The Role of Smart Technology in Universal Design

Published: May 3, 2024

Design of a residential space is a personal, artistic collaboration between the design team and the intended occupant. Every human’s individual taste, lifestyle and identity result in a varied kaleidoscope of residential self-expression. However, there are universalities in design that allow spaces to function as inclusive meccas, providing safety, comfort and convenience for all occupants, regardless of age, size or ability. These inclusive design choices begin before a project even starts.

Universal Design Is Good Design

Designing spaces prepared for all eventualities can provide homeowners the solutions they need in the years to come. Whether it’s raising a family, periods of convalescence or living in place during their golden years, universal design is good design and is essential in creating an elevated quality of life for all.

“We often think of universal design as something that’s only in regard for those with limitations in mobility, but it’s bigger than abilities,” said Molly Switzer, AKBD, principal designer and owner of Molly N Switzer Designs in Portland, Ore. “It’s about how we can utilize spaces throughout our lives, and technology can help.”

Creating Equity with Technology

Long regarded as exclusively an entertaining luxury, modern residential technology is now an accessible tool within the built environment. At the touch of a button, lights can dim or shift colors to soothe those with sensory needs, shades can lower on out-of-reach windows, and doors open automatically. Notifications can appear on televisions, and lights can flash to alert hard-of-hearing occupants to the sound of the doorbell or other alarms. Those without the ability to read or the dexterity to type can dictate to or ask questions of voice-controlled virtual assistants.

Get the latest kitchen and bath products, trends and news delivered to your inbox.

“The fact that you don’t have to ask someone for help, whether it’s to open the drapes or answer the door, gives people the dignity of independence,” said Toni Sabatino, owner of New York-based Toni Sabatino Style.

According to Troy Dunnington, owner and CEO of San Diego-based Lightworks, technology solutions all have a reliance on the presence of power to the home, and for those reliant on technology for accessibility, it is imperative they don’t lose those supports when the power goes out. Modern home automation provides energy management solutions that support battery storage, renewable sources and the grid. These systems give both peace of mind and the independence for homeowners to continue their daily lives with the technology that supports quality.

Intuitive Experiences

Clients and even designers have various levels of comfort with using residential technology based on their past experiences. Projects are strengthened by including residential integration pros on the design team, who are trained in the implementation of technology for the best user experience.

“Our mission is to enable the technology within a space to work seamlessly to enhance the everyday moments of life,” said Nick DeClemente, founder and CEO of Elevated Integration in Armonk, N.Y. “Homeowners shouldn’t be thinking about the technology itself, only the experience they have as a result.”

Additionally, home technology brands should be viewed as partners to designers. Curating the right team of professionals for each project is critical to ensuring the finished result is a well-designed experience where the technology complements both the aesthetic and the functionality of a homeowner’s lifestyle. With the right team and the right solutions, technology itself can disappear, and only a homeowner’s life experiences remain.

Ultimately, technology can help achieve any universal design goal, which is for a homeowner to no longer have to figure out how to accomplish a task but for the task to be easily accomplished. Providing a lifetime of flexible independence and dignity for homeowners requires insightful conversations among the entire project team and the client, as well as the empathy to envision the unforeseen needs of the client’s future self. After all, good design is always an exercise in deeply understanding others.

By Greg Barrett, director of specifier development, Savant Systems

Photo credit: Halfpoint/Adobe Stock

Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
B2B Marketing Exchange
B2B Marketing Exchange East
Buyer Insights & Intelligence Series
Campaign Optimization Series