Making an old house accessible (part 1)

This old Vancouver home was owned by the same family for decades.  And as the cost of Vancouver real estate continues to skyrocket, the house was in need of a re-think so that it could work for the future of the family.

The challenge with this renovation was to divide the house up into three living units.  This would allow three generations to live together, with independence.

We designed each unit with the principles of universal design.  The doorways are wider than standard.  The kitchens have open legroom under the sink and cooktop, and there is plenty of room for a wheelchair to maneuver throughout the rooms.  The hallways are also more generous than the minimum required.  These simple moves will make the house work for almost anyone.  The needs of the family will shift over time, so flexibility is key.

We started by sketching up ideas for dividing up the house.  It made the most sense to divide by floor.  So each floor has one living unit.  

To make the house even more useable, we incorporated an elevator, making all levels accessible for all.  

It costs a lot to renovate.  In fact, in this case, it would be more cost-effective to raze and start again.  However, the house has sentimental value.  And more importantly, the lot is small, meaning the zoning would only allow a house that is half the size of the existing home.  So in this case, it made sense to keep the home. 

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