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Louie Delaware and his wife, Judy, lived in their Louisville home for nearly 20 years before it was destroyed in the Marshall Fire. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

The emotional and financial impact of losing a Louisville home to the Marshall fire still reverberates for Louie Delaware and his wife, Judy, more than a year later

But surviving the deadly blaze —which burned more than 1,100 homes in Louisville, Superior and unincorporated Boulder County and killed two people — put things into perspective for the Delawares, and inspired them to create something positive that could be used by themselves and others.

Their former five-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom house will not only be rebuilt in the same location on Enclave Circle, it will be reenvisioned as a certified “living-in-place home,” a dwelling containing certain features that make it accessible to anyone, regardless of their age, ability or other needs.

The new home, once it’s completed later this year or in early 2024, will not only better serve Delaware and his family, but he will use it to also inspire others across the country to add certain features to their homes, so they can live more easily, save money and increase the chances of remaining there for decades or, better yet, for the rest of their lives, he said. 

Living in place, a model designed to meet the needs of people no matter their age, is similar to “aging in place,” a term used to describe an older adult’s ability to live in their own home and community safely, comfortably and independently. 

A 2021 study by AARP found, 77% of adults 50 and older want to remain in their homes long term, a number that has been consistent for more than a decade.  

Before the Delawares move in, their new house will be opened as an Idea Home for people interested in viewing the new design features.

A foundation is excavated for the Delawares’ new home on March 10, 2023 in Louisville. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

“I think once people have experienced a home like this — and Louie and Judy are giving them the opportunity to experience this by video, by invitation and by literally opening the doors to their home — people will look at housing differently and might begin to think that this is the way homes should be built,” said Dani Polidor, Delaware’s colleague at the Living In Place Institute, a Louisville-based organization providing certification and training to people who want to live in such a home.

Delaware, founder and president of the decade-old Living in Place Institute, said the organization has a new mission of training and certifying enough homeowners to help meet a goal of having one living-in-place home in each state, mostly in metropolitan areas, by the end of 2025. The organization certifies people through training programs to apply its living-in-place standards to new construction and home remodels through a 16-hour online course.

“It’s just way more inclusive because people of all ages and abilities can use it,” Polidor said of homes designed to help people stay in their homes as long as possible. “So many people are desiring these features.”

Living-in-place features — such as grab bars, home elevators, conveyances, special lighting systems and other smart home technologies for people with physical and cognitive disabilities — can be installed while a home is being built or retrofitted later.

Work to rebuild Delaware’s home began late last week with a foundation for the new structure. Before it burned, the house had steps, narrow hallways and electric outlets that were low to the ground. The new house will be rebuilt without stairs and with wider halls with more space for a wheelchair or walker. It will have outlets and cabinets positioned to help people who struggle to bend down. 

The home will have wall-mounted toilets with extra space for a person with ambulatory needs. The former main bedroom had closets so small that Delaware had to store his clothing in another bedroom. Closets will be widened to accommodate any difficulty that he or others in the home may eventually face when walking or moving. Others customizing their own living-in-place homes have chosen to replace door knobs with levers that are easier to open. Others have opted for elevated dishwashers and microwaves, fixing doors so that they swing out instead of inward and countertops that aren’t made from glossy material to reduce disorientation and help people with vision problems.

Homes are being rebuilt near N. McCaslin Blvd in west Louisville on Dec. 20, 2022. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Almost four years ago, Delaware, now 66, had both of his knees replaced. A home without steps and with living-in-place features would have made it easier to recover, he said. Polidor said mothers who take care of small children in strollers, while also caring for older parents are also a good example of a person who would benefit from a home with these features because they’re often taking care of two or more people with different ambulatory needs.

“From what we had before, it’s a radically different home,” Delaware said.

Allowing others to visit the home once it is built for inspiration, and spending time educating people about building a living in place home after the fire, will help soften the blow of completely losing his house, Delaware said.

“It’s been a challenge along the way,” he said last week. “Every time we turn around, there’s something else that comes up. But how we look at it is: Out of the ashes rises a phoenix.”

