The modern architect today is expected to be creative in the design of structures that are not only aesthetically appealing and functional but also sustainable. The modern architect has to incorporate the principles of universal design to deliver designs that agree with principles of universal design. The design must be equitable and flexible in the use as well as being simple and intuitive in use. The use of minimal low physical effort and the latitude for error are all important to be factored in. The need for size and space, as well as simplicity in the design is critical in the designing process (Ball 2012). Fab Cab has incorporated the principles of universal design and incorporated the three sustainability criteria of ecology, economy and culture in its design for the aging (Kasian.com 2017) population segment of the society.
Fab Cab has made good use the foci of a local economy in its design of the prefab models for their target niche of the aging population. The approach taken by Fab Cab is local and slow in its design. The founder Emory Baldwin together with Maura Parente saw the need for a new product that would meet the local needs of catering for the aging population (Thorpe 2012). The thirteen years experience of working in projects for seniors showed the need for a new design that would reassert the independence of the senior’s age group ( Walker 2017, para one). The current local house design for the seniors is overly-institutional and saps their sense of self-esteem. Parente who worked in the nursing industry for the aged also discovered that the current facilities were unfriendly in the use for the aged, some of who were physically compromised. Together they designed a model that would be local to meet the needs of the aging population.
The designs are for the US market and can be localized for any particular neighborhood. Fab Cab uses local materials that are found within the US for its construction which benefits the local economy as a whole ( Lafarge Holcim 2017). The power of ten where the company uses materials within a ten mile radius is a good way to localize the design of their product ( Chan and Lee 2008, para 5). The cost is reasonable at $ 145,000 for 550 square foot house which is turn-key with all the finishing. The cost is reasonable for a senior who is living on their retirement dues and who is looking for a good house that would be comfortable and still affordable (Thorpe 2012). The use of local economy will lead to lower costs which will reflect in a saving for the clients. The use of local materials will also lead to shorter completion time for the project as the materials are from the locality and this ultimately will ensure that the local economy is high and stable.
The design was slow in its application as it targets a segment that is slower in their daily life activities (Thorpe, 2007). The philosophy and principle behind it is the reduction of human, economic and resource use. The focus is repositioning the focus on the individual and their socio-cultural and environmental well-being. The majority of the models designed by Fab Cab have 2-3 steps leading up to the porch that is seamless and integrated into the landscape (Ghys 2013). As one is entering the house, they are slowed down by the steps and take time to appreciate the beauty of the surroundings. The design celebrates the slowness of the senior and the concept of the continuous present that is with us.
The founder together with Parente took time to design a holistic model that results in a house that is “people first”. The model provides space to think and muse for the senior and is local first and global second (design 2017). The house are designed to bring about behavioral change by encouraging children to live with their parents at their backyards and this is beneficial for both the senior and their children and grandchildren. The grandchildren will benefit from the social interaction with their grandparents. The senior lives in a house that is designed to age in place, meaning the children of the main house will in the future move in once the parent (senior) passes on.
The use of slow design will also result in the long-term social change from the current fast-paced life-style that is the norm in the Western world to a more relaxed and slow pace of living. A slower living paradigm offers the whole society time to think and reflect things which are taken for granted. Taking time to enjoy the greenery around the house, a bird on a tree due to the purposely designed model will give people the opportunity to enjoy the things with intrinsic value.
The ecological perspective of invisible material is well utilized in the design of the houses. Fab cab makes use of an anti-microbial glaze for tiles and grippy cork mosaic flooring to prevent illness or falls. The use of cork is important from ecological foci because there is a sustainable process in the harvesting of the cork from the cork oak tree. Using material that is ecologically sustainable and that can provide a meaningful livelihood for the farmers involved in the commercial planting is desirable for sustainable design (Heberle and Opp 2016). The tree is not cut down but it is the bark that is stripped. The cork material has several properties that are of importance in choosing it as the floor covering.
It is impermeable and is useful in a covering that would be prone to spillage which will not permeate and leave a permanent stain (HGTV, 2017). The senior may be prone to spilling fluids on the floor due to decreased motor nerve functions due to complications that come with age such as Alzheimer’s syndrome. The frequent spilling of fluids would necessitate frequent carpet vacuuming which would be a physical exertion that most seniors would find uncomfortable. The wear and tear would eventually lead to carpet replacement at a cost. The use of cork would make cleaning easier with the use of a simple mop to clean spillages.
The cork is buoyant and elastic and helps to give the senior that extra feeling of bouncing and feeling young and energetic. There is a feeling of a bouncy step when walked on. The use of cork also helps in providing grip for seniors in the case of liquids that have spilled and may be hazardous due to slipperiness and may lead to the seniors falling and dislocating the bodies. The use of cork is also desirable in the event that accidental fires break out in the house. It has got fire retardant properties and would greatly reduce the risk of the fire spreading quickly.
The use of an anti-microbial glaze is important in the house for the health of the seniors. At their age they may be prone to opportunistic infections that may be as a result of allergies. The glaze inhibits the growth of microbes that lead to contamination and contribute to a healthier living environment ( RAK ceramics2017). By its nature, tiles do contribute to good air quality and sterile tiles are therefore desired in a home setting. The glazing of the tiles provides a long-term solution against bacteria as compared o regular disinfecting which is tiresome and an added cost to the senior. Antimicrobial tiles require three ingredients: an active ingredient, a carrier for that active ingredient, and a mechanism to release the active ingredient from the carrier (Rangineni and Astrachan 2011, para 3). Most commonly used active ingredients are quaternary ammonium salts, metal ions (such as silver, zinc, or titanium), triclosan and other bacteriostatic and fungistatic chemicals.
Any material in the house that may be escaping such as off-gassing may eventually settle on the floor. A floor which is not sterilized regularly eventually becomes the breeding ground for bacteria which leads to opportunistic infections. Most microbes settle on surfaces as a biofilm which leads to discoloration and fouling and corrosion. The glaze helps to counter any harmful debris that may fall on the floor and which may potentially become the breeding ground for germs and bacteria. This is especially important for wet areas such as the bathroom and kitchen which are tiled. The dirt which is inherently greater in these two areas has been addressed by Fab Cab by the use of this novel approach in their design.
The use of sustainable design is important for the architect as a responsible eco citizen. The sustainable use of resources by Fab Cab is a good case study that takes time to study, research and develop a product that holistic and beneficial to all those that will use it. There is a cultural need to slow down in a fast paced world and design a product for a slowed down segment of the society that is sustainable in the design. The use of resources that are locally available and a product that is targeted at a local economy is also another consideration of sustainable design. The use of cork and anti-microbial tiles has also factored in another important principle of sustainable design. The model that Fab Cab has designed is true to their motto of “Aging in Place” and is not just a good catch phrase, but is practical in the applicability. This model passes the three focuses of ecology, economy and culture as put forward by Ann Thorpe in her book- The Designer’s Atlas of Sustainability. This model can be replicated globally because it adheres to the principles of Universal Design and sustainability.
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