UB's Beth Tauke Takes Top Housing Industry Prize for Home for Baby Boomers

Architect, builder-sister use universal design to produce beautiful, flexible "LIFEhouse"

Release Date: February 10, 2012 This content is archived.


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A concept home designed by Beth Tauke has received the Gold Award in the Best Universal Designed Home category of the NAHB.

The home's features, including lighted hand rails and alternating colored carpet on stairs, are meant to accommodate residents of many ages and physical abilities.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A concept home designed with the help of Beth Tauke, associate professor of architecture in the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning, has received a coveted 2012 Best of 50+ Housing Award from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Housing Council for a home that meets the physical needs and lifestyle of baby boomers.

The team received the Gold Award in the Best Universal Designed Home category on Feb. 9 during the 2012 NAHB International Home Builders Show in Orlando, Fla. A second LIFEhouse, now underway, will be donated to a severely disabled veteran through the "Wounded Warrior" program.

Tauke is a project director for UB's pioneering and internationally recognized Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA Center). She worked on the home under a grant awarded to the UB Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), U.S. Department of Education.

The Best of 50+ Housing competition is the industry's most prestigious national awards program honoring excellence in building, design and marketing of housing for boomers and beyond. The awards are viewed by the industry and media as a showcase for innovation, emerging trends and quality housing for a mature demographic.

LIFEhouse, the work of Tauke and her sister, Chicago builder Susanne Tauke, is an aesthetically pleasing, flexible, well-appointed home designed to suit the needs of different family configurations, ages and levels of physical ability, especially those in the 50+ age bracket. The Taukes also credit Jean La Marche, ArchD, associate professor of architecture at UB and also associated with the IDeA Center, for his important contributions to the project.

LIFEhouse is located in Newport Cove, an award-winning planned community of 67 homes located on 42 waterfront acres along Bluff Lake in northern Illinois' famous Chain O' Lakes. It is the first in a series of universally designed concept houses to result from a collaboration between Susanne Tauke's company, New American Homes Inc., and the IDeA Center.

"The house incorporates multisensory perception and universal design (UD) principles," says Beth Tauke, "so it can comfortably accommodate a young family with a live-in elderly parent, disabled individuals, aging persons, an owner who needs a live-in caretaker or even families with young children or whose adult children have come back home. In other words, it is universally designed, designed for everyone."

The 1,992-square-foot ranch-style LIFEhouse has a two-car garage and an open floor plan for the kitchen, dining room, living room and sunroom. Its extra-wide, accessible entries, hallways and doorways along with an elevator to the basement, garage and finished lower level, and specially designed kitchen and bathrooms make it particularly convenient for anyone with compromised mobility.

The home also offers multiple amenities to accommodate residents of many ages, heights and physical abilities. These include lever door handles, stair handrails with lighting underneath, alternating colored low-pile carpet on stairs, hardwood flooring, no-slip porcelain tile, accessible light switches and outlets, a minimum of four lighting sources plus daylight in all living spaces, a multisensory security system, no-step entrances, an accessible container garden on the back patio and bathrooms designed to ensure a sanitary, care-free environment with high-end fixtures, mirrors of varying heights, self-closing drawers and showers designed and built to promote ease of access.

The kitchen, too, includes many universal design features: appliances installed at appropriate heights, light/sound controls in easy-to-reach safety panels, an easy-load dishwasher and an easy-to-use microwave, induction cook top with automatic safety turn off and a refrigerator with almost universal access to frozen and refrigerated areas.

The home made quite an impression on one visitor who became an anonymous donor and, with the assistance of the Chicago NFL Retired Players Association, the Chicago chapter of HomeAid, the foundation of the National Home Builders Association and the Newport Cove community, is donating a second LIFEhouse, now under construction, to a severely injured service member. Ground for that home was broken in November.

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