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Livable Communities
Awards

Sweet Spots in Home Design

What makes a community livable? AARP and the National Association of Home Builders, cosponsors of the Third Annual Livable Communities Awards, believe that it’s a combination of things.


Livability starts in homes and apartments that reflect Universal Design values for comfort, safety, and accessibility for residents of all ages and physical abilities. That means no barriers for the able-bodied or wheelchair-bound and no hazards that might lead to accidental falls, burns, or electric shocks. Livable homes have easy-to-use features—sure-grasp door handles, simple-to-operate appliances, and storage that puts everyday tools within easy reach. Livable homes come wired for the latest communications and security technologies.

Beyond the creature comforts, livable homes are low-maintenance, environmentally friendly, and energy efficient. Their designers anticipate the future, and their owners can readily adapt the space inside to age comfortably without moving and with no excessive disruption or expense.
Livable communities feature the kinds of homes we’ve described and have close proximity to shopping, entertainment, social activities, and other resources. These communities foster independence, interaction, and social involvement.

Livable communities don’t usually come into being by accident. They’re most often products of skilled architects, builders, developers, and planners. To recognize the efforts of these professionals and to help you discover the best applications of the core values, we present the winners of the 2009 Livable Communities Awards. Click on each of the small images near the top of the page for tours of single-family homes and multi-family housing units that epitomize livability for all life stages.

 

Livable Communities Awards Archive >>

Resources

Livable Communities Checklists

Below are lists of design and product suggestions for your home that can increase safety, comfort, convenience, and livability for everyone.

 

Entrances & Exits Checklist

Below is a list of design and product suggestions for a home's entryway and exits that can increase safety, comfort, convenience, and livability for everyone. Check off the ideas that you may want to include in your own home.

  • At least one no-step pathway into the house
  • Ample and level maneuvering room, 5 feet by 5 feet, in entryway
  • 36-inch-wide entry door with lever-style handle
  • Zero-threshold doorway
  • Covered entrance to protect from inclement weather 
  • Shelf near entrance to put packages while opening and closing door
  • Bright lighting inside and outside entries
  • Lighted doorbell at an easily reachable height
  • Easy-open door locks, such as keyless locks with remote or keypad codes
  • High-visibility house numbers
  • Handrails on both sides of steps
  • Railings on porches
  • Slip-resistant walkways and entryways

Stairways & Halls Checklist

Below is a list of design and product suggestions for a home's stairways and halls that can increase safety, comfort, convenience, and livability for everyone. Check off the ideas that you may want to include in your own home.

  • Handrails on both sides of stairs, interior and exterior
  • No open, see-through risers on stairs
  • Deep stair treads, to accommodate entire foot
  • Contrasting color at front edge of steps, to provide visual orientation, or non-slip adhesive strips
  • 4-foot-wide stairway to accommodate future chairlift
  • Bright, non-glare lighting in hallways and stairwells
  • Easy-touch, rocker-style light switches at top and bottom of stairs, 42 inches off floor
  • Electrical outlets 18 inches off the floor
  • Replace or remove any worn or torn carpeting

Den & Living Room Checklist

Below is a list of design and product suggestions for a home's den and living room that can increase safety, comfort, convenience, and livability for everyone. Check off the ideas that you may want to include in your own home.

  • 36-inch-wide doors for easy access, or pocket doors
  • Level flooring throughout the house
  • Easy-touch, rocker-style light switches 42 inches off the floor
  • Electrical outlets 18 inches off the floor
  • Seating at least 18 inches off the floor
  • Extra electrical outlets to accommodate future technology or medical-equipment needs
  • Rearrange furniture and remove any clutter to allow for clear, wide passageways

Kitchen Checklist

Here is a list of design and product suggestions for a home kitchen or laundry area that can increase safety, comfort, convenience, and livability for everyone. Check off the ideas that you may want to include in your own home.

  • 36-inch-wide doors for easy access or pocket doors
  • Multi-height, rounded-edge countertops to enable residents to work standing or seated
  • Color-contrast front edges on countertops to help prevent spills
  • Clear counter space next to sink and all appliances
  • Space for a chair under sink or cooktop for seated users
  • Easy-access storage, such as  pull-out pantry or adjustable-height shelving
  • Stove-top water access to fill pots
  • Bright, non-glare task lighting over sink, stove, and work areas
  • Anti-scald faucet with lever-style handle
  • D-shaped or pull-style cabinet and drawer handles
  • Easy-glide drawers that close automatically
  • Drawer-style dishwasher or raised platform under dishwasher to reduce bending
  • Easy-access side-by-side refrigerator/freezer or under-counter, drawer-style refrigerator
  • Front-mounted appliance controls that are highly visible or can be operated by touch
  • Built-in storage space for easy-access and removable recyclables and trash
  • Electrical outlets 18 inches off the floor
  • Extra electrical outlets for small appliances; some outlets located under countertops for easy access
  • Rocker-style light switches, 42 inches off the floor
  • Easily accessible garbage-disposal switch
  • Laundry on main floor
  • Front-loading washer and dryer, stacked or on raised platform to reduce bending, with accessible controls on front
  • Laundry sink and countertop no more than 34 inches above floor with knee space below for seated users
  • Bright task-lighting in laundry
  • Wall-mounted folding table that lies flat when not in use
  • Non-slip flooring

Bedroom Checklist

Here is a list of design and product suggestions for a home bedroom that can increase safety, comfort, convenience, and livability for everyone. Check off the ideas that you may want to include in your own home.

  • 36-inch-wide doors for easy access or pocket doors
  • Rocker-style light switches, 42 inches off the floor
  • Closet with multi-level or pull-down shelving and clothes rod
  • Avoid bi-fold or accordion closet doors, which can be difficult to open and close
  • Electrical outlets 18inches off the floor
  • Extra electrical outlets to accommodate technology or future medical-equipment needs

Bathroom Checklist

Below is a list of design and product suggestions for a home bathroom that can increase safety, comfort, convenience, and livability for everyone. Check off the ideas that you may want to include in your own home.

  • 36-inch-wide door for easy access, or pocket door
  • Rocker-style light switches, 42 inches off the floor
  • Lever handle, anti-scald faucets on sink, bathtub, and shower
  • No threshold walk-in or roll-in shower with minimum dimensions 5 feet by 3 feet (4 feet preferred)
  •   Hand-held, adjustable-height showerhead with easily operable controls
  • Maneuvering space that accommodates a 60-inch turning radius
  • Toilet centered 18 inches from any side wall, tub, or cabinet
  • Toilet seat 17 to 19 inches off floor for older persons, lower for children
  • Grab bars or wall-blocking for future installation in tub, shower and near toilet
  • Knee space under sink for seated users
  • Easy-glide drawers that close automatically
  • Countertops with rounded edges
  • Bright, non-glare lighting
  • Reduced-slip tile or non-skid floor
  • D-shaped or pull-style cabinet and drawer handles
  • Full-length and/or tilted mirror that can be used seated or standing
  • Towel bars, soap and toothbrush holders 48 inches off floor
  • Sink bowl mounted close to front edge of vanity for easier use while seated
  • Integral transfer seat in tub and built-in bench or shower chair in shower
  • Electrical outlets 18 inches off the floor

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