Monday, April 13, 2009

Home Accessible Home

From the street it looks like any other new house. But for Dennis Radovic and his family, the beautiful new bungalow has provided them with an opportunity to ease the strain of living with a terrible disease. 43 year-old Dennis, a former teacher and guidance counselor, was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (PPMS), in 2001.

The Radovic’s new home, the first of its kind to be built to both GreenHouse™ and Accessible Homes standards, was built by Durham Custom Homes (DCH) in Oshawa, Ontario. Earlier this year, the company received the 2008 EnerQuality Award of Excellence as Canada’s GreenHouse™ builder of the year.

The GreenHouse™ design combines the energy efficiency standards of ENERGY STAR® for New Homes with resource management, indoor air quality and water conservation. The result is a house that produces three tonnes fewer greenhouse gases, consumes 30 percent less energy, and uses 15 percent fewer raw materials and 25 less water than homes built to the Ontario Building Code. When the home is completed, 25 percent less construction waste is sent to the landfill.

When construction began on the first GreenHouse™ last year, Victor Fiume, DCH General Manager said that regardless of how environmentally responsible a house was constructed, if it wasn’t accessible to everyone, then it really wasn’t sustainable.

With the completion of the Radovic’s new home, Durham Custom Homes has taken the idea of building sustainable living to a whole new level. When the Radovics move into the house this week, its many features will help make life much easier for Dennis and his wife Melissa.

“Working with Victor Fiume, David Illiatovitch-Owen and Guy Mulder, we were able to accomplish everything we thought would be needed now and in the future,” said Dennis. Dennis and Melissa used pencils and liquid paper to finalize the design.

Dennis continued working until last year, when his MS progressed to the point where everyday activities like getting dressed and showering pushed the limits of his physical capabilities. As Dennis explained, because he is confined to a wheelchair and walker, doing anything takes a tremendous amount of energy.

The Radovic’s new home features a raised front porch slab, wider entrances, hallways and doorways, and an elevator that is accessed through the garage. When asked why Dennis opted for an elevator rather than ramp access to the house, he said, “How accessible is a ramp after an ice storm?”

Non-slip surfaces, both inside and outside the home, reduce the risk of falling, and denser materials offer stability and support. The galley kitchen features lowered countertops and appliances. Cupboards have pullout drawers for easier access, and handles and controls are placed to minimize reach.
The bathroom is barrier-free and designed to maximize turning for access to the sink, toilet and shower. Fixtures and grab bars are strategically located.

The windows are designed to open and close easily and locks are located to be within reach from a wheelchair. Even the laundry room features front-end loading appliances for lower access.

At last week’s official opening of the home, Jeff Goldman, DCH principal used the opportunity to challenge other builders.

“As excited as I am though of our collective accomplishment, I cannot help feeling a degree of frustration,” said Goldman.

“We have built this house because we believe that constructing a better-built, environmentally-responsible, energy-efficient dwelling that is healthier for its inhabitants and can speak to individual needs is not just a corporate responsibility, but it makes good business sense.”

Perhaps what makes Canada’s first Accessible GreenHouse™ so remarkable is the price. With the exception of the added cost of the elevator, the price of the Radovic’s new home is comparable to other houses on the street.

“We did this on our own dime with support and encouragement from others, but without handouts or special treatment,” said Goldman. “So, if we can, it begs the question of why not for others?”

For Dennis and Melissa, the accessible features in their new home will help Dennis to conserve his remaining strength and give them more time to enjoy their 3 ½ year-old son, Bryson.


For more information on GreenHouse™ and Accessible Homes standards visit

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada


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