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Obstacles and solutions in real-world design

March 23, 2011
by Ginger Cove, CR Goodman Associates
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Problems overcome with creativity, ingenuity

Such innovative and even award-winning design does not come easy. Participants in this year's DESIGN Showcase shared not only their project successes, but also their most challenging complications and the methods used to overcome them. As you'll see, even a solitary tree can stand between the designer and his or her vision coming to fruition.


CR Goodman Associates 2010

Obstacle: Anticipating the next generation of independent living residents, Ginger Cove wished to enhance its wellness facilities, which included the renovation of an existing health center. Alternatives were explored as to how the health center might be reconfigured, and it became apparent that the best location for a new addition was currently occupied on the floor below by an indoor swimming pool. The pool's configuration did not allow for construction of a new building above.

Solution: Through visioning sessions with Ginger Cove, the existing pool was replaced by a new aquatic center with three different pools that resulted in greatly enhanced wellness facilities beyond what was originally considered. “The owners made a bold move in tearing out an existing pool to be replaced with three new pools,” a juror said. “I am confident this will separate this project from the competition in the market.”

The owners made a bold move in tearing out an existing pool to be replaced with three new pools…”

Highland Chateau Health Care Center

Encompass Interiors

Vicknair Photography, Inc.

Obstacle: The building's construction made it impossible to recess unsightly sprinkler pipes and heads above the ceilings in some of the older areas. In corridors, pipes had to run along the perimeter.

Solution: The contractor constructed a sheetrock soffit where possible to hide sprinkler pipes, leaving only the heads exposed. The underside of this soffit is made of egg crate, which hides the pipes but leaves them accessible. In areas where the pipes cannot be encased, they are instead painted the color of the adjacent wall to blend in, and custom fabric cornices hide the pipes above windows.

Willson Hospice House


Jim Roof Creative Photography

Obstacle: The relative scarcity of free-standing hospices in the area provided few options for staff site visits. A full-sized patient room mockup became critical for hands-on evaluation.

Solution: The general contractor erected simple drywall partitions inside a warehouse-like space. As design proceeded, the mockup was adjusted and refined with actual millwork, finishes, and fixtures. A headwall panel was created to conceal outlets and switches tucked into its sides; the floor plan was reconfigured to provide additional maneuvering space on both sides of the patient bed; a custom double-locked nurse-server with drawer extended in two directions; and the addition of overhead examination lights was carefully coordinated with the ceiling fan to prevent light strobing.

Crane's Mill

KDA Architects & Merlino Design Partnership

Photography by Tom Bernard

Obstacle: For this CCRC, a new dementia wing was envisioned with a strong visual and physical connection to the outside. This included an exterior porch connecting the dining facility to a handsomely landscaped garden and sitting area. However, the topography required this wing addition to be set at an elevation 10 ft. below existing grade. The challenge was then to create a garden area that did not feel like a “hole in the ground.”

Solution: Adjacent slopes were graded to a natural grade. In addition, landscaped terraced walls were designed, which transition back to the community center. The result is an expansive and secure dementia garden, with added views for the community center and independent living units.

New Armory Senior Apartment Building

Lizard Rock Designs, LLC

Norris Design

Obstacle: The location, an urban site, is home to the largest and oldest tree in Tucson, which is nationally registered as a historical landmark. Due to tight constraints inherent with an urban plan, the building needs to be close to the north edge of the site, immediately adjacent to the tree, which has an easement to protect it.

Solution: Through collaborating with the city's parks department, the easement has been modified slightly and a procedure to protect the tree during construction will be followed. As a result, the front face of the building steps back to embrace the tree, allowing it to become a true focal point and landmark for the project.

Northwood at the Parks

William Nycum & Associates Limited

2010 Vision Air Services