BASF Better Planet House Highlights Universal Design Possibilities


Universal design seems to be going… well, universal.

While people with disabilities have long had to fight for wheelchair-friendly doorway widths and roll-in showers, more mainstream architects and designers are starting to take interest in universal design thanks to the concept's ability to make just about anyone feel more at home.

Case in point: BASF — a New Jersey-based chemical company producing polymers, automotive and industrial coatings, and agricultural products — created the Better Home project while partnering with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Energy, in addition to manufacturers of environmentally friendly and accessible products.

The "Better Planet" house in Paterson, N.J., is a 2,900-square-foot prototype of how a home can be universally welcoming, while leaving a smaller-than-usual imprint on its environment. The home, for instance, heats water via solar power, has improved insulation so heating and air conditioning units can be downsized, and uses significant amounts of recycled materials.

Inside, the home — which originally was open for private tours by architects and builders, but will eventually be used by a family who has a disabled teen — includes a ceiling-mounted patient lift from bedroom to bathroom, and a Best Bath Systems wheelchair-accessible shower with grab bars and handheld shower head. The house features an elevator, widened hallways, and kitchen appliances with controls mounted in easy-to-reach locations. Appliances can also be mounted on pedestals or fitted with larger, easier-to-read visual cues so seniors can avoid bending over or squinting while operating the oven or dishwasher.

For details on the Better Planet home, which is being turned over to its new owners this summer, go to or

This article originally appeared in the September 2006 issue of Mobility Management.

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