multifamily building safe Archives - Vancouver Architect

Age-Friendly Home: More Renovation Tips

In the previous article, we have covered the topic of age-friendly home remodeling, and the ways proper adaptations can enable safe and comfortable aging-in-place. Here we will highlight some details that require special attention.

Age-Friendly Home Bathroom: Walk-in Bathtub or Walk-in Shower?

A walk-in bathtub is a favorite among some seniors who experience fatigue often and prefer to sit and bath over standing in the shower. Both solutions have their pros and cons, though. While a walk-in bathtub might be a more comfortable and more affordable investment at the start, it also costs more to use long-term.

west Vancouver bathroom project
Age-friendly home: west Vancouver bathroom project

A walk-in shower with an energy-efficient showerhead will not just ease your life. It will also save you some money on your water bill, up to 30%. Furthermore, it will make your property more competitive in the market, if you ever decide to sell. A renovated, modernized bathroom adds value to your home. 

For seniors with demanding physical conditions, there are also hands-free shower chairs that fit into a walk-in shower.

Grab Bar for Shower/ Tub

Installing grab bars in the right places all around the bathroom is obligatory for an age-friendly home. Equally important is to make sure they are installed correctly and sturdy enough to support sudden shocks and substantial weight. 

Safety bars can help people move around the bathroom more securely. It supports the body in case of sudden fatigue and protects you from injuries if you slip on the wet floor. Properly installed and conveniently positioned safety bars can help prevent bathroom accidents or even death.

Permanently installed safety bars must be anchored to the wall and made of durable materials like stainless steel. Don’t confuse them with suction cup bars, as those are intended only to provide limited assistance with balance.

Age-friendly home, grab bars
Image source: Flicker

Ideally, there should be a vertical entrance bar on a wall opposite the faucet wall, and another one on the faucet wall. For additional safety, one or two horizontal safety bars should be on a side wall, too. That way, you’ll have a bar available in any situation or position. 

Grab Bar for Toilet

Grab bars for the toilet, ideally, come as a pair that surrounds both sides and hosts both arms for proper support. Those are fixed to the wall behind, at one point each. Adequate installation is obligatory to ensure full safety. 

If your bathroom is small and you also worry about aesthetics, opt for multifunctional bars, like 2-in-1. These can also serve other practical purposes, such as holding hand-towels or toilet paper. Other options are wavy bars or long corner grab bars. The latter is a continuous rail that can stretch from the toilet to the door and makes an ideal solution if you need both vertical and horizontal support. 

Age-friendly home, toilet grab bars
Image source: Flicker

Finally, there are moveable grab bars. Those can be hinged to the wall and swiveled or folded out of the way when not in use. These types of bars are ideal for larger toilet areas and people who don’t require bar support all the time. 

Raised Toilet Seats

One of the significant challenges that come with age is bending down safely. An age-friendly home should feature modifications that bring things closer to a senior resident, eliminating most of the bending need. By raising the toilet seat up higher than a traditional toilet, we reduce the chance of an injury and minimize the pains.

Apart from helping seniors who suffer bending or standing difficulties, a raised seat also provides extra support while rehabbing from a surgery or an injury. The hinged toilet seat risers can add over three inches of height to a toilet and support up to several hundred pounds. Those are easy to install and present an excellent solution when buying a whole new toilet isn’t an option.

Age-friendly home, luxury bathroom design
Luxury bathroom design

An age-friendly home should feature bathroom faucets that require no tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist. Ideally, those should be easy to operate with one hand and require very little to none force to activate.

Touchless faucet technology is one of the best innovations for age-friendly homes. Even if your existing manual faucet lever meets all the safety criteria, you can still see plenty of benefits after replacing it with a sensor-controlled alternative. Start from eliminating the need to turn a lever every time, especially with sore, arthritic hands.

Hand-Held Shower Head

Hand-held showerheads are recommended bathroom features for age-friendly homes to help safeguard bathing activities. Those bear the additional advantage of being affordable: a hand-held showerhead costs only a fraction of the price compared to a complete valve hand shower system. 

Furthermore, if you opt for a tub instead of a walk-in shower, a hand-held showerhead will allow you to wash in any position you prefer, including seating.

Age-friendly bathroom
Image source: Flicker

In the tub area, safety and body control can heavily depend on the position of the showerhead. If it stands too high, it may present a challenge to reach. If it’s too low, it may require bending and uncomfortable body positioning. Both options can have an advert effect on balance, leading to scalding or slips and falls. That is another example of why it’s best to skip DIY for an age-friendly home and hire professionals to do the work.

Age-Friendly Home Requires Improved Lighting

Some studies found that a 60-year-old senior needs a double amount of lighting compared to adolescents. While adding more light is the solution, it still needs to be followed by proper customizations. Distribution is important, as well as sources and locations. An ambient LED lighting setting will secure uniform distribution without increasing power consumption. It is also an excellent way to equalize lighting transitions between rooms and eliminate sudden flashes and contrasts. 

master bathroom
Richmond master bathroom

Shielding is good, as it prevents issues that can come with glare, so don’t avoid them in an attempt to secure more light. Keep in mind that quality is crucial, which sometimes also means that less is more.

