Re: accessibility
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Fri, 10 Jul 1998 12:02:08 -0500
Dear Paul, 
Separately I'll send you copies of 14 answers I received when I posted a 
similar query in April 1998. I found the responses very useful, both in 
consciousness-raising and in the nitty-gritty of how much does it cost to 
have an accessible upstairs. 

Here at RoseWind, in Port Townsend WA, we came to the following 

a) Anybody could become mobility impaired. To make it not a priority 
means that you are deciding that every one of you would, if unable to do 
stairs, feel ok about not being able to access the rooms which are on the 
second floor. And that you'd be comfortable with that decision into the 
future, as guests and future residents might also appear who can't do 
Which is a decision you might make, but we were not willing to do that.

b) Accessibility for a second floor costs quite a bit. Unless you have a 
steep site, with the possibility of ground-level access at each level, 
you need some sort of lift. A "wheelchair lift" is a lot less costly than 
an elevator, and it costs about $15-20,000 installed, plus your cost in 
framing the five-foot-square (or so) hoistway. (You can frame in the 
hoistway, and delay purchasing and installing the lift--- 5x5 isn't much 
to give up for that potential.)

c) A second floor has other costs, compared to a one story building. The 
stairs themselves take up space, and it costs to build them (though if 
strategically placed they can provide storage beneath, and sitting space 
upon the stairs, if by a gathering place). As a building where people 
assemble, a second floor also kicks in the need for an additional fire 
stairway. And construction itself costs more when it's "up high" , 
offsetting savings you might think of in foundations, roofing, etc. 

d) We have a site on which a two-story building would be very attractive, 
but we also have space for a one-story common house.

e) Given all of the above, despite our aesthetic preference for a 
two-story common house, we decided to go for a one-story. With a 
phase-one construction budget of about $150,000, it was too hard to sell 
the group on spending the extra money that a two-story would cost, vs 
what that money would buy on a ground floor.

f) As an 'assembly' building we are coded A3 in Washington's building 
code, which means we need to comply with ADA requirements for entries and 
bathrooms. Even if your code doesn't hold you to it, consider the 
advantages of providing at least one ADA bathroom, and providing level or 
ramped access. 

Best, Lynn Nadeau at RoseWind Cohousing, Port Townsend WA
20 families, and our last lots are on the market NOW (they can be built 
single-family or multi-family, if the buyers speak their preferences NOW)

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