safety Archives | Vancouver Architect

Age-Friendly Home: More Renovation Tips

In the previous article, we have covered the topic of age-friendly home remodeling, and the ways proper adaptations can enable safe and comfortable aging-in-place. Here we will highlight some details that require special attention.

Age-Friendly Home Bathroom: Walk-in Bathtub or Walk-in Shower?

A walk-in bathtub is a favorite among some seniors who experience fatigue often and prefer to sit and bath over standing in the shower. Both solutions have their pros and cons, though. While a walk-in bathtub might be a more comfortable and more affordable investment at the start, it also costs more to use long-term.

west Vancouver bathroom project
Age-friendly home: west Vancouver bathroom project

A walk-in shower with an energy-efficient showerhead will not just ease your life. It will also save you some money on your water bill, up to 30%. Furthermore, it will make your property more competitive in the market, if you ever decide to sell. A renovated, modernized bathroom adds value to your home. 

For seniors with demanding physical conditions, there are also hands-free shower chairs that fit into a walk-in shower.

Grab Bar for Shower/ Tub

Installing grab bars in the right places all around the bathroom is obligatory for an age-friendly home. Equally important is to make sure they are installed correctly and sturdy enough to support sudden shocks and substantial weight. 

Safety bars can help people move around the bathroom more securely. It supports the body in case of sudden fatigue and protects you from injuries if you slip on the wet floor. Properly installed and conveniently positioned safety bars can help prevent bathroom accidents or even death.

Permanently installed safety bars must be anchored to the wall and made of durable materials like stainless steel. Don’t confuse them with suction cup bars, as those are intended only to provide limited assistance with balance.

Age-friendly home, grab bars
Image source: Flicker

Ideally, there should be a vertical entrance bar on a wall opposite the faucet wall, and another one on the faucet wall. For additional safety, one or two horizontal safety bars should be on a side wall, too. That way, you’ll have a bar available in any situation or position. 

Grab Bar for Toilet

Grab bars for the toilet, ideally, come as a pair that surrounds both sides and hosts both arms for proper support. Those are fixed to the wall behind, at one point each. Adequate installation is obligatory to ensure full safety. 

If your bathroom is small and you also worry about aesthetics, opt for multifunctional bars, like 2-in-1. These can also serve other practical purposes, such as holding hand-towels or toilet paper. Other options are wavy bars or long corner grab bars. The latter is a continuous rail that can stretch from the toilet to the door and makes an ideal solution if you need both vertical and horizontal support. 

Age-friendly home, toilet grab bars
Image source: Flicker

Finally, there are moveable grab bars. Those can be hinged to the wall and swiveled or folded out of the way when not in use. These types of bars are ideal for larger toilet areas and people who don’t require bar support all the time. 

Raised Toilet Seats

One of the significant challenges that come with age is bending down safely. An age-friendly home should feature modifications that bring things closer to a senior resident, eliminating most of the bending need. By raising the toilet seat up higher than a traditional toilet, we reduce the chance of an injury and minimize the pains.

Apart from helping seniors who suffer bending or standing difficulties, a raised seat also provides extra support while rehabbing from a surgery or an injury. The hinged toilet seat risers can add over three inches of height to a toilet and support up to several hundred pounds. Those are easy to install and present an excellent solution when buying a whole new toilet isn’t an option.

Age-friendly home, luxury bathroom design
Luxury bathroom design

An age-friendly home should feature bathroom faucets that require no tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist. Ideally, those should be easy to operate with one hand and require very little to none force to activate.

Touchless faucet technology is one of the best innovations for age-friendly homes. Even if your existing manual faucet lever meets all the safety criteria, you can still see plenty of benefits after replacing it with a sensor-controlled alternative. Start from eliminating the need to turn a lever every time, especially with sore, arthritic hands.

Hand-Held Shower Head

Hand-held showerheads are recommended bathroom features for age-friendly homes to help safeguard bathing activities. Those bear the additional advantage of being affordable: a hand-held showerhead costs only a fraction of the price compared to a complete valve hand shower system. 

Furthermore, if you opt for a tub instead of a walk-in shower, a hand-held showerhead will allow you to wash in any position you prefer, including seating.

Age-friendly bathroom
Image source: Flicker

In the tub area, safety and body control can heavily depend on the position of the showerhead. If it stands too high, it may present a challenge to reach. If it’s too low, it may require bending and uncomfortable body positioning. Both options can have an advert effect on balance, leading to scalding or slips and falls. That is another example of why it’s best to skip DIY for an age-friendly home and hire professionals to do the work.

