Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Moving on up...

The second floor walls are built now. Even without the roof, the view of my (former) closest neighbor is now obscured when I look out my window because of the height of the new house next door.
now you see J&L's house...
second floor walls under construction

Some folks I talk to are surprised that a house designed for senior citizens has a second floor. There are a few reasons. First, the village pattern book required it. Traditionally, village buildings are not ranches, so in order to "fit in", new construction should be more than one floor.

Second, once my in-laws understood that to build next door to their son they needed a second floor to meet the code, they stopped looking at ranch plan books and started realizing something. Their peers who had down-sized to one-level living were no longer physically able to easily climb stairs. It's that "use it or lose it" principle. Having stairs started to seem like a good way to get some exercise and stay fit while they age.

A quick internet search shows that this is not a new idea. Organizations and communities exist which promote "healthy design", including encouraging stair climbing by having open, visible, well-designed stairs.We are talking mostly about commercial buildings, where one typically is directed to the elevator... or if you search it out, you have to option of opening a door to take a bleak looking set of concrete steps- the code-mandated enclosed fire-rated egress stair.

I've been at the hospital the last few days visiting a family member. The corridors and signage direct visitors to the elevators, but yesterday I sought out the stair instead. As expected, it was grim (bare and windowless with utilitarian signage announcing "No Roof Access" - you know what I mean). It would be nice if future commercial building designs could encourage the occupants to exercise by offering nice stairways someday. For now, I will take the stairs despite their unattractiveness. What I do see more and more is another smiling face climbing with me.


  1. I'm with you on the stairs for old people thing. It's nice to design for easy modifications for one floor living for a temporary situation such as illness, injury or old age. But remember that you are designing for several hundred years of families living in that house. Not just the initial occupants.

  2. Good point, Bob. To be responsible, the buildings constructed today should be designed to perform well for many years and many different occupants.