Updated: Mar 8, 2021
By Danise Lavine - Architect & Assistant Director at IDEA Center
Universal design has long been embraced by businesses eager to create safer, healthier and more supportive facilities for their employees and visitors, regardless of age or ability. The challenge for many is how to make it happen.
The University at Buffalo’s Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDEA Center), a world-recognized pioneer in the field, hopes to push universal design into standard practice with a new research-backed assessment and certification program that walks users through the entire process, from planning the project, through building design, and including facility operation.
More than 500 illustrated design solutions and best practices developed by the IDEA Center over the course of almost four decades are packed into the program called isUD™, or innovative solutions for Universal Design.
The program guides clients through a menu of design solutions and tracks progress toward meeting the goals of universal design through an automated scoring system, while providing design options to attain credits toward certification. Buildings that earn sufficient credits are eligible for isUD™ certification, complete with a plaque worthy of lobby display.
One of the earliest isUD projects, and the first museum to receive isUD™ certification, was MuseumLab™. A major expansion project of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, MuseumLab™ was designed specifically for children ages 10 and up, with a focus on providing visitors the ability to work with makers to create new products, technology, and art. In addition to its commitment to creating an inclusive environment for all, the design team was also focused on preserving the charm of the former Carnegie Free Library building and revitalizing much of the historic 1890 structure, demonstrating that universal design solutions are not limited to new construction.
Another early adopter of the isUD™ program was the Hampton Inn Buffalo-Amherst. This newly-constructed, 107-room hotel is located adjacent to a multipurpose sports facility and was designed to deliver an enhanced experience to all guests, including athletes of all abilities and their families. As the first hotel to receive isUD certification, the building features a variety of guest room types which include accessible rooms, Universal Design rooms and Standard+ rooms. All of the different room types include universal design features and other added amenities. Other notable universal design features that support a wide range of needs and preferences include oversized circulation paths and primary routes of travel, generous clearances and turning spaces within sleeping rooms and bathrooms, a comprehensive wayfinding system, flexible meeting spaces and hotel staff is trained to assist guests of all abilities.
Both projects are featured on the isUD™ website at https://thisisud.com/featuredprojects
To date five projects have been certified and an additional five projects are currently in process. To sign up and learn more about the isUD™ certification program visit:
To learn more about the work being done at the IDEA Center visit: http://idea.ap.buffalo.edu/