Homeowners Bill Hoy and his wife know they want their Ecosmart house in Bozeman, Mont., to be the home of their retirement years. As such, they chose a design to accommodate aging-in-place requirements, as well as adhering to design requirements for their wheelchair-bound daughter. The upper level also includes a small kitchenette so Bill’s aging parents can visit long-term yet still retain some independence while there.
Accessible design features include:
- No-step entry, bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and laundry on the main floor
- 36-inch-wide doorways with no thresholds
- Hand-held showerheads and grab bars
- Lever handles on all doors and plumbing fixtures
- Comfort-height toilets
- Accessible light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other controls
- Accessible kitchen sink
- Front-facing knobs on appliances
- Tambour doors, which are polymer-based doors constructed with slats that slide horizontally or vertically on a track. By not opening into the room like conventional cabinet doors they provide greater accessibility for those in wheelchairs.
- Smooth floor surfaces, including wood, ceramic tile and stained concrete
Given that 90 percent of all home fires are contained with one sprinkler and that sprinkler systems release 85 percent less water than a fire hose, the Ecosmart house employs a separately piped sprinkler system with a backflow and pressure relief valve connected inside the home at the service water supply. The system is supplied by 1/2-, 3/4- and 1-inch PEXa pipes. The sprinkler heads are concealed so as not to detract from the home’s design. Sprinklers are activated by heat generated from fire and only sprinkler heads close to the fire will activate to prevent unnecessarily spraying water throughout the entire house.
Climate controls are Internet-accessible and incorporate real-time weather data, a statistical database and established rules and strategic profile that reduce the cost of mechanical operations while yielding a comfortable temperature inside.
The house also will incorporate telemedicine communications technology. Telemedicine is where medical information is transferred through interactive audiovisual media for the purpose of consulting and sometimes remote medical examinations; the patient does not need to leave his or her house. The research team for the Ecosmart house is studying how telemedicine can be integrated into the house to support the injuries and disabilities and to provide access to information regarding health, exercise and nutrition and diet. From the house, family members can connect to the local Bozeman hospital or any Internet-accessible health, exercise, nutrition and diet resource.
A snow and ice melting system installed beneath the driveway and front porch will minimize safety hazards associated with icing and snowfall. The system is controlled by an on-off switch to allow priority to be given to the home’s heating and cooling system.