Age-Friendly Home Requires Improved Lighting

Some studies found that a 60-year-old senior needs a double amount of lighting compared to adolescents. While adding more light is the solution, it still needs to be followed by proper customizations. Distribution is important, as well as sources and locations. An ambient LED lighting setting will secure uniform distribution without increasing power consumption. It is also an excellent way to equalize lighting transitions between rooms and eliminate sudden flashes and contrasts. 

master bathroom
Richmond master bathroom

Shielding is good, as it prevents issues that can come with glare, so don’t avoid them in an attempt to secure more light. Keep in mind that quality is crucial, which sometimes also means that less is more.

Enclosed environments like showers can easily trap moisture and become prone to mould and mildew. Bathroom exhaust fans use electricity and aren’t always practical. A better way to increase air circulation is by raising the ceiling level, where possible. If you can follow that by replacing the windows, you could also secure a maximal amount of available daylight.

Slip-Resistance Flooring

One of the essential things to pay attention to if you make an age-friendly home is a floor. That particularly applies to bathrooms and walk-in showers. Opt for small, textured shower tiles rather than large, glazed ones. The abundance of grouting, together with the texture, will keep your feet from slipping and help you to move safely once the floor gets soapy and wet. Look for tiles that are easy to clean and resistant to mold, humidity, and stains.

Reduce Hot Water Tank Temperature

Adding a simple thermostatic valve to the fixture that keeps the water is a wise move. It allows maintaining a safe, consistent temperature within a few degrees and prevents shower water fluctuations from warm to cold or hot without warning.

While steady water temperature is something we can all appreciate, in an age-friendly home, it’s a must. Aging brings mobility challenges, and that means a senior’s muscles move and react progressively slower. Sudden temperature changes come as a shock, without any warning to get out of the way. That triggers impulsive reactions, putting a senior in several potentially dangerous situations that could result in an injury.

Avoid Sharp Edge Countertops

Laminate or quartz countertops are a common remodeling solution for bathrooms and kitchens. In an age-friendly home, those need to stand at the optimal height to provide additional safety. Installing one lower countertop or several countertops with varying levels allows for the diversity of use.

Regardless of countertop materials, it would be best if you make sure to avoid sharp edges. Those typical 90-degree angles can prove seriously problematic for seniors since a single false move can result in a painful injury. Avoid the risk by rounding off all countertop edges, either as a simple curve, bullnose, or a double-bevel.

Aging in place requires a properly adapted age-friendly home. To avoid the risk that comes with mistakes and lack of the right information, schedule a free professional consultation, and see what we can do for you.

Building Technology and Safety: What COVID-19 Brings on the Table

The Good News

The construction and building technology have both improved and evolved over the years to help us encounter difficulties with building safety we faced over the years. Fire, water damage, collapse, and earthquake issues all led us to develop more advanced building codes for building designers, electrical, mechanical, structural practice as well as materials production. Architects and designers always have to keep learning to interpret the design standards and building technology in line with new rules to be able to create beautiful buildings that last long, even in the time of pandemics. 

Between client expectations, the construction budget, the local bylaw and building code, most designers become as conservative as possible to deliver an ultra safe result which sacrifices the beauty and in times functionality. There are some exceptions, of course.

Architecture and art of building design are facing another obstacle to deal with. How will we design the buildings of tomorrow to deal with transmittable diseases?

Modern Building, building technology
Modern Building

Building Technology and the New Normal

Physical distancing, adjusted schedules, split shifts where possible, and implementing healthcare officials in operating businesses are all part of the new normal. Construction workers belong to no exception. New rules are deployed to maintain the strict limits defined by expert authorities in order to maintain productivity in the safest conditions available.

Engineers and contractors are on the learning curve, earning precious safety experience on a daily basis. Sharing knowledge has become essential, internally, and within industry associations, as well as with jurisdictions across the country. It leads to establishing new, more adequate protocols and educating others on what they needed to do to work safely.

The facemasks are obligatory for workers in some conditions, together with handwashing and hand sanitizing stations at worksites. Work crew transportation is limited, while worksites introduced non-contact temperature screening to identify carriers.  Building technology keeps changing and adapting, too.

Innovation is the key to maintaining business operating as usual (or new norm!). It might seem, in the beginning, that general guidelines have covered every issue. Only after the project starts, it may become apparent just how many details need special attention. Have you been thinking about the possibility of hanging a large window while maintaining the recommended physical distance?

ultra modern home
Building of tomorrow?

What May Change in Near Future

How can commercial and office buildings keep functioning? Is it possible for big offices to disappear and be replaced with small satellite offices? In such a case, something will have to be done with the vast existing square footage of empty office and commercial buildings. Who will pay for their mortgage and recurring maintenance fees? 

Turning offices to residential units won’t make them suitable or justify the initial cost.

Even if they do, what kind of tenants will be renting them? Too many rental units available on the market will eventually lead to a rental unit market crash. That alone is sufficient reason to make the repurposing idea unattractive for owners of office buildings.

building tehnology

Some offices are operating with a reduced number of employees working simultaneously. It has become a necessity to create physical distance and a safe working environment. However, that situation won’t last forever. It’s not in the business’s best economic interest to pay the costly lease for big operating space with fewer employees.