Enclosed environments like showers can easily trap moisture and become prone to mould and mildew. Bathroom exhaust fans use electricity and aren’t always practical. A better way to increase air circulation is by raising the ceiling level, where possible. If you can follow that by replacing the windows, you could also secure a maximal amount of available daylight.

Slip-Resistance Flooring

One of the essential things to pay attention to if you make an age-friendly home is a floor. That particularly applies to bathrooms and walk-in showers. Opt for small, textured shower tiles rather than large, glazed ones. The abundance of grouting, together with the texture, will keep your feet from slipping and help you to move safely once the floor gets soapy and wet. Look for tiles that are easy to clean and resistant to mold, humidity, and stains.

Reduce Hot Water Tank Temperature

Adding a simple thermostatic valve to the fixture that keeps the water is a wise move. It allows maintaining a safe, consistent temperature within a few degrees and prevents shower water fluctuations from warm to cold or hot without warning.

While steady water temperature is something we can all appreciate, in an age-friendly home, it’s a must. Aging brings mobility challenges, and that means a senior’s muscles move and react progressively slower. Sudden temperature changes come as a shock, without any warning to get out of the way. That triggers impulsive reactions, putting a senior in several potentially dangerous situations that could result in an injury.

Avoid Sharp Edge Countertops

Laminate or quartz countertops are a common remodeling solution for bathrooms and kitchens. In an age-friendly home, those need to stand at the optimal height to provide additional safety. Installing one lower countertop or several countertops with varying levels allows for the diversity of use.

Regardless of countertop materials, it would be best if you make sure to avoid sharp edges. Those typical 90-degree angles can prove seriously problematic for seniors since a single false move can result in a painful injury. Avoid the risk by rounding off all countertop edges, either as a simple curve, bullnose, or a double-bevel.

Aging in place requires a properly adapted age-friendly home. To avoid the risk that comes with mistakes and lack of the right information, schedule a free professional consultation, and see what we can do for you.

Is your multifamily building safe and COVID-19 Proof?

After the epidemic, health officials implemented many rules and regulations in public spaces. But we also have our private life to think about. Is your townhome, condo, apartment building, or multifamily building safe enough?

The units where we should feel snug and secure can become more dangerous than the outside world. For instance, most of the older buildings use outdated carpets and wall coverings. It’s also possible that those haven’t been maintained for a long time. The porous surfaces can absorb the virus from outside and spread it through the unit’s ventilation system. 

To keep your multifamily building safe, you should ask your strata manager or building manager some serious questions. Start by discovering just how safe the flooring or wall covering in your building is? Piping needs to be inspected, too, as well as the ventilation and/or heating/cooling system.

Air quality is essential in keeping multifamily building safe
Air quality is the key

Another necessary inspection is that of ducking for each ventilation/heating/cooling system. If those are not separated, in order to avoid air mix between units, you must take steps for significant improvements ASAP. 

While there is still much uncertainty regarding this virus’s nature, it’s wise to conduct as many immediate preventative steps as possible to reduce the risk of infection.

Ventilation Is Essential in Keeping Your Multifamily Building Safe

Recirculating air has become the default in many buildings. Still, with all the controversy, old-style ventilating with outdoor air becomes vital. It’s the simple but efficient way of diluting airborne contaminants, thus decreasing transmission rates. If necessary, consider replacing or adapting some or all windows so you can simply open them wide to let in more outdoor air.

Humidity matters, too. Some studies suggest that viruses can survive in low-humidity environments more easily. Heating and ventilation systems can help to increase humidity and maintain an optimal range of 40 to 60%.

Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) filters indoor pollution. Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems can help reduce the airborne concentration of pathogens if adequately designed and operated. Those must be, however, installed by qualified and experienced engineering professionals – otherwise may turn dangerously counterproductive. 

modern house design
Pool water needs proper maintenance, too

You or your building manager should engage the technicians to identify the ways and directions the air moves through spaces. Such tests should determine both the flow and leakage. In the case of non-separate ducking, there are several solutions, including HVAC upgrades, installing new doors or air curtains, and sealing the gaps. 

Indoor air filtering has a role of its own. Changes to air filtration practices may take more time to implement. However, research suggests that filtration of recirculated air may significantly help in reducing the transmission of airborne infectious diseases. HEPA filters in their full potential can remove 99% of particles measuring 0·3 microns or more. These filters are not an investment with temporary importance, as those also remove vapor, dust, bacteria, and fungi.

