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Obstacles and Solutions in Real-World Design

March 1, 2008
by Long-Term Living Editors
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The downs and eventual ups of several participating projects

It is always fun—and about as real as it gets—to ask designers about the problems they encountered in getting their projects together and completed. And for the third year in a row the publishers of DESIGN have asked participants just that—and we get some outstanding answers. Few stories can be as engrossing and as richly educational as stories of obstacles overcome. What follows is a selection of responses that throw a whole new light on some of the attractive, intriguing projects appearing in this issue.

Childers Place

Architect: Perkins Eastman

© Chris Cooper 2007

© Chris Cooper 2007

Obstacle: Working with regulatory authorities to evaluate design solutions by the intent of the codes rather than the verbatim “letter of the law.”

Solution: We connected with officials from the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (TDADS) early on to review program and concepts, ensuring that they felt like team members rather than regulators. The architectural team gained their confidence by leading them through reviews of past installations, interviews with facility directors at other installations, detailed plan and section diagrams, full-scale mock-ups, and written verifications from other states’ reviewing authorities. Earning their trust enabled us to work collaboratively to find creative solutions for egress control and security, as well as obtain variances related to resident bathroom doors and nursing stations.
© Chris Cooper 2007

© Chris Cooper 2007

Eastcastle Place

Architect: AG Architecture, Inc.


Obstacle: As the existing five-acre campus was a collection of historic and nondescript structures constructed from 1880 to the late 1990s, the primary challenge was overcoming these inherent site restrictions and establishing a clear point of entry for the senior living community.

Solution: The primary objective was to devise a strategy that would facilitate the development of a CCRC through a thoughtful weaving of selective demolition, new construction, and adaptive reuse. Demolition of a 1950s-era structure in the center of the site was the key to creating the location for a new centralized structure that housed new independent living apartments, centralized commons, a main entry, and enclosed parking.

Since earlier construction on the campus had been completed in a fashion that lacked a focal point and clear primary entry, the strategy allowed the team to develop a strong front door. This new featured entry point helped establish the quality of the project, simplify wayfinding, and enhance security while blending with the surrounding urban grid. Located on West Bradford Avenue on an axis which is, in effect, an extension of North Stowell, it creates a central point of entry to provide focus for the entire campus while seamlessly fitting into the surrounding neighborhood.

Forest Manor Rehabilitation Pavilion

Architect: New South Architects, Inc.

Howard Lee Puckett Photography

Obstacle: A profitable rehabilitation care facility must maintain effective operational efficiency—in this case, air temperature control.

Solution: The design team employed technical engineering advantages to enhance operational efficiency. The roof structure was designed using pre-engineered metal roof trusses to provide a noncombustible attic area. The use of a high-efficiency rigid insulation beneath a nailable roof deck keeps the main solar protection as far away from the conditioned environment as possible. A partially conditioned attic space is created by placing a layer of fire-resistant drywall against the bottom chord of the truss and dumping 5% of the HVAC capacity into this interstitial space, creating a thermal buffer area. This furnishes a better thermal resistance against the harsh solar heat gain properties common to southern states. All wiring and ductwork is placed beneath this thermally protected area to help minimize heat loss and heat gain that would otherwise occur in the ductwork itself.

Howard Lee Puckett Photography

Gosnell Memorial Hospice House

© Dan Gair/Blind Dog Photo, Inc.

© Dan Gair/Blind Dog Photo, Inc.

Architect: Gawron Turgeon Architects

Obstacle: Finding a location that met the hospice's criteria and obtaining appropriate approvals. The criteria to consider for site selection included being:

  • Close to the patients and families