Location: Newport Cove, Ill
Date: 2012
Building Type: Single Family Residence


LIFEhouse, a Universal Design concept house built in the award-winning planned community of Newport Cove, demonstrates that Universal Design can easily be incorporated into track housing without sacrificing aesthetics or marketability.

Perspectives and Goals

LIFEhouse came about through collaboration between two sisters; one a home builder and the other an expert in Universal Design. Susanne Tauke is the owner of New American Homes and its Newport Cove development, while her sister Beth Tauke is a professor at the SUNY Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning, where she is affiliated with the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA Center). The IDEA Center’s experts (architects, engineers and medical personnel) took one of Newport Cove’s standard house plans and adjusted it in order to make a Universal Design house that still matched the rest of the neighboring houses. Beth Tauke and her colleagues at the IDeA Center were able to work on the LIFEhouse because of a grant awarded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), U.S. Department of Education.

The house incorporates multisensory perception with Universal Design principles in order to be safe and functional for children under 6, adults over 60, and everyone in between. While the house is not fully ADA accessible, it is designed so as to be easily modified for ADA compliance. LIFEhouse showcases that a Universally Designed home has something to offer everyone, and gives prospective buyers ideas for features that they may want to incorporate into their personal residences.



  • At the community marina, an accessible waterfront gazebo provides restrooms, a shaded picnic area, and a UD friendly grill.
  • The neighborhood features maintenance-free landscape design.
  • A ramp and no step entrance at the front door make this home visitable, while another accessible entry is provided in the garage space for everyday use. The ramp is tucked into the front porch to blend in with the rest of the neighborhood.
  • The front porch provides weather cover at the front door.
  • An intercom system (with remote) provides audio communication from room to room, and at the front entrance. A video camera connected to the intercom at the front entrance accommodates those both seated and standing and allows everyone, including those with low vision, to clearly see who is at the door.
  • A home security system helps to protect against intruders or household problems (such as freezing pipes).
  • Sliding French doors connect the living room to an accessible deck.


  • Memory niches are located at exterior doors to provide a specific spot for often misplaced items such as keys, mail, and cell phones. Similar display niches throughout the house provide well lit areas for art and objects.
  • A bench at the entrance provides a place for people to sit to remove outerwear, to find keys, make a phone call, or sort through mail.
  • Easy open crank windows are located at a lower height to give wonderful views to those both seated and standing.
  • All large toggle light switches and electric outlets are located at accessible reach range.
  • All doors have lever handles and drawers have large u-shaped pull hardware.
  • Task lighting is offered in the kitchen, office, and overhead and spot lighting is in all closets.
  • Durable and level hardwood flooring is featured throughout the house.
  • The open floor plan for dining, living, kitchen, and den makes the home feel spacious and airy, and offers size and space for approach and use.
  • An elevator, located in the foyer, offers access to the garage and basement. This makes transporting groceries, packages, and luggage much easier, especially in inclement weather.
  • Alternate colored carpeting on stairs prevents people from slipping on steps due to visual blending. LED rope lighting is routed into the handrail to eliminate disorienting shadows that can cause falls.



  • A transfer bench in the front bedroom bath makes getting in and out of the tub easier and safer.
  • A full length mirror facing the master bathroom entrance can be viewed from a seated or standing position. The mirror swings open to reveal a medicine cabinet located at accessible reach range.
  • A transom brings light into the recesses of the master bathroom.
  • The continuous grab bar runs along the perimeter of the master bathroom and doubles as a towel rack in the toilet, vanity, and shower area.
  • Multi-level vanities make grooming easier for a wider variety of people.
  • Roll in showers, with built-in seating, are located in the master bathroom and basement bathroom.
  • Showers include handheld and hands-free adjustable shower heads, adjustable shower spay squares, heat lamps and temperature safety features.
  • Bathrooms include comfort height toilets with heated seats and bidets.



  • Multi-height work surfaces provide areas for everyone.
  • Kitchen storage included pullout shelving, self-closing drawers and self-opening overhead cabinets.
  • All kitchen appliances are located at an accessible level and provide controls that are easy to see and use.
  • Kitchen elements are offered at the point-of-use locations to minimize the need to move or carry things across the kitchen while cooking, i.e. the microwave is located at the island, the pot filler is located at the stove, and the sink incorporates a cutting board and trays that allow for food to be rinsed, peeled, chopped, and plated at the same location.
  • The game room has floor to ceiling shelves for storage at all levels.


LIFEhouse won the 2012 Best of 50+ Housing Award from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) for creating a home that meets the physical needs and lifestyle of baby boomers. A second house, called LIFEhouse for a Hero, is now under construction and will be donated to an injured veteran when completed. The LIFEhouse for a Hero project came about after an anonymous visitor to the initial showcase home suggested the idea to Suzanne Taulke, and volunteered to partially fund the project. Other donors to the LIFEhouse for a Hero project include The Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago, Operation Finally Home, the Chicago NFL Players Association, suppliers like LP Building Products, Wausau Supply, Andersen Windows, local trades people, and the Newport Cove community.

Project Credits:

Project: LIFEhouse
Architect/Designer: New American Homes, IDeA Center
Size: 1,1992 square feet

Materials and Elements:

  • Kohler faucets and fixtures
  • KitchenAid appliances
  • Silestone quartz countertops
  • Pella windows
  • Sea Gull lightning fixtures
  • Leviton lighting switches
  • MidContinent cabinets
  • Carrier furnaces
  • Certainteed concrete fiber siding
  • M&S Tile and Stone
  • Home Technology Systems
  • PerfikDek decking and rails

Universal Design (UD) is an approach to design that increases the potential for developing a better quality of life for a wide range of individuals. It is a design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation (Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012). It creates products, systems, and environments to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation.