Universal design is a trend that’s reshaping the housing construction industry. A local company has been ahead of the curve for years building these special types of houses.
The universal design concept translates loosely into an environment that allows people of all ages and abilities to stay in a home. The concept is particularly favorable for the elderly or folks with a disability.
“As people get older, they can get around in their homes without any difficulty at all,” said Curtis Schneck, owner of Curtis E. Schneck Inc. of Schnecksville.
“For a number of years, people were building two-story houses, now we encourage them to put a master bedroom on the first floor.”
The company still builds two-story houses after 49 years in business, but its universal design houses offer wider hallways and doorways, no-step entryways, and extra floor space. The bathrooms, eating areas and sleeping places are found on the same level.
“The cost of assisted living is going up and up,” said Schneck. “We started universal design about 15 years ago. Home builders have started pushing for that.”
The company is currently building the Fairland Farms development in Schnecksville. About 20 lots remain vacant at the 147-lot development. Prices start at $300,000 and the company can also build houses with a lower square footage.
“We are talking about doing smaller homes, with universal design, under 2,000 square-feet, especially for people who are middle age,” said Judy Rau, the company’s office manager and Schneck’s oldest daughter.
“They would like something new, something smaller.”
The company specializes in custom home building, which allows buyers to choose their own materials to design their home both inside and out. The firm does have several notable commercial projects it recently completed.
These projects include the nearby McDonald’s on Route 309 in Schnecksville, the Iron Run Center strip mall, Orefield Medical Center, Macungie Medical Group, and a medical facility at 18th and Linden streets in Allentown.
The McDonald’s was a particularly challenging project because the company had to remodel it and complete additions while the business was remained open, said Schneck. The project took four months and was completed in 2011.