Residential housing represents about 21 percent
of the energy our nation consumes, and much of this
consumption is directly linked to greenhouse gas emissions.
Aging-friendly homes need to be
designed for the circumstances facing
many older adult today — limited income,
mobility issues and long hours spent indoors.
The ideal home has several key attributes:
■ Energy efficient (see “Features of the Low-
Energy Home” on page 45 for details),
■ Low maintenance,
■ Conveniently located near shops and
public transportation, and
■ Bright and cheerful, with plenty of
sunlight and fresh air.
A ready market exists for new homes built with older citizens in
mind. Surprisingly, one of every five new homes this year will be
bought by Americans age 55 and older, representing the fastest growing segment of the housing industry. These homebuyers seek aging-friendly features such as level entrances, wide doorways and one-story
construction — the same features that benefit young families with
baby carriages and armfuls of groceries. Home buyers, young and old
alike, also demand more energy-efficient features. In 2006, 12 percent
of new homes were built to Energy Star guidelines, saving home
owners about $170 million on their utility bills. (Energy Star is a joint
program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S.
Department of Energy that helps protect the environment through
energy-efficient products and practices.)
Progressive Builders Take the Lead
Building an energy-efficient home for older adults need not be difficult or expensive. A modestly sized house with common solar and energy-efficient features such as passive solar heating, improved insulation,
energy-efficient windows and doors, solar water heating and Energy Star
appliances can easily save 50 percent or more of a home owner’s utility bills while adding relatively little to construction cost. An added
advantage is that energy-efficient homes generally have a higher resale
value and spend less time on the market than conventional homes.
Advanced Energy of Raleigh, N.C., has championed the develop-
ment of affordable Energy Star homes. Advanced Energy and other
nonprofits statewide have guaranteed more than 1,700 homes, each
using about 15 percent less energy than a code-built home.
Some builders are already anticipating the need for moderately
priced, energy-efficient housing that is also aging-friendly. One is John
Wesley Miller Cos., developer of Armory Park del Sol in Tucson, Ariz.,
and winner of the 2007 Livable Communities Award (issued jointly by
AARP and the National Association of Home Builders). Armory Park del
Sol’s universally designed homes are all smaller than 2,500 square feet,
or 232 square meters (some are less than 1,000 square feet, or 93 square
meters). They incorporate step-free entryways, wide hallways and door
openings, hard-surface flooring, bathroom grab bars and roll-in/walk-in showers. Energy-efficient features include photovoltaic panels, solar
water heaters, high-efficiency windows and appliances, ceiling fans and
thermal mass. Energy savings are estimated to exceed 50 percent on average when compared with traditional residential housing.
Another organization helping to build low-cost, energy-efficient
homes is Advanced Energy of Raleigh, N.C., winner of the 2007 Energy Star Partner of the Year Award for New Homes. Working with
nonprofit developers statewide, Advanced Energy has facilitated the