Thursday, October 1, 2020
 Designing for Everyone

For professionals in the homebuilding industry, the mission is rather simple: construct all homes to be safer for the client. Of course, along the way there are codes that must be followed to ensure the structure itself is safe and sound. And the utmost attention to detail to ensure the home provides convenience to the homeowner as well as a sense of homeliness—for lack of a better term. That goes for new home builds as well as additions to the home, and even renovation projects.

When the custom integrator is brought into the equation, all of the above remains true. However, added in is the entertainment experience within the home—with a touch of convenience along the way.

While all of the above is absolutely important when it comes to providing high-quality living experiences, it’s true that there’s always been a bit of a gap where the industry could be providing something more to better serve the client. And that’s where the Living In Place Institute was formed to help fill some of those needs.

The organization, formed in 2014, has aimed to raise awareness around building homes that are “accessible, comfortable, and safe.” And to achieve that vision, the Living In Place Institute focuses on home designs and products that industry professionals can employ to improve home accessibility, comfort, and safety.

The way Living In Place Institute (LIPI) cofounder Erik Listou describes it to Connected Design, the fundamentals behind the organization are more like a design philosophy than they are any sort of building code. Listou, along with cofounder Louie Delaware share a dozen different certifications and nearly 90 years of professional experience. Their backgrounds span the commercial and residential construction and renovation space (Listou) and research and development for medical and analytical devices (Delaware) as well as specialty safety construction (professional childproofing, radon mitigation and home modifications for seniors), and together they’ve designed a program that combines those backgrounds and employs practices to redefine what it means to design and build a home that is fit for whomever walks through the front door.

For those in the tech space, what’s been described thus far may sound somewhat familiar. A growing trend in tech has been the development of a subcategory known as aging in place technology. This entails products and services intended to provide independence for an aging population and ways for loved ones to monitor them.

This kind of technology is included in what the Living In Place Institute is working towards, but it only tells part of their story.

“It’s a simple, fundamental difference. It’s the evolution of design,” Listou said. “Aging in place is about older persons. But what about the 12 year old who sprained an ankle while playing soccer, or the 18 year old who was diagnosed with MS, or the 32 year old who has a head cold and is dizzy? … If we focus just on aging in place, we are really skirting the issue. I look at it as we are denying our responsibility and the reality of—we in the industry, we are not medical experts and we shouldn’t be focusing on the people. Instead be focusing on the structures themselves and how to make them safe.”

To that end, LIPI offers 16 hours of education to homebuilding professionals, at the end of which participants earn the CLIPP designation, becoming a Certified Living In Place Professional. Through a series of in-person or virtual classes, LIPI educates professionals on everything from how to conduct a home accessibility assessment, the benefits of appropriate products to help make homes more accessible and safer, how to determine which products and features are best suited for their client’s home, installation ideas, networking, and more.

“A lot of it is common sense. A lot of it is learning new information,” explained Listou. “We’re not asking you to remember 600 different points, but you can walk through the home and check things off as you see them—are the electrical outlets 24-inches above the floor, yes or no and when do you recommend they be changed? That provides a report of what needs to be changed in the home. Therefore it is setting a standard, but we are not mandating a standard—because that causes resistance.”

 Tech's Role In

Living in Place 

All the while, LIPI has been keeping tabs on the technology industry and its pace of change.

In its brief history, the organization has lined up a number of key partnerships that have helped spread the good word. And in going through the list of partners, a number of names certainly stand out for their connection to the technology and home building space: Control4, Toto, Miele, the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), International Interior Design Association (IIDA), and dozens more.

From LIPI’s perspective, the need for those partnerships extends just beyond the benefit of getting their name out there and educating more people on this complete method of home building and home design.

“For the building community, it is often new information, so all too often, if I put on my builder’s hat—no we have always done it this way and I don’t need technology,” Listou said. “But really, we’ve been embracing technology all of the time. The world of electronic technology has just increased so quickly that it is hard to keep pace, and why we say you need to bring in the experts.”

Among the most exciting advancements Listou and LIPI have been keeping tabs on, he said, is voice control. To the average consumer, voice technology has obvious benefits and plenty of cool-factor. But when looked at from an accessibility standpoint, the potential impact is truly exceptional, he said—from controlling appliances, to setting scenes, to arming the security system, all without having to get up and move around, which for some homeowners can be a major challenge.

Looking ahead, the big effort for LIPI is continuing to grow and educate the home building/remodeling/design industry. The way to achieve that Listou said, is to continue focusing on adding new and unique partners along the way. Some new efforts, for example, are already in the works with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Habitat for Humanity, where LIPI is promoting the philosophy.

“We need to go back to our roots sometimes and understand why we are in this industry? Why are we building and renovating homes? Why are we trying to remodel only what people want?” Listou said. “Well, we are in our industry because we care about people and that is the bottom line. We care and it is our job to make all homes as accessible, comfortable, and safe as possible.'

To learn more about the Living In Place Institute and to register for a CLIPP class, visit www.livinginplace.instiute.