14
May
08

Inclusive Design = Sustainability, Says Ron Wickman

Green Roof

Sustainability thrives in Canada, where Ron Wickman compares the idea of sustainability with the concept of inclusive design and finds them to be one in the same. Marta Gold interviewed him recently for The Edmonton Journal’s series on the living spaces created for themselves by local architects. Gold says,

Wickman is the barrier-free design consultant for the new southwest recreation centre. He also does audits of existing buildings to improve their accessibility to the disabled, as well as retrofitting homes and designing new ones. He recently took us on a tour of the house he designed for himself, wife Stacey and their three children, Ceira, Kellen and Jayden.

Wickman tore down his previous house and built another with the same footprint as what had been there, and then added a second story with a deck. He takes prospective clients on tours of his family’s home, and calls it his “3-D business card.” Creating a green roof is his next eagerly anticipated project, and he explains why that is more of an altruistic endeavor than a direct benefit to a homeowner.

The new house includes an office suite with its own entrance door at the front. This is a great solution for the increasing number of professionals who work at home. When the family hosts a graduation party, the living space can be extended into the office space. At some other point in the family’s history, that part of the house might become a “granny flat” or the place where an adult child who has suffered a setback can lick the wounds. And here’s the good part: the more inclusively a home is designed and built in the first place, the less work will have to be done when the family’s needs change later on. Without the need for a major remodel, less energy is used, fewer materials are used, and so on. Voila! Sustainability. It could almost be said that a good architect’s job is to put himself out of business.

In Wickman’s office, a frame on the wall holds an anonymous note he received: “Your house is a monstrosity. It blights the neighborhood.” Of course, in his view, what goes on inside the house is the thing to focus on. Does it work for the people who live in it? That’s the important thing. And all kinds of people might be living in it.

Here in America, it’s still Older Americans’ Month, so the issue of universal/accessible/ transgenerational/inclusive design is very much with us. “Aging in place” has become the rallying cry of the generation that in its youth roamed the world like gypsies, and that’s as it should be. There’s nothing wrong with settling down, and the right place to do it is in your own home. Even those of us who are very fit have friends and relatives who want to come over once in a while. Wickman talks about visitability, which means that any person can enter the house under their own steam, move around inside it, and be able to do a simple thing like use the restroom independently.

In Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition, this definition of visitability, by Concrete Change founder Eleanor Smith, is quoted:

A movement to change home construction practices so that virtually all new (single-family) homes, whether or not designated for residents who currently have disabilities, offer a few specific features that make the homes easier for people who develop a mobility impairment to live in and visit.

Speaking of the combination of sustainability and inclusiveness, Wickman says,

Right now a lot of people have the impression that it’s more expensive and it looks institutional and it doesn’t have good resale value, so you have to explain that ‘universal’ can be in any house — it’s not a style or a look or anything, it’s a way of thinking.

SOURCE: ” Universally welcoming ” 04/10/08
photo courtesy of PetroleumJelliffe, used under this Creative Commons license

Advertisements

0 Responses to “Inclusive Design = Sustainability, Says Ron Wickman”



  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: