Obstacles and Solutions in real-world design | I Advance Senior Care Skip to content Skip to navigation

Obstacles and Solutions in real-world design

April 1, 2010
by Long-Term Living Editors
| Reprints

For the fifth year in a row, 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 success. Here are excerpts from this year's entries:

Edgewater: AG Architecture, Inc.


Obstacle: When creating a residential-inspired skilled nursing facility, the sponsor's intentions sometimes conflict with local codes and standards. As such, the team must work diligently to communicate with and educate local officials in order to make the desired advancements a reality. In some cases, the best efforts still cannot penetrate code restrictions and compromises must be made that do not favor the desires of the design team. Such obstacles occurred within the skilled nursing component of this project.

The owners wanted to incorporate cooking capabilities within each household, but despite discussions in favor of this cutting-edge design philosophy, state restrictions prohibited the design of fully functioning kitchens accessible to residents.

Solution: The initial reaction was to create “activity kitchens” alongside dining areas which were placed in immediate adjacency to a commercial-grade serving kitchen shared by two households. In practice however, the staff has, in fact, used these activity kitchens in the true spirit in which they were designed and a portion of the actual daily food preparation is done in these areas. The end result is an environment that functions in a similar manner to a residential kitchen with an adjacent dining scenario as found in single-family environments.

Miller Rehabilitation at Sojourn: AG Architecture, Inc.


Obstacle: Innovative design solutions impact construction costs and require a thoughtful design team who can adapt to obstacles in order to find different ways to achieve the desired results. In the case of this project, numerous redesign phases were required to maintain the integrity of the innovative solutions through the use of different materials and other means of cost reduction.


  1. Providing access to natural light helps heal the spirit and was an important aspect of the design. Due to budget restrictions, however, this design element had to be readdressed. Although the number of skylights was reduced, the design was creatively re-engineered to achieve the desired light levels.

  2. Interior selections were value engineered in order to meet budgetary requirements without losing the original design intent. For example, specifying paint in place of wall covering in selected areas actually improved the feel of the space while also supporting the budget.

  3. This expansion had an aggressive agenda (in terms of implementing a variety of design objectives) with equally challenging budget limitations. Personalized attention was achieved by utilizing a development consultant to manage the construction process. In addition, the architect, with considerable long-term care experience, employed a unique methodology of creating highly detailed estimates earlier than usual in the process. Complicated subsoil and existing utility systems provided further challenges, but team members worked together in the spirit of cooperation to achieve the provider's lofty goals.

Danberry at Inverness: CJMW

Walt Hinchman, Viscom Photographics

Obstacle: A road separated the lower half of the site, where zoning would permit only cottages, from the upper half, where the main building would have to be located. Initially, the project team thought that separating the cottages would be a problem, but the project team came to view it as an advantage.

Solution: A small lakefront clubhouse was added to serve as a community center for the cottage neighborhood, and the cottages were designed to appeal to younger, more active seniors who, although they like the security and services provided by being part of a CCRC, don't feel ready to live in “an old folks home.”

Penick Village: CJMW

Obstacle: In the past, North Carolina's Department of Health Services Regulation had not permitted licensure of small homes like the Garden Cottage unless they contain all the institutional requirements of larger facilities.

Solution: At Penick Village's invitation, the chief of the Division of Health Service Regulation took a personal interest in shepherding the Garden Cottage through the regulatory process, mapping the way for North Carolina's first licensed assisted living cottage and also the way for the next cottage, which will be licensed skilled nursing.

Norwood Crossing: Hanna Z Interiors, Ltd.

© 2009 Patsy McEnroe Photography