DESIGN 2011 Merit Winner: Penick Village Garden Cottage, Southern Pines, North Carolina

Alan Moore, AIA, Principal • CJMW

Congratulations to all Citation of Merit winners!

It was a long process. Alan Moore emphasizes this again and again when describing the project origins of Penick Village Garden Cottage. With a resident capacity of only 10, and a square footage of just 7,000, this single-family type of residence, run as an assisted living facility, does not immediately inspire images of prolonged design.

But Moore assures, don’t let the project’s size fool you. Those details are deceptive. “Every aspect of design was measured by a simple question: ‘Would you have this in your home?’” Moore says. “Nurse call systems, med carts—we weren’t having any of those.”

These are utterly precise standards, born from collaboration with an unwavering client. Moore says once Penick Village heard of the Green House movement, and the notion of freestanding buildings that house a small number of elders, it was all over. Despite criticisms that the concept is too expensive to operate, too financially unsound to take seriously, Penick Village assimilated the philosophy of resident independence into its organizational mission. “Deinstitutionalized healthcare” was the aim of the Garden Cottage, and nothing else would be acceptable. Then again, Moore felt the same way.

© James West /
“It’s wonderful for people like me who have been doing this for a long time to see owners and operators ready to make the changes that I think a lot of designers have known need to be made,” says Moore, a design veteran with more than 30 years of experience. Penick Village certainly aimed high, desiring LEED Silver certification and favoring the principals of environmental sustainability. Beyond that, however, the provider hopes this prototype is also sustainable as a model for care delivery, the success of which will not only have implications for the future of its business, but for the outlook of its neighboring communities as well. Located in the Sandhills of North Carolina, the Garden Cottage—part of the larger Penick Village retirement community—is being monitored by the state Division of Health Services Regulation as a “test case” to establish criteria for future cottages of similar deinstitutionalized makeup. This regulator had previously not permitted licensure of small homes unless they contained the institutional requirements of larger long-term care facilities. Luckily, the Garden Cottage had an allure they could not deny.

“As much as we complain about the state regulatory authorities,” Moore says, “in this case I really couldn’t have asked for them to have done more. They saw this as an opportunity to adapt to the changes that are taking place in long-term care.” The regulatory body met with both Penick Village and CJMW during design development to come up with acceptable equivalency measures—a technical term in building code language that meant coming up with design solutions that they felt provided the safety that they expected but without all the institutional features of a typical nursing home,” Moore explains. A good example is the open dining area, directly connected to corridors and bedrooms. Because the structure has a high ceiling, the regulator deemed that if a fire were to occur, smoke would rise within that space and allow residents sufficient time to evacuate. This allowed the designers to abstain from installing fire shutters and doors “that would have given the place an institutional feel,” he says.

Though the Garden Cottage itself is small in size, Moore says its completion helps in combating the “enormous” regulatory challenges that plague good design every day. “Winning the battle of the codes is going to be a long process,” he says. But much like good design, he knows that investment in time comes with the job.

Topics: Design