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  • Builders are Missing the AIP & UD Boat

    Aaron Murphy

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    Hi, this blog is called Builders are Missing the Aging in Place in Universal Design Boat. My name is Aaron Murphy. I'm founder of ForeverHome. You can find us at So I first spoke with the Builders Industry Association of Washington on stage recently and I wanted to thank them for having Us come speak to them at their state conference as a keynote for the 50 plus council with regard to our expertise as a certified aging in place specialists and licensed architect.

    I also want to thank Molly McCabe with a kitchen that works. She's a kitchen and bath designer that spoke with us and Jerry Churney with IndyBoom, an occupational therapist who also shared the stage during that session. Today what I want to talk about is with the builders missing the boat. There were about 50 people in the room for the presentation, but what shocked me was that 28 to 30 of them were remodelers.

    Now I get that part. They're in homes, they're meeting with boomers and adult children and talking about the family and the future ahead for our demographic, which is changing drastically. 10, 000 people turning 65 every day for the next 18 years, depending on who you ask. What shocked me is there was only two people there representing new construction, actual home builders.

    What are you guys missing? What are you not seeing? What are you not paying attention to? Talk about selling to an ostrich, head in the sand. I get that personally we psychologically have a denial issue with aging, but I'm concerned that we're also in denial as professionals that housing needs to change.

    Two thirds of suburbia is empty nesters now, soon that's going to be three quarters. That means all those houses built in the last 30 or 40 years the way we used to build spetcoms? It's not the house we're looking for in the next four to five buying cycles as a nation, based on an average of every seven years.

    Now, we have people looking for smaller homes, main floor living on, or, you know, the term master or primary bedroom on the main, universal design, aging in place design, that's what we focused our residential work on here for the past 15 plus years. I've done well over a million square feet of commercial work, so I get the ADA baseline that was passed into law back in 1991, but there isn't an ADA for residential architecture.

    So with the spec home builder, typically two things happen. First, the developer clearing the land, that person's sale goal, their product, is about maximizing the number of parcels you can get in a development, because that's your sellable product. That's how you get the most. sold things that help you with your financial goals, but what it results in is minimum lot size by code.

    And then you go on to the person who's buying it, the builder. Their goal as a sellable product is to maximize heated square footage of the house. That's their sales goal is that sweet spot sale 2, 000, 2400 square feet on average and typically that solution when you've met minimize the lot size square feet and then try to maximize the home size square feet is a vertical solution.

    A two story home. No real thought about the topography of the development from a site planning perspective. How do you get from the curb to the front door as far as elevation gain, which Atlanta calls the visitability movement, which I actually love that term. They've decided to incentivize the builder with the idea that Anybody of any ability should be able to visit a home and that means there should be some door on grade and an accessible half bath off the main living area on the ground floor entry level.

    Now, no thought by the spec builder about the fact that over these next 20 or 30 years, I mean, go check, right? Ramblers are already what's flying off the market. Just ask your real estate agent. Now the 50s Rambler Ranch could have come close to serving the masses more correctly, but the doors and the halls are still too narrow, 2 6 and 3 0.

    The concept then was okay for its time, but we were also actually smaller people back then. Now we need the flexibility and at least the ability to in the future live on one floor with good planning and design solutions today. But the spec builder's building two story houses on postage stamp lots.

    That's how the development goes down. Now, Molly made a really good point in her presentation as well. She pointed out that to deal with aging in place and to deal with our latter third of life, which is a new third of longevity since the Industrial Revolution, you're dealing with some personal topics about lessening ability.

    You have to care about people, not just profit. That's where you'll continue to find that the spec builder falls short. They inherited Daddy's spreadsheet from the 90s, and the number at the bottom is black, not red. So they put their fingers in their ears, la la la la la, I can't hear you, don't change what I'm doing.

    Well, they're gonna find out soon enough, with the voice of the largest and wealthiest, both by earning and inheritance, demographic in the history of the world, which is now roaring past age... 65. And I get where the spec builder's coming from. I've designed a 150 unit hotel and multiple apartments of that scale, and I've done assisted living design work in my career as an architect.

    Those facility structure concepts are all about a floor plan unit you create three or four of, then you flip them and mirror them and rotate them and use them over and over and over again. And they have a little bit of aesthetic interest and difference, but they aren't really designed for anyone in specific, beyond the baseline requirements of the building code.

    No, not one person in particular. It's not client driven design. So, spec builders, you quite honestly build without a real client. Without a person who has dreams and fears and personal wishes and desires. And that's what's different. That's why the 28 remodelers out of those 30 people knew what I was talking about and wanted to hear my keynote presentation.

    Because they're talking to real clients. SpecBuilders, your buyer is a client you've never met. I'm here now telling you what's changing about that buyer you don't know. Again, go ask your local real estate agent, folks. What's flying off the market? It's the Rambler, the single story, or the main floor living with the en suite bedroom.

    Those are the options that are selling in a home. So, with two thirds of suburbia now denested, clearly we've got homes with extra space, which we can modify. We can give up bedroom four and the den and put in elevators and use universal design kitchens and baths for our future selves. We don't need 3, 000 square feet and four bedrooms and three baths anymore, unless you end up having to look at multi generational housing.

    Maybe it's your folks moving in or the kids moving back in, but that would still probably require a modification to an existing home. SpecBuilders, you shouldn't be building those 400 square foot homes at the rate you were 20 or 30 years ago. The 40 and under crowd is A, shrinking, and B, less interested in home ownership.

    You need to know that universal design and aging in place design for the new longevity and meeting the needs of the longevity economy is the future. At ADM Architecture, the firm I own, we've been doing this for over 15 years. Now at Forever Home, we're taking that knowledge and design history, and we're starting to fill this need.

    We're creating floor plans, longevity plans, and the aging in place spec building house plans that meet the need. We've done over 300 million in value of residential architecture construction in the past 15 years, and I've been in the business for 27. Every client that comes into our office either came to us because of our expertise, we are a known expert in our tri county area for aging in place and universal design housing solutions.

    But I also make sure even if that's not why they came in that we discuss it with them. Nobody under 40 comes into an architecture firm. So when I say might you live here 30 years, the answer is yes. So we get to talk about aging in place. Most folks that do come to us are quite honestly designing their forever home.

    So, spec builders and clients alike, stay tuned for more from Forever Home. We are the future of housing solutions for the 50 plus demographic and their new longevity. We design homes for folks that are proactive about creating a future where they can live where they want, how they want. And with independence, autonomy, and the freedom to stay safe and happy for the rest of their lives.

    If you enjoyed this video, please click like below and help us spread the word for more information about what we're doing over at Forever Home. Whether you want business consulting and coaching, more about our certification courses, longevity plans, those stock plans for aging in place. or our FutureFlex specs, the specifications for your house so you can stay where you thrive and love for as long as possible.

    If there's anything else you'd like to learn about aging in place and the future of housing for the 50 plus marketplace, go over to and subscribe so you can join us in the future of problem solving for the housing of our new longevity forecast. Until next time, I'm Aaron Murphy.

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