Beyond aesthetics: Accessibility at the forefront
By Jillian MorganHPAC General Plumbing
Accessible home design fuels an evolution of the kitchen for homeowners and of installation practices for plumbing contractors.
Universal design, accessible design, inclusive design and aging in place – it is not just a trend.
A barrier-free home goes beyond aesthetics. It accounts for age, ability and the diversity of each person in a home.
In the kitchen, efficiency and convenience is key. Demand for aging-in-place design goes hand-in-hand with new, smart technologies that simplify everyday tasks. Still, style should not be compromised.
With inclusivity comes personalization, and the future kitchen will do away with minimalist colour schemes. Tried and true favourites – gold, black and copper – emerge to elevate these trends.
For plumbing contractors, advances in installation, a wave of new technology and the growth of universal design introduce new opportunities on the job.
Aging in place design incorporates long-term design elements, says Edyta Drutis, director of marketing for Blanco Canada. She says universal design allows all individuals in a home to “truly engage with their built environment.”
Appliances and fixtures that maximize comfort and accessibility in the kitchen, and incorporate the latest technology, are key to inclusive design, although that technology is continuously evolving.
Less than five years ago, hands-free faucets were a budding trend with some kinks. Now, touchless operation is commonplace.
Products, such as Moen’s MotionSense Wave faucets and Pfister’s Stellen faucets with React technology, focus on convenience and ease for homeowners.
Kohler’s touchless and lever faucet handles aim to allow the user to maintain a neutral body position, use reasonable operating forces and minimize repetitive actions and sustained physical effort.
“The next big evolution is voice command,” says Donna Church, marketing and communications manager of Kohler Canada.
To sustain universal design principles, plumbing contractors will be essential.
“The role of plumbing both in the design and installation of accessible products is very important,” says George Koutsokostas, product manager at Blanco Canada.
Manufacturers must design accessible products in accordance with federal, provincial and municipal standards. Plumbers have the added responsibility of being knowledgeable in the installation of these products, says Koutsokostas.
For example, according to the CSA Standards for Accessible design, both hot water and drainpipes are required to be offset towards to rear of a kitchen sink and not around the clear space.
An evolution of standards related to accessible design takes into account ease of installation. Kohler Canada offers two types of faucet installation that aim to simplify the process.
Quick Faucet Installation features pre-attached supply lines that are included in all kitchen faucets. The lines are retrofitted to existing plumbing and come with pre-assembled handles, valves, mounting rings and brackets. Versatile Faucet Installation is compatible with one to four-hole sinks.
“Consumers are no longer satisfied with cookie-cutter designs, they want personalization in both style and functionality,” says Garry Scott, vice president of marketing and e-commerce at Moen Canada. “We’re also seeing that more consumers are open to experimenting with colour, whether it be mixing the colours of their cabinetry or fixtures.”
In regards to fixtures, matte black continues to be a popular option, as it works with just about every style and colour palette, according to Scott. Gold is also becoming a popular choice with homeowners and designers – but it is not just versatility in colour on the rise.
“As more people ask for ‘chefs kitchens,’ the role of the faucet becomes much more about dual-functionality and performance,” says Avi Abel, president of Watermark Designs. “Pull-down sprays and side sprays are being requested more often.”
According to Drutis, the forefront kitchen design trends are based on versatility of design and quality products that stand the test of time.
“Canadians are not afraid of modern and contemporary spaces,” says Drutis. “We are seeing the most popular kitchen cabinetry tones now being greys, deep blues, white oak, walnut and, of course, the timeless white.”