Obstacles and solutions in real-world design

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

Obstacle: The massive scale of this 156-bed facility-roughly equivalent to four Wal-Mart stores stacked two high-which combines skilled nursing care, residential care, adult day services, and caregiver training, made it difficult to avoid an institutional appearance.

Solution: To express each resident's sense of belonging, dignity, and identification with one's home amid the structure's immense size, the footprint of the building was slightly bent, creating an optical illusion at ground level that skews its overwhelming mass and provides relief and animation to the exterior. Each resident's room was then given a “house form” on the exterior using bold variations in material, form, and color that reference houses in local fishing villages. Rather than counting windows on a vast façade, residents and their visitors can instantly identify their rooms from the outside, creating a sense of belonging and place.

Rather than counting windows on a vast façade, residents and their visitors can instantly identify their rooms from the outside, creating a sense of belonging and place.

Penick Village Garden Cottage

CJMW Architecture

James West/JWestProductions.com

Obstacle: Penick Village determined that LEED certification was a non-negotiable condition for the Garden Cottage.

Solution: Ways to achieve LEED Silver Certification without any significant increase in construction cost were devised. Construction savings in operational cost resulting from low energy and water requirements should help to offset some of the higher staffing costs associated with operating such a small facility. “I like the fact that environmental stewardship had a payoff from an operational standpoint,” a juror said. “This is when ‘green’ makes cents. Pun intended.”

Vi at Silverstone

Plaza Companies and Vi Living

Milroy and MacAleer Photography

Obstacle: The 33-acre site for this CCRC slopes 40 ft. from the northeast to southwest corners. A site planning approach became critical to the maintenance of acceptable grades and cross slopes necessary for a senior population.

Solution: A linear planning solution minimized grade changes by allowing gentle terracing between villas while providing exceptional site amenities via the Longview Garden and 18-hole natural putting course. At the transition of the villas to the care center, a major grade change was incorporated with retaining walls, forming private gardens for the care center while affording villas pleasant views to the city. Main amenity spaces are also slightly raised, providing views over the villas and additional separation between public and private spaces.


GMK Interiors

Lowry McKee Photography

Obstacle: Trezevant desired multiple new spaces requiring extensive renovation and expansion to its downtown Memphis campus. It was paramount that the old, existing spaces blended seamlessly with the new buildings.

Solution: The same pilasters, interior architectural details, decorative lighting, finishes, and new furnishings were repeated in both the old and new apartment towers. The result is an interior transition that successfully combines the architectural integrity of the past with the thoughtfully planned interiors and luxurious details of today. The design blends from room to room, building to building, and the age of the structure is only revealed through the architectural details of the exterior façade. “The new finishes and furnishings pull the old and new together in a way that creates a seamless feel throughout,” a juror said.


THW Design

Marquette Manor

Obstacle: To keep community operations uninterrupted, appropriate access to all resident services spaces and administrative spaces throughout the entire renovation and expansion process was demanded.

Solution: The renovation and community center addition was broken into three phases. During the first phase, some administrative spaces (accounting, HR, dietary services, marketing) and several resident services spaces (library, gift shop, bank, beauty shop) were relocated. At the same time, a new resident entry into the existing independent living unit was provided. The second phase included wellness, bistro, chapel, administration, and multipurpose spaces along with new cooling towers. Design within this phase had to work around existing plumbing, fire protection, and electrical infrastructure. The bistro was then utilized for all dining activities during the final phase, which included renovating and expanding the existing dining area and adding a pub.

Marjorie P. Lee

SFCS, Inc.

2010 Tom Uhlman

Obstacle: Residents in this exclusive neighborhood voiced concerns on how new additions and landscaping would impact the look and noisiness of their community.

Solution: Designers met with residents and involved them throughout the process. Exterior materials were selected to blend with the original building. Alternate mechanical systems were selected to minimize noise and the quantity of rooftop equipment. An acoustical engineer also took sound readings before and after construction to assure residents that an increase of noise level would not exceed original levels. To show how pleased they felt with the final outcome, one resident constructed a scaled birdhouse replica of the new addition (seen in the photo above) that is displayed prominently in their backyard.

The Sagewood Continuing Care Community

Rosecrest Communities

Greg Richardson Photography

Obstacle: The most challenging obstacle encountered was with provincial regulatory bodies, such as the health inspector. Cottage design focused on an open concept kitchen, dining room, and living room. This homelike model involves continuing care assistants to be permanently assigned, and they are responsible for personal care, housecleaning, personal laundry, meal preparation, and recreation. Regulatory bodies felt it was unsafe for an individual to do food production along with their other assignments. Regulators also said it was hazardous for residents and family members to have ready access to what was deemed a production kitchen.

Solution: Designers agreed to put half doors on kitchens and lock-outs on appliances. Staff days were also reorganized by having care assistants start their days in the kitchen and finish with cleaning.

Design Environments for Aging 2011 2011 March;():27-31

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