Improve Cleaning Protocols to Make Your Multifamily Building Safe

Regular cleaning protocols need upgrading to meet the demands of the current situation. Increased frequency and regular supplies are a crucial step. However, not all surfaces are the same. Replacing outdated carpets and wall coverings will return with a double benefit. For instance, ceramic tiles are not only far less prone to retain the virus and dirt than the carpet—but also very fast and easy to clean as many times as needed. In multi-apartment buildings with high traffic flow, this is one of the smartest adaptations you can make. 

surrey renovation
Easy to maintain and sanitize

Plumbing Matters

There are several protocols and guidelines to minimize potential transmission risk through wastewater plumbing systems. These include but are not limited to: 

  • investigating any unexplained foul odors in bathrooms, kitchens, or wash areas in order to detect and prevent leakage
  • ensuring that all water appliances in bathrooms and kitchens feature a functioning U-bend/U-trap
  • opening a tap on all water appliances twice a day for no less than 5 seconds to prevent the deficit of the water trap seal within a U-bend/U-trap
  • sealing any disconnected, cracked, open, or leaking wastewater pipework from appliances 
  • continuously monitor all system performances

Investing in Keeping Multifamily Building Safe Is Investing in the Future

Some types of renovations will not only make your multifamily building safe but may also bring a high ROI outside of the COVID-19 field of interest. 

The exterior of the building makes more than just the first impression. With maintenance-free vinyl shutters, you can eliminate a part of the risks while also improving the appeal. Alongside this, you could add some textural elements as a “one-and-done” type of investment and kill two flies with one hit.

Is your multifamily building safe enough?

Security is always important. All doors and windows in each unit should lock effectively, as well as the front and back doors to the building. If possible, install new doors or at least new locks to enhance as much of contactless traffic as possible. This improvement can also be a considerable ROI booster for the future.

Unit Layout

Since total square footage can be tight in older building apartments, spending all the time at home requires some adaptation, too. That applies notably if one or more residents are working from home. Sometimes a layout change can make the unit appear significantly larger, so consider a change that can bring a potential ROI. Opening up or knocking out a wall can create an open concept. It’s particularly useful in a smaller space, as you can easily adapt it further by temporary dividers. That way, you can secure more than one separated workspace without sacrificing valuable floor area.

Affordable remodeling doesn’t mean over-improving kitchens and bathrooms. It’s in no meaning necessary to use marble or granite finishes. There are less expensive materials that still deliver improved user experience and enhance safety. Newly updated yet less expensive countertops, cabinets, appliances simplify the sanitizing process while still raising the value of the place. Newer appliances and durable flooring bring it further, and on top of all, such an investment reduces ongoing maintenance costs.

Balconies matter, too

Balconies present a few additional square feet you could use in many creative ways. It may seem challenging at first, but some small interventions can turn into valuable experience in the long term. In case we witness more of hard isolation days, our balconies will become places of social life, so think ahead. If you are short of ideas, hire an architect and watch him doing his magic.

Questions to Ask If You’re Hiring a Contractor During COVID-19 Pandemic

It’s strongly advisable to ask the contractor company all the relevant questions related to the job. Suppose your multifamily building is not professionally managed, or for any reason, you have to be the person responsible for the task. In that case, you need to take steps to ensure that any repair or remodel job will be conducted in line with the proper safety standards. Start with inquiring about the steps they took regarding protection and prevention. You need to be sure that you are in the right hands, above all.

Ask about the precautions the working team will take while working on the site. Do they use masks or plastic barriers, how is the shift organized? What about physical distance, are there any rules for traffic flow? How do they handle sanitisation? Make as many inquiries as possible, and hire only among companies who convinced you that they know what they’re doing.

Is your multifamily building safe?

If you plan to visit their showroom, observe the hygiene and if all the frequently used items are regularly sanitized. That applies to phones, work stations, computers, doorknobs, light switches, and bathroom fixtures. Additionally, office personnel should be devoted to sanitizing themselves regularly before and after interactions. Such a visit can tell you a lot about if the company can be considered reliable enough to hire during Covid-19.

Construction Tasks in Private Homes

The rules for employees that conduct work in private homes are no different than others. The contractor or general supervisor must assess the potential risk of infection for workers in advance and implement measures to minimize such risk as effectively as possible. Keep in mind that the more measures your contractor implements—the safer the worksite and the residents. 

A short summarize of the contractor’s duties defined by the Standardized Protocols for all Canadian construction sites:

  • Prioritize the health and safety of workers and of their surrounding communities
  • Apply recommendations and best practices from federal, provincial, and municipal public health authorities to construction site procedures
  • Establish and maintain a standard COVID-19 Pandemic Response Plan across construction sites
  • Foster open communication among stakeholders and ensure a respectful work environment.
Is your multifamily building safe?
Is your multifamily building safe?

Lessons for Tomorrow

Some say that a proper quarantine is impossible if you live in a public or multifamily building. However, the lessons we learn every day will not only help the current situation but also transfer into a better tomorrow. We have been taking more for granted than we think. This is our time to learn just how much healthy buildings are essential in creating a healthy world. By making them safe and COVID-19-proof, we are creating safer environments for the time to come.

By Aryo Falakrou (My Home Designer)