The alliance between the AARP and the NAHB to build livable communities took center stage this morning at the International Builders' Show in Orlando, Fla., as two of the five winning builders talked to the press about their award-winning communities.

The two associations presented the AARP-NAHB Livable Communities Awards to the five winners at a ceremony last December in Washington, D.C. The builders are judged on design elements that accommodate the needs of all residents with all levels of physical ability -- from children through grandparents -- easy access to community services and local amenities, and improved energy efficiency.

Builder Roy Wendt of Wendt Builders talked about Olde Town Grayson, a 100-unit community in Grayson, Ga.

Wendt said his company got involved in an accessibility project about eight years ago. That project led to the "Easy Living Home" program in Georgia in which Wendt Builders received the first official designation. For a home to be certified under the program, it must have the following:

Easy access. A step-free entrance into the central living area of the home from a driveway, sidewalk, or a firm route to the main floor.

Easy passage. Ample room to pass through doorways on the main floor.

Easy use. A bedroom, kitchen, entertainment area, and full bathroom with sufficient maneuvering space for a wheelchair all located on the main floor accessible via the step-free entrance.

Wendt said roughly 800 easy-living homes have been built to date in the Atlanta market, and the program is being replicated in New Hampshire, Texas, and West Virginia.

John Wesley Miller also offered some insight into Armory Park del Sol, a 99-unit urban infill development in Tucson, Ariz. The development is universally accessible with 6-foot-wide common-area sidewalks and wheelchair ramps on the streets at all corners and intersections.

SOLAR POWER: Armory Park del Sol in Tucson, Ariz., offers solar-powered hot water and electric. The average cost for a standard system is about $17,000, and home buyers typically pay about $734 a year for utilities.
The project is also energy efficient, featuring solar-powered hot water and electricity. Wesley Miller said the average standard solar system costs around $17,000, and home buyers typically spend only $734 a year on utility bills.

"Nine out of 10 of my advisers told me not to do the project ... because the area we built in was rundown," said Wesley Miller.

"But one of the big benefits of the community is its urban location, in which 80 percent to 90 percent of the attractions in downtown Tucson are within walking distance," he concluded.

Applications for the second annual Livable Community Awards are due June 6, 2008.

To learn more about the 2007 award winners visit

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Orlando, FL.