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Vancouver bans the doorknob

Posting in Design
To make life easier for baby boomers and the infirm, Vancouver is banning doorknobs and twisty faucet handles, Businessweek reports

Effective next March, all new construction in the city must avoid the round, grab-and-turn knob -- in favor of the lever handle -- to reduce bending and stretching for arthritic wrists. “It is simply good design,” says Will Johnston, the city’s former chief building inspector. “It allows for homes to be built that can be used more easily for everybody.” 

Vancouver is the only city in Canada that has its own building code. And its influence is wide. Vancouver Sun explains: 
The changes made here are often chased into the B.C. Building Code and Canada’s National Building Code, and then put into practice in cities and towns across Canada... And as go the codes, so too goes the construction industry. 
The lever by-law isn’t retroactive to existing homes. But gone are the original, art deco knobs at the heritage-listed City Hall, built in 1936. They were replaced with gold-colored levers. As Popular Science points out, while ergonomic studies have shown that lever-style knobs are better, the ban is pretty controversial -- specifically, it sounds like government overreach.

But according to AARP, in the U.S. alone, boomers will be turning 65 at a rate of 8,000 per day for the next 16 years. Businessweek reports
Vancouver’s efforts to spare the wrists of the elderly and dexterity-impaired is the latest signal that the port city takes its demographics seriously -- and that a huge opportunity looms for the home improvement biz. In recent years, psychologists, sociologists, urban planners, and companies have increasingly focused on tailoring designs to suit seniors better. 
Some designs that help accommodate aging populations: 
  • Pulte Homes offers dishwasher models installed 6 inches higher and microwaves installed lower than the usual. 
  • There's been a spike in demand for Lennar Land & Homebuilding's NextGen models, which offer “a home within a home” -- private living quarters that come with a door to the outside. 
  • Even plain white china is getting a makeover: stripes and patterns and make them easier to see for the visually impaired. 
  • And you may have already noticed cut curbs on nearly every corner that help elderly people, wheelchair users, and moms pushing strollers move on and off sidewalks. 

— By on November 20, 2013, 10:30 PM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure