By BUILDER Magazine Staff. The NAHB Research Center's LifeWise Home is most notable for its fairly ordinary appearance. The features that make the 1,900-square-foot Bowie, Md., home life wise are hidden in plain site.

Not everything in the house is fully accessible, yet its design and its features are easily adjustable for whatever condition or life stage the residents are in, says Charlotte Wade, NAHB Research Center senior research analyst.

First appearances can be deceiving: one steps over the backdoor's threshold before realizing there is no step; one zero-step entry is all it takes to meet accessible visitability guidelines. The garage is extra wide so that a person with a wheelchair or walker can easily get into and out of a parked car. Doors are 36 inches wide. Windows are casement operated by easy-to-grasp-and-turn handles (cranking is easier than lifting double-hung windows). Chair rails do double duty as handrails. Outlets are higher and switches lower--no problem for those standing and much easier to reach for someone seated.

The kitchen cabinets are at varied heights to accommodate everyone from the very young to the very old. The microwave below the counter is easily reached by children, adults, or anyone seated. The dishwasher is higher (as are the washer and dryer) to minimize bending while loading and unloading. The first-floor bathroom includes a roll-in shower with adjustable shower fixtures. And just in case some day the homeowner does not want to deal with the staircases, framing is already in place for an elevator, currently a $15,000 add-on.