Living in an elevated home presents special challenges for residents with disabilities and for senior citizens who may have difficulty accessing their homes. “My mother just had spinal surgery. If I lift my house how will she get in,” Michael Raab, a displaced Freeporter said. Raab is also the Nassau County SANDY Storm Recovery Liaison who moderated a panel on elevation and accessibility at Freeport High School last month. “The world has changed forever and we have to live with this new paradigm,” he said.
While many residents assume they will climb the 25 or 30 steps needed to reach the first floor of their new home, “things can change,” Ernest Marbell, Housing Recovery Liaison from FEMA’s NY Sandy Storm Recovery office added. “You may simply want to stay in your home and age in place. How will you do that if you cannot climb those stairs? This is why we are raising the issue of universal design.”
Universal design refers to planning space that accommodates elevators or lifts and accommodates your special needs.
“Function drives solution,” Frank Gucciardo of PKAD Architecture and Design said. “You don’t want to build barriers. You want a design that is built around your needs. How will you get through the doors? Do you need a flushed threshold? What about bathrooms?”
Brian Baer, executive director of the Elevated Studio and a licensed architect, said a design specialist will ask you a series of questions to help you think through how you use your home, then look at the infrastructure and building codes. “Universal design is slightly more expensive at the outset but over the long-term it is less expensive,” he said. “Eventually I believe most homes in waterfront communities will be above street level.”