Our vision at The Universal Design Project is for every community across the USA to have a surplus of homes that are universally and financially accessible.
We believe that this vision can be achieved by supporting home builders with construction documents that take all the problem-solving off of their plates and make it as easy and straightforward as possible to build new universally accessible homes.
This means that other people have to do the problem-solving…
Will you volunteer your time to design a universally accessible home with us? We’re working to create a library of home plans that vary in style, size, and price.
The plans and construction documents we create together will be made available – for sale – through our network of home builders across the USA. Our strategy is to build relationships with builders in each of the 384 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs – a list can be found here on Wikipedia). This network of builders will give the majority of consumers throughout the country to be able to find someone nearby who can easily build a home suitable for almost any situation, particularly when a member of a household has a disability.
The reason we ask you to design with us is that we believe that collaboration with people who have extensive knowledge about a wide range of impairments (i.e., our team of health professionals and our design advisors) is the best way to ensure universal accessibility. You’ll be working with a small team of specialists who understand executive functioning, sensory processing, motor function, body mechanics, ergonomics, communication, and all sorts of assistive technology for an extensive range of people with various impairments.
We know it’s a lot to ask you to volunteer your time. Our business model includes splitting the profit from each sale of a set of design plans with you for each home built. Our intent is to pay you, but compensation will be deferred until sales are made. However, this can result in recurring income.
- First, on a social level, your work will go toward improving lots of people’s lives through housing that enables them to live more independently, safely, and socially.
- Second, on a monetary level, the compensation for repeated use of your work should far outweigh what you would charge a single client for a custom home.
- Third, the cost associated with collaboration with multiple health professionals who normally charge around $125/hr (each) will be absorbed by our organization.
There’s a great need for universally accessible housing on a national scale. Imagine designing a home that creates comfort for anyone, particularly if they have any impairment of the body or mind. Imagine the design plans for that home being used over and over across the country.
Economic predictions indicate that there will be around 1 million single-family housing starts in 2020, as well as a shift toward building smaller and more affordable options. If our work can be utilized for a mere 0.1% of new builds (1000 homes) in the years to come, there’s plenty of income potential, especially given the need being far greater than what 1000 new homes can provide.
Our goal is to license design plans to builders as a means to sustain our organization’s work. We don’t have the exact numbers figured out (as of early 2020), but we’re looking at a couple of different licensing structures that will keep it simple and fair for all parties.
Due to us being a nonprofit, all of our profit has to go back into the organization, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t pay you royalties when builders use construction documents that you created. We’ll split the revenue from license fees between us and you, but please note that we may have to put a ceiling on how much we can pay over the course of a year due to IRS regulations over private inurement.
We’re only interested in creating design plans for new construction. The following four criteria are what we require for all of our collaborative design projects.
1. Universally accessible
Accessibility is about access, not about disability or the aging population. Universal accessibility (the outcome of a universal design process) implies that something is usable by all people, including people who are disabled or older. This doesn’t mean that every functional need will be met, but it does mean that every design element should have as much utility as possible for as many people as possible – without being specialized for a specific person or group of people.
The reason for collaboration with our team of healthcare professionals and design advisors is twofold:
- To ensure that the widest range of functional issues is considered and that none are overlooked.
- To ensure that accessible design features are not specialized.
Working together should result in something that is highly functional and attractive.
2. Affordable for households with average or less-than-average incomes
We’re really curious about what can be done when a small construction budget is a design constraint. We don’t have a specific affordability requirement (we know it varies per location), but we are most interested in creating more options for the lower-middle to middle range of the market. This is because households with a working-age adult with a disability statistically have 36% less income than households without a disability (source: disabilitystatistics.org, from Cornell University).
There’s a big need for homes to be attainable by households with incomes under the area median income (AMI), ideally below 65% of AMI. This doesn’t necessarily mean “low income.” It means that the “average” households affected by disability shouldn’t be house-poor if they choose to live in a home designed through our organization.
For this reason, we encourage creativity and the exploration of various/alternative types of homes.
The outcome of each collaborative design project between you and our team should be a complete set of construction documents that a builder can easily receive a permit to use. We understand that building codes can vary depending on location, but obviously adherence to standards is important.
That said, we will welcome a select number of out-of-the-box project ideas that can address the affordability variable that may not meet code requirements but challenge the status quo. Please note that there is a risk of not receiving royalty payment(s) if building permits can’t be issued for use.
As mentioned above, we believe that supporting home builders with construction documents that take all the problem-solving off of their plates to make it as easy and straightforward as possible to build new universally accessible homes is the best way to make change happen.
The need for universally accessible housing far outweighs the current supply. Any of the architectural design work we do needs to be able to be used over and over to benefit as many people as possible.
Our goal is to see homes we design built in each of the 384 MSAs throughout the country. To meet this goal, we need a variety of design options because of different regional needs. We don’t expect that every home we design will be a good fit for every location.
Also, we know that the details of a building site are important for decisions in architectural work. Creating design plans that can be used on different sites may involve some challenges, but we can address this issue by equipping builders with information about what’s involved in various locations.
How We Work
All work with The Universal Design Project is remote, allowing the architect and all team members to collaborate from any location.
We run our organization on Basecamp and require that collaborative projects are managed through this platform. We are happy to use video and phone as needed, but expect most communication to be written and asynchronous.
Please reply to the email that sent you to this page, or get in touch with Scott Pruett: [email protected].