Superior Walls Support Universal, Green Design

Concrete plays a significant role in the construction of a showcase home christened Universal Design Living Laboratory (UDLL) that embodies both and total-access

Concrete plays a significant role in the construction of a showcase home Û christened Universal Design Living Laboratory (UDLL) Û that embodies both ÎgreenÌ and total-access principles. Now under construction in Jefferson Township in the Columbus, Ohio Metropolitan Area, UDLL is the brainchild of Rosemarie Rossetti and her husband, Mark Leder, who aim to demonstrate how mutually reinforcing universal design and green building elements can be incorporated in all new residential and remodeling projects. Upon completion in June 2010, the home will be open to builders, designers, architects, and the public as a model of life-enhancing design for occupants regardless of circumstance, age or abilities.

Universal design, a term coined by Ron Mace at North Carolina State University, comprises a framework for the creation of living and working spaces and products accessible to the widest possible range of occupants without need for special or separate features. Accordingly, universal design is preeminently humane, he asserts, accommodating people of all sizes, ages, and capabilities, as it ensures accessibility by removing barriers, such as steps, and providing wider doors and hallways for wheelchair users.

Rossetti’s commitment to promoting Universal Design through the UDLL project was initially fueled by personal experience. Ten years ago, a spinal cord injury left me paralyzed from the waist down, she explains. I came home from the hospital in a wheelchair and realized just how unaccommodating my two-story home was to me. In 2004, Rossetti and Leder began designing their home with the assistance of architect Patrick Manley and a team of experts, including nationally acclaimed kitchen and bath designer Mary Jo Peterson and interior designer Anna Lyon.

The UDLL founding partners emphasize that universal design and ÎgreenÌ building approaches in home construction are entirely compatible. In addition to conserving natural resources, green building design highlights environmental quality, i.e., products used to build homes emit fewer health endangering gases or volatile organic compounds (VOC) commonly associated with paints, stains, carpeting, wall paper, flooring adhesives, plywood, solvents, and synthetic fabrics.

Energy conservation is another significant feature of the UDLL plan. Following a late-September groundbreaking, Lebanon, Ohio-based Superior Walls of the TriState, LLC supplied precast concrete foundation panels for the 3,500-sq.-ft. ranch-style home. Built-in insulation bonded directly to the precast provides a thermal and air-sealing envelope that encloses the interior, minimizing potential for drafts and energy loss. Moreover, a face shell composed of 5,000-plus-psi concrete with a low water-cement ratio ensures moisture protection for a dry, healthy living space.

Above ground, precast will appear as manufactured stone around the lower perimeter of the home’s exterior. Hebron, Ohio-based River Valley Stone supplied faux-stone units also for landscape walls, fireplace and front-entry support columns.

As of late November, ready mixed containing fly ash (a by-product of coal-fired power plants) had been supplied for the basement by Anderson Concrete/Buckeye Concrete. Other UDLL contributions include cement offered by Raymond McVeigh of the Great Lakes Cement Promotion Association, Inc., plus products and services donated by 100-plus international, national and local corporations and organizations.

UDLL will submit an application with the U.S. Green Building Council for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design [LEED] for Homes certification. Further validation of the project’s sustainability will be sought through the National Association of Home Builders National Green Building and Energy Star programs. Affirms Michael Holcomb, president of the Alliance for Environmental Sustainability, Every great movement begins with a vision. Universal Design Living Laboratory is to be commended for casting the vision of truly sustainable construction by adding the cornerstone of full accessibility to their design.