This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Home built according to principles of universal design to be presented at home show

Published: July 8, 2004

Contributing Editor

"Vitruvius" is the name given to a new home designed by Heartland Homes in collaboration with the Research Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDEA Lab) in the School of Architecture and Planning.


The 2004 Horizon Home Show will feature a home designed in collaboration with UB's IDEA Lab to include principles of universal design.

The home, constructed according to the principles of universal design, will be presented during the 2004 Horizon Home Show, which will run Saturday through July 25. It is named for the Roman architect and engineer Marcus Vitruvius Pollo.

The home is notable for being the most energy-efficient home in the show and because it was designed to insure that the residential environment itself, along with the tools, furniture and other objects in it, can be used with equal ease and efficiency by people of all ages, sizes and states of physical ability.

The show, sponsored by the Buffalo-Niagara Builders Association, is located in the Waterford Village development off Shimerville Road between Roll Road and Clarence Center Road in Clarence.

Like other homes in the show, "Vitruvius," at 8945 Connemara Lane, will be open for viewing from 2-9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Photos of the interior of the house can be found at the Horizon Homes Web site at

The IDEA Lab also plans to mount a smaller version of its touring exhibition on the concept of universal design in the residence for the duration of the home show.

Architect Danise R. Levine, assistant director of the IDEA Lab, worked with Richard Bergman of Heartland Homes to create an elegant residential design that makes life easier for everyone in the home while demonstrating that function does not have to compromise beauty.

Levine emphasizes that the "universal design" used here is different from "accessible design," with which it is often confused.

"Accessible design refers to products and buildings that are accessible and usable by people with disabilities," she says, adding that "accessibility" focuses on functional issues and minimal solutions, and so does not guarantee good design.

"The term 'universal design,' on the other hand, expands on accessibility codes to address a broader mission. It recognizes choices and differences," she says, "and integrates usability with other important design concerns like aesthetics, sustainable design and efficiency. This home, for instance, can be accessed and used easily and efficiently by everyone, without sacrifice of beauty or functionality."

Levine says the universal design features of the "Vitruvius" house include:

  • A covered, no-step entry at the front door

  • Full-length side light at the entry door that allows all occupants to see who is at the door before opening it

  • 36-inch-wide doors throughout the entire house

  • Lever handles on all doors

  • Light switches located within reach at 48 inches above the floor

  • Electrical outlets located within easy reach at 18 inches above floor

  • Lowered windows throughout the house that are easy to reach and operate

  • A two-car garage with a wheelchair ramp for no-step entry to the house through the garage

  • A large bathroom with ample maneuvering clearance, a roll-in/walk-in shower with height adjustable handheld showerhead, lowered sink with space to roll underneath and blocking behind all walls in bathroom and shower

Edward Steinfeld, professor of architecture, is the director of the IDEA Lab, which is now home to the Rehabilitation Engineering and Research Center (RERC) on Universal Design funded by the federal government. He also was one of the first in his field to conduct research into the broad application of universal-design concepts.

Steinfeld and his faculty have won many professional awards throughout the years for their research and design efforts that demonstrate how environments can be designed or retooled to accommodate everyone living in them in comfort and beauty. The Heartlands Homes residence is an articulation of these design efforts.