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Inclusive, or universal, design is about more than just incorporating all of the latest codes, compliances, and guidance when designing a space. It is the art of accommodating the widest array of peoples with a variety of abilities through every stage of their lifetime. It should be functional for neuro-normative children, wheelchair-bound seniors, deaf or blind persons, and everyone else who may enter the space. The space should also function within the culture it’s built, celebrating its uniqueness in a functional space in a way that it’s population will innately know how to interact.
Accessibility needs to be factored into for every type of disability, but inclusive design goes beyond including a ramp next to a set of stairs. A well-landscaped ramp can give everyone the same, equal, and easy access of a space. Human factors must also address the diversity and population of a culture, addressing elements like cultural, gender, generation, communication, spiritual needs, and more. Each in turn affect how the visual cues of a space are perceived.
Culture, religion, and social aspects affect how a space is perceived, giving meaning to shapes, symbols, and even color. These are important factors in wayfinding, which help us navigate the complexities of the space around us. This can be something as simple as following the green line on the floor of a hospital to reach the right department or innately knowing that an octagonal red sign means STOP. Place also plays a role in understanding the space occupied. It provides a foundational understanding, giving its community purpose and control, whether they are entering a home, hospital, grocery store, or more.
Sustainability is a topic at the forefront of contemporary interior design today. Not only is it better for the environment, for one’s health, and cost efficient; it also has low maintenance, a longer life-cycle and recyclable possibilities. This includes understanding codes, pre-occupancy evaluation of the space, bringing in as many natural elements as possible, making conscientious choices in materials, and providing effective energy sources.
Before you can even start the design process, familiarize yourself with the codes to make sure you are adhering to green and sustainability standards. Discover the guiding theories and principles behind biophilia, cradle-to-cradle design, environmental and health factors. Explore how best to approach a holistic design for your space.
Many factors play into the designing of a green home, most notably the climate and environment of your area. This could be the floor-to-ceiling windows characteristic in the American South to help stimulate airflow in the humidity and heat or it could mean choosing insulating materials for your Alaskan home to keep warm in the winter. However, green homes may also mean living in a multi-family structure like an apartment, condo, assisted-living facility, or government housing that is close to public transit.
After you learned what makes a sustainable structure, it is time to incorporate environmentally friendly materials to your design. Include energy-efficient windows, choose fabrics treated in less harmful chemicals, and up-cycled countertops for your kitchen. Bring in as much natural lighting as possible into the space, replace light bulbs with more energy-efficient LED bulbs, and use lamps as much as possible instead of overhead lighting. Find out what choices you can make to help your environment.