portland weather. In-floor hot water radiant heat provides a consistent temperature without forced air currents, thus minimizing floating dust particles.

Solar Access:
In order to provide solar access for each home the long axis of each house is in the East/West direction with the main living areas focused to the South. House #2 is located toward the front of the property in alignment with the front of the existing house #1 and house #3 is located toward the back of the property. The daylight from the windows is balanced with daylight from another direction. The second floor has skylights in all living and bedroom areas.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle:
Incomes are limited in retirement years. Energy and water conservation are ways to reduce expenses and protect the environment. The energy efficient strategies used for this project included construction methods and materials to save energy through good insulation, solar hot water and space heating. Daylighting design was utilized to deliver daylight to all spaces by day and indirect fluorescent lighting illuminates the spaces at night.

Water consumption is limited with low flow toilets and faucets. The washer/dryer is combined into one appliance which is energy efficient. This appliance is accessible for a person using a wheelchair and easy to use by a person with arthritis since the heavy wet clothes do not need to be pulled out of the washer and placed in the dryer.

Recycled materials were used wherever possible and when in the best interest of the residents. The pavers for the walkways and patios are made from recycled plastic milk bottles. The driveways are made of Geoblock, a porous paving system made of recycled plastic. Recycling centers are provided in each home.

The first floor of each new home is fully accessible and includes a bedroom/bathroom suite, kitchen, dining, laundry and guest bath. The second floor provides two additional bedroom/bathroom suites. The privacy allowed by the three-bedroom/bathroom suites encourages greater flexibility in living arrangements. For example, older parents may need to live with their adult children, an older person may have a live-in caregiver, or single individuals may wish to live together and share the common spaces, but retain their privacy.


Construction Method:
State of the art wall construction material used promotes energy efficiency and sound separation. The walls are formed with the Blue Maxx system, which utilizes polystyrene blocks with a concrete core reinforced with steel bars. The system is rated with an R-26 insulating factor and a sound transmission of 53.

Exterior Finish:
Exterior siding is hardi-plank, horizontal lap siding, painted. Architectural details such as sunbursts, trellises, and scalloped shingles are cast vinyl. Cantilevered balconies have a steel supporting structure with metal railings and wood top and handrail.

Roof and Ceiling:
The second floor has a scissors truss system with a 12/12 roof pitch and a 7/12 ceiling pitch. The ceiling is be insulated to meet an R-38 rating. Interior ceilings are painted non-toxic sheetrock. The roofing material is a 40-year life Laminated Premium shingle.

Windows, Skylights and Glass Doors:
Milgard vinyl windows and sliding glass doors are used with a low-e clear coating and screens. Windows on the first floor are in two parts, a lower window with a head height of 7'-0" and an upper window with a head height of 9'-6". The lower windows have horizontal sliders with grids located between the layers of glass. The upper windows are stationary and do not have grids.

Operable Velux skylights located on the Northern slope of the roof are used in all second floor areas. Clerestory relites are used to maximize the natural light distribution to adjacent rooms.

Wood four-panel doors are used for all passage and entry doors. The finish was either stained or painted depending on the purchasers' preference. Decorative level handles with a brass finish were used throughout. The sliding closet doors in bedrooms were mirrored, or not, based on the purchasers request.

Garage doors are steel with a raised panel detail and insulated to achieve a 6.4 R value.

Bathroom and kitchen cabinetry is made from non-toxic panel material with a European assembly system for the cases. All drawers and pullout trays have extension slides. The doors and drawer fronts are hardwood. Cabinetry is designed to have removable sections under the sink, cook top, and work counter to accommodate a person in a wheelchair or sitting on a stool, however, these features are not readily apparent. All storage is located 10" above the floor with recessed lighting to light the floor area. Countertops are plastic laminate with bullnose wood edge.

Kitchen Appliances:
An electric wall oven, gas counter cook top, microwave, and instant hot water were provided. Each kitchen has a recycling center located adjacent to the sink area.

Shower and tub enclosures have tile surrounds. Tub alcoves are larger than the tubs to accommodate a tile bench for ease of transfer from a wheelchair. Showerhead is adjustable in height and may be removed for hand-held spray. Each bathroom area has a sit-down vanity area in addition to the sink area. Lighting is placed on each side of the mirrors. Night-lights to light the floor area are provided under the cabinetry.

Heating and Ventilating Systems:
Solar hot water systems with natural gas back-up provide domestic hot water. For House #2 and #3 the first floor has radiant floor hot water heat supplied by a separate water heater. Total hot water is 90,000 BTU. All of House #1 and the second floor of houses #2 and #3 have radiant baseboard hot water heat. Houses #2 and #3 have fresh air exchanges units. The houses are designed to be naturally ventilated and insulated by the construction method and materials. The operable skylights and windows allow for cross ventilation. The wall system insulates the walls from the sun. The slab on grade and connecting concrete walls draw from the earth's steady temperature of 58 degrees. The operable skylights located on the north side exhaust out the hot air during the summer months. Lightshelves shade the lower glass sections of the first floor windows.

The daylight and energy efficient lighting of all spaces is designed to meet the needs of older adults. Indirect light from either light valances around the perimeter of a space, or pendant fixtures hanging in the center of a space provide general illumination. The pendant fixtures have an alabaster surround. The light valances are metal with a painted finish.

Each home has a vine-covered trellis or arbor portico with paver walkways to identify each entry. The arbor provides a plant material separation between the house and the street. Each home has a private back yard area with patio and raised planter beds. Easy to maintain ground cover, flowers, herbs, trees, trellises and pavers are the primary elements of the outdoor areas Retaining walls are treated wood using alternating layers of 4x6 and 2x6 Douglas fir with 4x6 posts. The driveways are a porous pavement system planted with thyme to minimize runoff, maintain a green front yard area and eliminate the reflected glare caused by sunlight striking light colored concrete which is painful to older eyes. The pavers for the walkways and patios are made from recycled plastic milk bottles. This material has the appearance of a typical paver, but is much more user-friendly should an older person or child fall on it. 

Special Features:

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