Green and Accessible

Reprinted from PN April 2018

Tired of paying high electric bills, one Maryland couple decided it was time to build a custom home that’s completely accessible and sustainable.

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Earth Day is this month, and that’s always a good time to consider ways to help protect the planet and maybe reduce utility bills by making your home greener. But what if you have accessibility needs, too? Can your home be both green and accessible? One couple from Westminster, Md., has already gone the extra mile to “go green” and have accessibility in their own home. Dan Swisher, a bilateral above-the-knee amputee who sustained a T-5/6 complete spinal-cord injury in a rope swing accident about 20 years ago, and his wife, Suzanne, worked with Pennsylvania-based High Performance Homes (HPH) to complete their vision of a home that is both completely accessible and sustainable. HPH specializes in custom homes that are certified by the Department of Energy as zero-energy ready, meaning all or most energy consumption can be offset with renewable energy. Every inch of their home, from the solar roof tiles to the insulation under the slab of the basement floor, was carefully thought out to allow the Swishers to reduce their electric bills and consumption, while also allowing them to live as independently as possible as they age. The empty nesters were looking to downsize a few years ago but wanted to stay close to family. They purchased a 3-acre lot just a few miles away and drew up some construction plans, then enlisted the help of HPH and Kiere DeGrandchamp, head of construction operations. 

“I build as a general rule to universal design, age in place … so I’m very up on the codes as far as ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act]-capable, ADA compliancy, and then when Dan and Suzanne came to us, it was a pretty easy, natural fit,” DeGrandchamp says. “We can do either a fully or partially ADA-compliant home at a zero-energy-ready level. It’s beautiful.”

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