Quick Guide to Low Costs of Visitability


Cost Information for Visitability

Eleanor Smith, Concrete Change 2012

Cost for new houses of incorporating a zero-step entrance;  all passage doors (including bathrooms) with 32 inches or more clear passage space;  and at least a half bath on the main floor.    (The following costs assume the house plan already provides at least a half bath on the main floor, as is nearly always the case with contemporary plans.)

One zero-step entrance on a concrete slab                        $0

Five doors @ $2 more per door than narrower doors    $10

One zero-step entrance over a basement                       $250

TOTAL:  $10 (slab) to $260 (basement or crawl space)

Why are the costs so low?

  • Figures refer to NEW construction, where the builder has the opportunity to plan, site and grade

for cost-effectiveness.

  • Zero-step entrances should be omitted on sites that present unusual difficulties, so “worst case

scenario” cost estimates are not relevant to typical costs.

  • The entrance may be located at the front, side, back or from an attached garage – whatever location

is most advantageous.

  • Cost-effective methods have evolved in the field through direct construction experience.


Why have some building professionals estimated much higher costs?         They may be unaware of best methods to incorporate basic access.   Or, they may have a vested interest in claiming high costs.   Estimated  high costs of zero-step entrances  over basements; the alleged need for  extra grading for a zero-step entrance; the alleged cost or difficulty of modifying plans to accept slightly wider doors; the alleged higher cost of 2’10” doors over narrower doors – these and all other assertions of added cost have been definitively demonstrated through built experience to be inaccurate.

How are the low costs verified?       By the stated experience of builders, developers and building officials who have produced thousands of houses with basic access.    For example:

3,700 Houses over basements:   Dan Buonamici, Building Commissioner, Bolingbrook, IL City Ordinance (cf. 1999 to present) and Mayor Roger Claar

21,000+ Houses on concrete slabs:  Pima County Official’s Letter  to Congress from Yves Khawam, Chief Building Official, Pima County, AZ Ordinance (cf. 2002-present)


(For numerous other cost estimates, see the interviews with builders and building officials in Appendix A of

Increasing Home Access: Designing for Visitability, AARP Public Policy Paper, 2008.)


What are unintended financial costs of continuing to build houses with basic barriers?

  • Costs of Moving
  •   Costs of Renovations (retrofits)
    • Medical costs due to injuries resulting from barriers
  •    Increased Institutionalization of when home barriers are a factor in moving to a  nursing home.