Electrical Outlets

November 2019

Written by Patrick Simpson
Executive Director, SAFERhome Society

Have you ever wondered why your home electrical outlets are installed at 12 or so inches above the sub-floor?

electrcal outletsIn 1901 when electricity was a new thing and it was being retrofittedorinstalled intoexisting homes, electricians found out very quickly if all the outlets were not all at the same height the clients would complain about sloppy installation. The electrical industry immediately started a new training program for apprentice electricians and they were taught to always usetheir hammers to set the height of the electrical box during a pre-wire or retrofit. Most hammers are about 12 inches long and your home was built this way and your outlets are a reflection of the approximate size of the electricians hammer who installed your homes outlets

Universal design has established through extensive ergonomic research that electrical outlets should be installed at 18 inches to centre from the finished floor. This height works best for the widest range of people. If you have a bad back you will notice the difference right away. It is much easier to bend over and reach to 18 inches as verses 12 inches. If you do this during new construction there is zero cost to make small this adjustment.

Similar adjustment to kitchen outlets means a middle spacing between the counter top and the bottom of the cupboards.

Small and inexpensive building details are what changes everyones minimal building code house into a true home for the future. SAFERhome is the recognized consumer standard for building future proof housing. Housing which is worth more than the standard minimal code built housing which most developers are currently offeringthe public.

Yes, you may have lovely granite counter tops and beautiful flooring however if your house doesnt accommodate yourfamily’sneeds you are living in an old fashioned dangerous unfriendly house.

SAFERhome – Giving Inclusion More Power Socially and turning housing into homes.

Light Switches

October 2019

Written by Patrick Simpson
Executive Director, SAFERhome Society

Have you ever noticed the height of the light switches in your home? Our electrical code says you can put a switch on the wall anywhere from 19 to 53 inches above the finished floor. Today electricians install them at 48 inches.

Light SwitchesNow for a little history of how that came about. In 1901 when electricity was a new idea and service, it was being installed into the existing housing. What the electrician found out at that time was the interior decorator always insisted on the switch being above the wainscoting orin some cases,chair rails on the walls whichmost homes included in the interior design.

The original height was established at 53 inches. Later on, as builders started to use drywall instead of lath and plaster for finishing walls, itbecame apparent it was easier to put the switch for the lights where the two sheets of 4x8 foot Material met.Voilà a new established height for the switches became setat 48 inches.

Universal design came along and did all kinds of studies of the ergonomics of how a wide range of different people interact with their home environments. They were able to establish the light switch works best for the largest cross-section of people when they are installed at 42 inches to the centreof the switch above the finished floor height. This allowed people to use hands and elbows for controlling the switch.

When you are building a new house, this adjustment adds no cost to the build and if the switch is installed at the 42-inch height it looks perfectly normal. Making the home work better for everyone.

Thresholds – Interior

The Country News

October 2019

Written by Patrick Simpson
Executive Director, SAFERhome Society

Thresholds, Yes, those things you have to step over coming in and out of houses and other buildings. Did you ever wonder where they came from and what they are for?

Years ago, and I do mean many years ago when normal people had dirt floors in their homes. They would put down straw and thresh as a floor covering and insulation. They found out very quickly that they needed to put a block of wood under the exterior doors to keep the thresh or straw in place. Hold the thresh/threshold. This also solved the problem of always having the farm animals eating what was leaking out under the door and then getting in the way of travel.

It’san old building habit that we are slowly changing. Now when you go into a store you almost never see a threshold. All new designs are 0threshold and you pass right over them without noticing.

Universal Design has claimed that a 0Threshold business gets about 30% more customers and income than a store with the same product but has one step or more to get inside.

This has shown what we need to do to housing. The only real reason we have thresholds in housing is to keep the water out. That’s what the Building Envelop Engineers claim we need. Its an interesting discussion that can be challenged. There are easy ways to fix this but there is no one in the system stepping up. I find it funny that these engineers will help you to drive your car into the house garage but its confusing when they will not help you do the same thing at the front door for your older Mom.

Look to Universal Design for the proper solutions.

Thresholds – Exterior

Article in The Country News

October 2019

Written by Patrick Simpson
Executive Director, SAFERhome Society

Situation – We are getting older and we are starting to have problems getting around the house.

I never used to think about getting in and out of the bathtub. It was just something you did, why would you think about it? Well that’s changed it seems. Now I’m starting to feel really unsafe and feel like I could slip and fall down at any time. Grabbing the soap dish or shower curtain has been my only option. I have lost count of the number of times I have had my heart in my throat with almost “wiping out” events. And now when I put my foot between the toilet and the bathtub and reach in to turn on the shower controls, I get this feeling that I’m on an edge and could fall into the tub. It didn’t used to be this way and so hard to balance and stretch…

So, what do you do in this situation? Should we sell the house and find something better or more appropriate? Yes! Absolutely! If you can find the right house in the right place and you have all the right info on what to ask for in a home. Currently its difficult for older people to climb over thresholds when they are using canes, walkers or scooters. For the most part they are unable to physically get into the developer’s sales offices or show suites. It appears that all the builders are building to the minimum standards so we as consumers cannot get or buy the housing we need to maintain and normal lifestyle.

The only developer that is actually doing some thing about that is Everton Ridge homes in Vernon BC.

They have the only show home that anyone can get into normally and be able to interact with a beautiful future proof more liveable home environment. If you want a fun field trip go to the top and visit their Turtle Mountain show home, they truly can welcome everyone.

The BC Interiors only Certified SAFERhome “Gold” Standard Builders.


Patrick Simpson, Executive Director

Effectively immediately, Patrick Simpson has returned to the role of Executive Director for Saferhome Society.

Patrick is an early adopter in smart concept housing and Universal Design. Patrick works as a consultant as a Universal design and building specialist. He has been involved in the housing industry for more than 25 years through real estate and development, including market research, land assembly, project management, and design. Patrick has sat on many boards and committees in the Vancouver area and continues to volunteer with his community.

You may contact Patrick as follows:

Patrick Simpson

Updates to SAFERhome Standards

SAFERhome Standards updated September 2017
to 15 detailed measurable building points!

SAFERhome Standards was established in 2004 to empower the consumer and give them a way to measure tangible and real changes in how a home can be built. This Universal Standard originated in 1997 and included a low voltage wiring network that delivered improved communications, house management and environment control options.

At that time, wireless technology was still unreliable and hardwiring was the only way to get consistent control and solid security. The market place has since changed and evolved and there is now a large collection of wireless options that consumers can plug and play into their home without the need for a low voltage wiring network.

Although SAFERhome still believes that wireless is less reliable and less secure, the market and the consumer have now accepted wireless as a solid consumer product. To reflect this change in the market place SAFERhome Standards have been adjusted to give the consumer more options and more cost control.

The new Universal Home Gold Standard for SAFERhome is now 15 detailed measurable building points with 3 supplemental options from the 19 detailed measurable building points.

Read the details!

SAFERhome’ project on Wilmot – 1st to be certified on Vancouver Island

SAFERhome’ project on Wilmot – 1st to be certified on Vancouver Island

This is David Coulson Design’s first home to receive SAFERhome certification and is also the first project on Vancouver Island to be cerfified.  We believe the SAFERhome 19 point criteria is simply a smart way of building, not only making homes a better real estate investment but most importantly enhancing homeowners lifestyles both now and for the future.

Builder creates homes you can live in, a lifetime. He builds homes with the future in mind, wider hallways, closets that convert to elevators. Shaw TV’s Paul Beilstien has the story.