New Green Home Designed for Disability Accommodations and Aging in Place

New Green Home Designed for Disability Accommodations and Aging in Place

High Performance Homes model at the Links at Gettysburg

Empty-nesters Dan Swisher, a Keller-Williams Legacy realtor in Westminster and his wife, Suzanne Swisher, an RN Clinical Documentation Specialist at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, wanted to build a new home for a variety of reasons.

The couple wanted to “right-size” for the two of them, from their larger family home of many years, to build a home close to their grown children, grandchildren and their aging parents. Of paramount importance, they also wanted to build a home with greater accessibility to better serve Dan with his physical disability. (Dan survived a spinal cord injury, becoming a paraplegic due to a rope swing accident when he was 41).

High Performance Homes, LLC (HPH) a U.S. Department of Energy 2016 Housing Innovation Award Winner and a Mid-Atlantic custom builder of sustainable, zero energy ready homes, has broken ground on a new custom home in Westminster Maryland that includes a comprehensive design to meet the Swisher's needs for accessibility, versatility and lifestyle.

Though their previous home was customized, after living there for many years, they had acquired a wish list for their new HPH home to further improve accessible for Dan. Not only did they want to improve everyday accessibility, they also wanted to make the home “one-story living” ready. In the event Suzanne is survived by Dan he can continue to live in the house by himself.

They also wanted to incorporate certain design elements that would allow them to Age in Place – a home that was overall better suited for their current and future lifestyle. Suzanne said, “Another feature important to us that HPH was able to accommodate was having a well-lit and spacious basement with a walkout, providing the potential for use as a recreation room, a future in-law suite, or live-in domestic help.”

Versatile rooms were also desired to accommodate the Swisher’s ability to work from home (Dan currently works from home, and Suzanne will have the ability to in 2017), and eventually, their long-term retirement goals to continue their love for entertaining and hosting family and friends for holidays, dinner groups and bible study.

As a realtor, Dan had heard of High Performance Homes and their award-winning innovative homes and reached out to the builder with the hope they could meet their numerous goals. “We went to visit the HPHmodel home and after that, it was a ‘no brainer’ for us, Dan said.” “Dan was really excited about the Zero Energy features. He was really sold on that,” Suzanne added.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, more than 56 million Americans have some sort of disability. However, there are no federal accessibility (design and construction) requirements currently for single-family homes.

HPH Head of Construction Operations Kiere DeGrandchamp and his team worked closely with the Swisher’s to deliver a home design that would help them achieve an overall better quality of life than their previous home did, or even a new standard home could. High Performance Homes came up with a comprehensive approach, combining zero energy ready design with universal concepts such and Aging-in-Place design, along with tailored features that would offer the couple benefits well beyond a code built home.

“We designed the Swisher’s home to be far more accessible, versatile, cost-effective, comfortable and safe to suit their lifestyle today and into the future.”

The resulting home design is a 2,000 square foot, three bedroom Country-style home gracing an expansive front porch. The open-floor plan includes a master bedroom, second bedroom/office, kitchen, utility/laundry room, great room, dining room and breakfast nook, all on one floor. The breakfast nook and great room overlook a full deck across the back of the house, capitalizing on their three-acre view and vistas beyond. They also have a full basement and a bonus room above the garage that can be used for a variety of purposes.

Coded for the future, HPH’sstate-of-the-art zero energy ready technology package includes an extremely tight building envelope built with structurally insulated panels, geothermal heating and cooling, and solar shingles so that the Swisher’s will have little to no utility bill. As they enter into retirement and are on a fixed-income, the energy-savings will help control their cost-of-living expenses. Even now, while the couple is still working, Dan said “I got tired of paying BGE’s high electric bills that we had in our last home.”

As maintaining Dan’s good health is of chief importance, additional features of the home that appeal to the Swisher’s are the health advantages High Performance Homes offer such as the comprehensive air cleaning system that minimizes dangerous pollutants, and provides continuous fresh filtered air resulting in the elimination of 99.7% of harmful airborne contaminants.

The electrical panel box which was located in the basement of their previous home was moved up to the main level utility room in the new home. “At our old house, when a fuse blew, he [Dan] couldn’t get to it”, Suzanne said. He also couldn’t reach the garbage disposal switch or fan/light controls above the stove.” The Swisher’s are also looking forward to the smart home features that will enable them with complete heating, ventilating, and air conditioning control, as well as remote control of lighting, thermostats, and security from any smart device.

The Swisher’s are looking forward to the completion of their custom high performance home in early 2017. “Kiere has been pretty phenomenal. He’s been great to work with. I couldn’t ask for a better team,” Dan said.


Universal and Aging-in Place Design Features Include:

Whole house universal design

  • Zero threshold entry throughout the house– no curbs, steps or transitions between the rooms including the garage (makes ramps unnecessary and improves the visual curb appeal of the home)
  • Enlarged and widened spaces, rooms, doorways and hallways
  • Lowered light switches and strategically placed outlets, thermostat , electrical panel and smart-home control center

Garage with Bonus Room Above

  • Walkout basement for accessibility
  • Larger garage size in case they ever need to upgrade to a larger power wheelchair accessible vehicle
  • Provides versatility and space for a potential future office, in-law suite, recreation room, or live in domestic help


  • Bi-level peninsula island with lowered counter space to function as a food prep or eating area
  • Base cabinets with pull out drawers
  • The sink will have a recessed panel underneath for the wheelchair to roll under
  • Stove, oven and microwave will be accessible with front control panel and knobs

Master Bath

  • Lowered vanity on Dan’s side with open space to roll under; toiletry cabinet adjacent to vanity with pull out drawers
  • Curbless shower in the master with a bench and hand held wand
  • Master bath, built-in dresser; In lieu of a soaking tub, locating the dresser in the master bath will open up the space around the master bedroom for Dan’s wheelchair
  • His and Her walk-in/roll-in closets with 360 degree turning space.

Great Room

  • Gas fireplace will have a stone surround with no hearth so the Dan can roll right up to it
  • Zero threshold from porch into the home
  • Dining room flows off the great room, sectioned by several columns

Utility Room

  • Laundry/utility room adjacent to the kitchen with front loading appliances, a utility sink, base cabinets and a built in work bench with space on the wall for hanging tools
  • Lowered electrical panel box
  • Widened room for turning space for Dan’s wheelchair.
  • Front loading washer and dryer and appliances accessible
  • Storage and cabinetry on the lower level that is accessible
  • Sliding barn-style door going into the laundry room that are easier for Dan to open then pocket or hinged doors


  • A flat graded and leveled walkway leading to the exterior of the home and to the garage
  • Low-maintenance landscaping

Other modifications:

  • All LED lighting for less frequent light bulb changes and further energy-savings

Read more about building green.


Topics: Building Green, Energy Star, Going Green, Healthy Homes, Home Design & Plans, Sustainability Trends & Statistics

Sponsored Links:

Related Content

Latest Content

Get the latest news & insights





Social Entrepreneur on the leading edge of best practices for the Tiny Home movement