Universal Design Bath & Shower Systems Showcased In BASF ‘Better Planet’ House

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Incorporating many aspects of universal design, BASF’s “Better Home, Better Planet” showcase house adds important ergonomic and safety benefits

They are attractive, easy to keep clean, and are available in wide range of colors, enabling you to create designer tile effects.

The often challenging building principles of Universal Design, Eco-Friendly Construction, Energy Efficiency and Home Automation are coalescing in an unprecedented manner at a new BASF-sponsored prototype residence in Paterson, NJ.

Known as the Better Home, Better Planet, Paterson Showhouse, the three-story, 2,900 sq. ft. dwelling will initially serve as a design “clinic” for homeowners, builders, architects and government officials. The home is later destined for a local charity, St. Michael’s Church, which plans to house a local paraplegic teenage boy and his family.

The many access and safety benefits of universal design have been enhanced to meet the special needs of the paraplegic boy, enabling his family to provide everyday care.

A special hoist has been installed in boy’s bedroom and runs on a ceiling-mounted track to an adjoining bathroom that is outfitted with a track- and wheelchair accessible shower. An elevator, accessible kitchen accommodations, extra-wide hallways and other features provide access, comfort and inclusiveness to the disabled boy and his family throughout the dwelling. Overall comfort is ensured by superbly energy-efficient heating and cooling, ergonomically enhanced amenities and “Smart Building” controls.

“The BASF Better Home, Better Planet Paterson house is an energy efficient, environmentally friendly home that demonstrates basic principles of universal design,” says project champion Gary DeSantis, Senior Architect for BASF, The Chemical Company.

“We are building this home for a quadriplegic teenage boy, so we’ve included specific elements for him that may not be necessarily for, let’s say, senior housing,” DeSantis explains. “But in addition to these special amenities, the house intends to give practical universal design options that can and should be incorporated in any home.”

“One of the areas where this certainly applies is in a home’s bathroom design and shower systems,” says Jeff Mooney, Director of Marketing for Best Bath Systems, whose fiberglass shower systems were used in the project.

The shower adjacent to the disabled boy’s room is a special 2-wall design that allows the track of the special overhead hoist to pass through the enclosure if desired. Alternate wheelchair entry is facilitated by a neoprene “water dam,” a popular Best Bath feature that eliminates the need for a cumbersome curb to keep water from flowing onto the bathroom floor. The water dam consists of a gasket that collapses as a person or wheelchair passes over it then reshapes to prevent the water flow problem.

Another important feature of shower systems is suitable safety rails, or “grab bars.” A wide variety of safety bar styles are available, and these should be installed to meet the physical requirements of the disabled or elderly user. Best Bath shower enclosures are constructed with extra-heavy plywood backing to facilitate the installation of grab bars and hand grips, and also to enable the relocation of such hardware.

For the project, Pat Gaylor, interior designer for the Paterson house, made it her mission to avoid an “institutional” look. For the bathroom design, Gaylor favored the fiberglass shower systems contributed by Best Bath Systems. “They are attractive, easy to keep clean, and are available in wide range of colors, enabling you to create designer tile effects.”

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Jeff Mooney
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