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Obstacles and solutions in real-world design

March 1, 2009
by Long-Term Living Editors
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For the fourth year participants in the DESIGN Showcase were asked to discuss the real challenges they faced in developing and executing a design. Going beyond displaying a project's highlights, many honestly laid out the difficulties they encountered in realizing this success. Here are excerpts from this year's entries:

The Cottages at Brushy Creek

Tim Buchman Photography

Design Strategies

Obstacle: This project was the first family oriented, residential, 12-bed cottage-style skilled nursing facility to be built in South Carolina. The greatest obstacle was working within institutional state regulations to implement a small, intimate residential project.

Solution: The reviewing and licensing agencies of the state of South Carolina embraced the concept of smaller (12-bed) cottages and worked with the owner/architect to implement this innovative concept, while still keeping the intent of the state nursing home regulations.

Obstacle: The open kitchen presented challenges in terms of fire code and exhaust hood restrictions for residential versus nursing home full-service kitchens.

Solution: Architects specified a commercial hood meeting the minimum size requirements. Additional “tank” fire extinguishers were installed while maintaining the aesthetic look of a home kitchen.

Obstacle: This “non-lift” facility, in which staff members are not allowed to manually lift residents, incorporated the ceiling-mounted lift track system in each private bedroom.

Solution: Swinging, residential-style 7′-0″ doors, open above to the ceiling, were installed at the private baths, which not only enhanced the residential feel but met the institutional needs of the track system.

Obstacle: Creating an intimate feel in the large gathering/living area of each home.

Solution: One very successful element was the use of authentic Williamsburg historic colors, using a darker color below the “Mission” style 7′2″ trim and a lighter shade of the same color above to break up the space. Also, Arts and Crafts style dividers were used to separate the dining area from the family/living room space.

The Watermark at 3030 Park

Rick Scanlan Photography

Esposito Design Associates, The Freshwater Group, and Construction Services of Branford

Obstacle: Working in a 40-year-old building that has fallen into disrepair offers its share of challenges. For example, upon purchasing the community, the ownership realized that a substantial portion of the budget scheduled for this project would be required to address unanticipated issues with plumbing and HVAC systems. Added to this, the original budget only included the renovation of the pool and creation of the fitness center and new café. The budget did not include the creation of the Wellness Center, SalonSpa, bank, or renovation of the auditorium.

Solution: The team worked hard to create a premium space without use of many costly materials. Specialty finishes were used only where they would have the most impact, such as Venetian plaster at the café fireplace surround. Acoustical ceiling tiles were used in place of gypsum board ceiling. Surfaces originally slated for bamboo panels were successfully substituted with paint in warm wood tones, and porcelain tile was substituted for natural stone at the entry. The use of art and accessories, specifically selected for the design of this community, helped to enhance the overall appeal of the space. All of these value engineering decisions allowed the team to retain more of the budgeted funds for lighting, which was very important to the success of this project. More than half of the space is subterranean, allowing for limited natural light and views. In the corridors, fluorescent fixtures provide bright ambient lighting, and incandescent accent lighting provides a warm sparkle. Wood and glass partitions and doors were used wherever possible so that the limited natural light could filter through to the interior spaces. These partitions also suggest the idea of exterior windows and vistas. Lighted domed ceilings highlight special areas, as well as provide the illusion of a midday sky.

Crystal Cove Care Center


Interior Images, Inc.

Obstacle: This facility was completely depopulated for demolition by the owner of the property, who reconsidered his decision. After realizing his mistake, the owner put the lease and facility restart operations up for bid. The state licensing board mandated that the facility had to be occupiable for at least 10% of the maximum number of licensed beds (96) within six weeks, which left no time for the usual programming, research, and specification to meet the mandatory timeline.