Monday, August 21, 2006 - MiBiz
By DAVID DAVIS
PORTAGE — Aiming to snare a key niche market before its surge, Rick Yarling of R.A. Yarling & Company, has announced the birth of a subsidiary company, Access Design Associates.
Yarling’s eyes are set on capturing the 34 million baby boomer households who will be searching for attractive, accessible housing as they age.
Wassell Residence, Lake Loch Erin, Onsted, MI
“A lot of baby boomers are looking to retire and they will influence two-thirds of consumer buying decisions in this country,” Yarling told MiBiz. “This group is fiercely independent and they want to come and go as they please. They do not want to have to move to a retirement home and we can provide them with custom built residences which will meet their needs.”
Access Design Associates will work with developers in the Midwest and retirement communities in Florida, Texas, and the Carolinas as well as developing custom homes for individuals and renovating existing homes.
The new company will provide custom homes for all persons with mobility issues, including wounded soldiers returning from conflicts overseas.
“The numbers of disabled are definitely increasing,” said Paul Ecklund, Americans With Disabilities Act specialist at the Disability Resource Center of Southwest Michigan. “With the invention of Kevlar vests and helmets, fewer soldiers are dying of their wounds and more are coming home with peripheral injuries to their arms and legs.”
Ecklund told MiBiz that there is currently a lack of handicap-accessible homes in every neighborhood in this country.
||Wassell Residence, Lake Loch Erin, Onsted, MI
“Close to 96 percent of homes are not accessible,” Ecklund said. “If there are any steps at all in the entrance the home isn’t accessible, and those that are accessible tend to have unsightly ramps at the doorway.”
Accessible homes are necessary because not only are people living longer, but there are other issues such as obesity that can isolate individuals in their homes and keep them from social functions at other’s homes.
“As you grow older, in some way you are going to be limited,” Ecklund said. “We advocate better housing design because people will prefer to age in place at their own homes.”
Yarling estimates 25 percent of the population will need accessible homes in the future. He gained his experience designing accessible living quarters through project management of hotels seeking to abide by requirements of the American With Disabilities Act Title III of 1991.
Access Design Associates is an off-shoot of R.A. Yarling & Co., a 10-year-old owner representative project management company that has completed 200 property audits and inspections and 100 property renovations for Marriott International, Hilton Hotels, Apple REIT and other large hotel and corporate chains. The company has been awarded 14 new hotel projects in the past 30 months.
Yarling was first inspired to establish Access Design Associates after his company successfully completed a fully customized home in Michigan’s Irish Hills. Yarling believes accessible homes can meet all the future needs of their owners without appearing sterile and utilitarian.
“Nothing glares at you from one of our homes like it’s a hospital,” he said. “If you have good materials and couple that with good design solutions, the appearance can be appealing.”
The accessible homes Yarling’s company will design and construct have many features allowing residents confined to wheelchairs full access in their living quarters. The home in the Irish Hills has a traditional front entrance as well as a garage entrance with a ramp. Accessible homes have wider hallways with increased turning radius, lowered electrical switches, lowered kitchen counters and cabinets, and possibly roll-in showers with reinforced grab bars.
Access Design Associates also has the capabilities to design homes more easily adaptable to renovations before individuals need the additional accoutrements.
“We can build in the extra space in homes necessary for future remodeling,” Yarling said.
An accessible home will likely cost owners an additional 10 percent on top of the home’s purchase price said Yarling, but that difference will pay off in the long run.
“Owners will be able to remain independent in their homes despite disability, instead of having to look for another residence,” he said.
The extra costs of making a home accessible in its development are far lower than the costs of renovating a home after it has been built. Making hallways wider, creating extra space and grab bar reinforcements in bathrooms, as well as lowering light switches and kitchen cabinets are all necessary for a person confined to a wheelchair.
Ecklund believes it is important for communities to think about their home’s accessibility because as baby boomers grow older, they will seek out residences that will meet their needs.
“If we don’t make our houses accessible then we will lose all of our aging population and in turn all of their input into the local economy,” he said. “Accessibility is important not only for individuals but for our cities.”
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This article appeared in the August issue of MiBiz, read by upper management executives in West and Southwest Michigan. Print subscriptions are free to qualified individuals who are employed in West and Southwest Michigan. For further information about MiBiz, visit www.mibiz.com.
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