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Is renovation always a good thing?

February 21, 2013
by Andrew Lee Alden
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Design Showcase judges weigh in on LTC trends

Every year a group of multi-disciplinary professionals gather to discuss Design Showcase submissions for Long-Term Living's Environments for Aging review. Inevitably, during the discussion, a common theme appears. This year was no exception: Is renovation always a good thing?

We always consider the SAGE (Society for the Advancement of Gerontological Environments) design principles during the discussions, but one aspect that we sometimes neglect is the entire context of the renovation project. Context is not just the location of the project, it is also a myriad of other factors including financial, cultural, operational, etc. These other factors might mean that a simple and limited renovation project for one community is a complex and challenging endeavor for another community.  

As proponents of good “design for aging” we will always encourage a complete transformation in any renovation project including concurrent changes in the model of care, operations and the built environment. However, the reality is that many communities are faced with restrictions that only allow limited changes, which may not be considered ideal. Regardless of the type of change, if it improves the quality of life of the resident, it is a worthwhile endeavor. Often, when financial factors play a role in the potential scope of renovation, operational and model of care decisions can enrich the final result and help compensate for financial limitations. If your community has completed a renovation project that dealt with challenges (financial, operational, site or others), please consider submitting to the Environments for Aging Remodel/Renovation 2013 competition in April.

As part of the review process the judges answered questions as they reviewed the submissions. For a glimpse into the mindsets of the judges and commentaries on the entirety of the 2013 submissions, read on.

Environments for Aging 2013 Jury

Front (left to right): Alec Sithong, Assoc. AIA, Project Manager, Senior Living, VOA Associates Incorporated; Jerry Weisman, Professor of Architecture, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Lorraine G. Hiatt, Ph.D., Environmental Gerontologist—Planning, Research and Design Consultation; Russell R. McLaughlin, AIA, Senior Associate, AG Architecture, Inc.; Amy Carpenter, AIA, LEED BD+C, Principal, Lenhardt Rodgers | Architecture + Interiors; Duane Helwig, AIA, Vice President or Design, Community Living Solutions; David A. Green, Director of Conceptual Planning & Development, China Senior Care; Mark Proffitt, Ph.D Candidate School of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Milwaukee; Fellow, Institute on Aging and Environment. Back (left to right): Christine Soma, Assoc. AIA, Designer, Horty Elving & Associates; Carolyn BaRoss, IIDA, LEED AP, Principal, Perkins+Will; LuAnn Thoma-Holec, ASID, IIDA, CID, Principal, Thoma-Holec Design, LLC; Melissa C. Pritchard, AIA, LEED, AP, BD+C, Senior Vice President, SFCS; Geoffrey Roehll, Senior Vice President, Hitchcock Design Group; Andrew L. Alden, Studio Director, Eppstein Uhen Architects; Charlie Wilson, Senior Vice President, Buckner Retirement Services; Addie M. Abushousheh, Ph.D EDAC, Assoc. AIA, Executive Director-Association of Households International; Robert C. Pfauth, NCARB, Senior Project Manager, eppstein uhen architects; Larry Schneider, Project Executive, Plunkett Raysich Architects, LLP; Mitchell S. Elliott, AIA, Chief Development Officer, Vetter Health Services. Jurors not pictured: Deborah Breunig; RN BSN MBA EDAC, Vice President Healthcare, KI; Margaret Calkins, Ph.D President, IDEAS Consulting Inc., Board Chair, IDEAS Institute; Carol Reitter Elia, ASID, IIDA, LEED-AP, SAGE, CR DESIGN; Skip Gregory, NCARB, President, Health Facility Consulting; Dr. Susan Rodeik, NCARB, EDAC, Associate Professor of Architecture, Texas A&M University; Kimberley A. Shapiro, IIDA, LEED AP, NCIDQ, Director of Business Development, Southwest, HDR Architecture; John Shoesmith, AIA , LEED AP, Partner, Shoesmith Cox Architects, PLLC; Fred Worley, Architect, Architectural Unit Manager, Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services.

Did you see any outdated design concepts or elements that you would like to see banished?

Addie Abushousheh: First, the language of patients, pods, guests, etc. has to be changed. Our language shapes the way we view others. As a result, we take things for granted by making assumptions. Designers need to spend time in the communities that they are working with so they have the opportunity to get to know residents and staff personally. Second, there has to be a better answer to increasing a building’s capacity other than a seemingly endless double-loaded stark corridor with no orienting cues or access to natural light.