How will the hospitality industry adapt? The pandemic heavily influenced the industry, with the number of guests lowered drastically. Would they continue their operation the same way?

The music industry, sports industry, and entertainment industry, in general, all have their survival depending on the mass public’s presence. We need ways to reformat the structure of existing arenas and theatres, to make them sustainable in line with the new normal.

Are we witnessing another industrial revolution, or is this just a temporary hiccup and everything will go back to normal?

Restaurant designer
Not this future

Single-Family and Multi-Family Homes—What Can We Expect to Improve in These Buildings?

Ensuring adequate ventilation is the best standard practice for improving indoor air quality. Increasing ventilation alone is not enough to protect people from COVID-19. However, in combination with other best practices recommended by the Health Officials, it’s a vital part of a plan to protect yourself and your family.

Naturally, to improve ventilation in your home, you can open the windows or screened doors. You can also install and operate a window air conditioner with outdoor air intake or vent, with the vent open. Running a bathroom fan is another highly recommendable practice. 

renovation company surrey
Bathroom Renovation

Can Building Technology Help Protect Our Loved Ones in Our Living Space?

Most of the new single-family homes are installing Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) which filters indoor pollution. If you are buying a house or have a house that doesn’t have one, I recommend installing one ASAP. If you live in a rental unit make sure the units are not interconnected through internal air ducts which can cause the air from one unit to spread to another one!

Most of the multi-family homes use separate ducking for each unit in order to avoid air mix between units. Check that with your building maintenance manager to make sure. In case your building has a different design, you should ask them to have the significant improvements done as some lives are depending on it.

Some building managers and others are trying to take steps to prevent contamination between rooms by avoiding the possibility of airborne transmission. Technicians should identify the ways and directions the air moves through spaces before installing new devices or upgrading air ventilation systems. Such tests should determine both the flow and leakage.

Several options are available. Some involve HVAC upgrades, and others are focusing on more straightforward solutions to address any problems detected. These solutions might include installing new doors or air curtains, as well as generating overpressure over suspended ceilings, and sealing any gaps.

house designer surrey, building technology
House designer surrey

HVAC Systems

Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems are a double-edged sword. Adequately designed and operated, these systems may help in reducing the airborne concentration of pathogens and microorganisms, lowering the risk of transmission through the air. 

(HVAC) systems should not be modified without prior assessment. For maximum safety, such work should be conducted by an appropriately qualified and experienced engineering professional. Any system modifications done by an inexperienced person who does not understand the system or how it works, can increase risks. A wrong setting will have an impact on all other building systems, which could end up in more harm than good. The results would have adverse effects on health and safety, air quality, building air pressure/balance, performance/operation of the HVAC equipment, etc.

Recommendable modifications that require professional assistance to avoid the risk of negatively affecting the performance of the HVAC and other building systems include:

  • replacing existing air filters with higher efficiency air filters;
  • enclosing or separating rooms with temporary or permanent means
  • changing fan speeds, along with adding supply/exhaust fans
  • installing additional integrated filtration units
  • blocking diffusers, or altering existing airflows
  • altering the standard programming of system controls

All alterations to HVAC or other building systems should only be done in consultation with an appropriately qualified and experienced engineering professional.

Maple ridge contemporary home
Healthy home

Protect Yourself Beyond Physical

The vaccine will soon become available and calm the storm down. However, we can’t predict when the next episode of these epidemics will hit us. This might be a new NORM!!!

We are living in an era that the world powers are fighting over world domination. We, as consumers, are victims of their games. So, live like everything will be OK forever, but prepare as if you expect more of these plays.

The face mask is one of a temporary bandaid on the problem and is not enough to do the job.

You are probably aware that you don’t have to wear a face mask in your house or unit if you don’t have a visitor. Even more, wearing a face mask all day long is bad for your health as well. But we are social beings and we can’t jail ourselves inside all the time. We need to get some fresh air or meet a friend or go shopping, right?

Most communities and buildings have already implemented a safety protocol, which is good to follow.

Don’t panic! follow a simple protocol, and stay calm. The more you panic, the more you affect your immune system. Secure the best ventilation you can afford while at home. Wear a mask when you are in public closed areas, and wash your hands often. Stay away from unhealthy food.

Chinese medicine puts its trust into our own immune system to fight any disease. It would help if you did the same. Keep calm. No need to follow the bad news, which does nothing but make you anxious.

Building technology, stay happy

In Short

Remember, life is a journey, and we should take the ride with joy. These times will go by, and we will laugh at them in the near future. All we need to do is to prepare our community and adapt buildings for a better, safer and more organized future.

Keep smiling and let everyone see your smile even through your mask!!!

By Aryo Falakrou (My Home Designer)