Ranch-style homes on the rise again in metro Denver

Over the past decade, Denver has had a wave of ranch-style homes built for the buyers 55 and older, but few have entries without stairs, Delaware said. 

In new homes, garages that lead to other parts of the house often show five or more steps, “a challenge for anyone in the 25% of our population that has a physical challenge,” he said.

The cost of incorporating living-in-place technology to a new home while it is being built is almost negligible, Polidor said. Owners can save on materials, such as by choosing not to build steps, and similarly, the cost is also almost the same to use a lever instead of a knob on a door, she said.

A photo of Louie Delaware’s Louisville home before it burned in the Marshall fire. (Contributed/Louie Delaware)

People remodeling an existing home may also see small costs to replace or add features, such as widening doorways, modifying toilets and adding grab bars, she said.

“In the grand scheme of things, it really depends on where you want to put your emphasis on spending your remodeling dollars,” Polidor said. “If you look at the cost of an injury, all of a sudden, it looks a lot more lucrative to have had it built like this out of the gate. This will minimize costly rehab stays because you can come home.”

On average, it costs about $350 per square foot to build a new house. That’s up from $175 to $200 about a decade ago because of a demand for higher quality finishes and the spiking cost for labor, she said. 

Delaware’s home is expected to be slightly larger than the original to accommodate wider hallways and doors.

“So, there’s a bit of an up-cost, overall,” he said. “But we probably won’t need to move into assisted living, because the house is ready for our purposes.”

Homes are being rebuilt near N. McCaslin Blvd in west Louisville on Dec. 20, 2022. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

In February, Delaware and his Living In Place Institute colleagues were in Las Vegas at the Design + Construction Week Show, where more than 100,000 builders and design professionals look at products and technologies. There, he discussed the advantages of a living-in-place home with builders, designers and architects who are creating the country’s next generation of homes and apartments. 

The organization is making plans for a similar Idea Home in Rochester, New York, and is recruiting homebuilders to showcase the concept in their model homes for new communities.

The 2,100-square-foot New York home should be completed by December or early 2024. The family living there does not yet have an immediate need for the living-in-place features, but hopes to showcase it to others who want something similar.

Louie Delaware’s Louisville home burned during the Marshall fire. This is a photo of what his new home will look like once it’s rebuilt. (Contributed/Louie Delaware)

A yellow house across the street from Delaware’s new home is one of the few in the Enclave neighborhood that survived the fire. About half the homes that burned there are being rebuilt.

“The neighborhood we’re in, in Louisville, was a tight-knit neighborhood. Of the 51 homes in the neighborhood that burned down, 10 of the properties were sold, and of the 41 remaining, 26 are in construction,” Delaware said.

“So that’s higher than the normal percentage of people who rebuild after a fire,” he added. “Some of the fires in California typically came in at around 60%, or so, of people who rebuilt their home. We’re somewhere around 75% already.”MORE: People interested in following construction progress on the Louisville home can visit the Living In Place Institute website.

Equity Reporter


Tatiana Flowers is the equity and general assignment reporter for the Colorado Sun and her work is funded by a grant from the Colorado Trust. She has covered crime and courts, plus education and health in Colorado, Connecticut, Israel and Morocco.

At the Colorado Sun, she focuses on writing in-depth stories about the entire housing spectrum from homeownership to renting and homelessness. She studied visual journalism at Penn State and international reporting at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism before moving to Colorado. In her spare time, she enjoys skiing, intense exercise, working as a local DJ, and live music events. Rabbits are her favorite animal.

Topic expertise: The entire housing spectrum from homeownership to renting to homelessness, health, race, culture and human rights

Education: Penn State University and CUNY Graduate School of Journalism

Honors & Awards: "At Risk," a Hearst Connecticut Media Group project I worked on won an Investigative Reporters & Editors Award and a New England First Amendment Coalition FOI Award in 2020. I have won several SPJ awards over the years including two first place Top of the Rockies awards this year for social justice reporting.

Professional Membership: The Denver Press Club, Colorado Association of Black Journalists


X (Formerly Twitter): @TATIANADFLOWERS