In this installment of our Ask an Engineering Expert series, Sheetal Roy, P.E., Principal at RTM Engineering Consultants, answers the question: What do you need to consider when designing senior living facilities?
When designing senior living facilities, the most important factors to take into account are: the comfort of the residents, the appearance of the spaces, and the quality of the amenities. Through our MEP/FP work on numerous senior living communities, we have noticed a trend toward improving all of these elements to enhance the quality of life for residents.
For modern senior living facilities, it’s not enough to build functional spaces that meet residents’ basic requirements. We want to create appealing places where people want to live and features that build a sense of community. Some facilities incorporate specialized services, such as skilled nursing or memory care, and our engineers are adept at balancing the needs of many different occupants.
Our team is working on a senior living project right now in the Chicago suburbs that will break ground in the next few months. The facility is made up of 100 to 150 residential units, most of which are apartments with assisted living benefits. Residents may have their own apartment or share with a roommate, and each unit has its own small kitchenette. Communal spaces include a central kitchen and dining area, where chefs prepare meals daily, plus a craft area and a theater. There is an on-site medical care center for all residents, and memory care residents have their own secure wing with a separate kitchen and courtyard.
We are designing the mechanical systems to provide adequate comfort – such as cooling and heating – for residents. Different spaces also need to accommodate emergency and safety features, such as nurse or emergency call systems and communal areas backed up by generators in case of a power outage. One challenge we face is ensuring that the facility’s aesthetics aren’t compromised by our systems. For example, ceilings must be designed to house various components – lighting, diffusers, communication equipment, speakers – while still looking good. We aim to make the ceilings as high as possible without sacrificing the comfort level, and we opt for attractive details, from finishes and light levels, to improve a space’s visual appeal.
Senior living is a growing market vertical. Even in communities that aren’t dedicated senior living facilities, we are seeing more of an emphasis on building with older residents in mind. We are working on some residential projects geared toward people in their 60s and up. There are more people retiring and downsizing their homes. They want to live somewhere smaller and simpler, with access to nice amenities, such as outdoor living spaces, pools, and fitness and recreation areas. RTM is looking forward to growing with this vertical and continuing to design facilities that meet seniors’ diverse needs.
Learn more about RTM’s senior living expertise.