By Joel Bleeker, Director of Design at LCS Development
If you’re looking to start a new development, expansion or redevelopment project at your senior living community in 2018, be sure to pay attention to these design trends, approaches and tips from the team at LCS Development, An LCS® Company.
1. Start with a Master Plan
Largely a conceptual process, a master plan establishes a phasing strategy to accomplish a logical, systematic project development process. It often applies to “green field” sites slated for new development. However, even with highly developed sites, a master plan for future growth and/or consolidation becomes a tool that can provide direction and focus for capital improvements and programmatic changes.
All too often, a building project requires demolition and relocation of recently installed utilities or driveways. A well-conceived master plan could minimize the unnecessary costs associated with such modifications while streamlining both the design and government approval processes.
2. Provide for Choice
The mindset of today’s seniors and Boomers is “I’ll tell you what I want” versus “I’ll take what I can get” of previous generations. Make residential apartments customizable, with choices in cabinets, countertops, flooring and other finishes. Incorporate a design approach that allows residents to be a part of the process, selecting finishes to make it their own home.
Multiple dining venues will continue to be important in new senior living projects and redevelopments. Make sure design allows for additional resident choice and variation, e.g., times of day to eat, dine-in or carry-out, and modern ways to pay.
3. Create Flexibility of Space
Design residential units and common areas that can transform over time to meet current and future consumer demands. Design for flexibility with fewer structural-bearing walls and columns that can be costly, if not impossible, to move down the road.
In common areas, design spaces that can serve multipurpose functions. It’s ideal to have a large assembly space that can also easily break down into two or three smaller spaces for resident meetings or club activities. We see a lot of success with spaces that serve multiple functions, for example, continental breakfast/cocktail lounge/card playing, theater/classroom, or spa treatment/exam rooms.
4. Focus on Wellness Areas
There is an increasing focus on designing rooms for fitness, yoga, wellness classes, continuing education, and other dedicated wellness areas. Consumer surveys show a growing necessity for these features in retirement communities. Beyond dedicated wellness areas, the design helps promote overall wellness throughout the community. While it’s important to have dedicated wellness areas, if the staffing is not right to properly support and promote the program, it can be a costly and ineffective expenditure.
5. Mystery Shop and Update Consistently
Conduct market research by visiting new condos or townhomes in the market that are well accepted by today’s consumers. Tailor your residential new unit designs and existing unit renovations to reflect current market trends.
Avoid relying on what worked last time in design, even 5, 10 and especially 20 years ago. Tried and true design in senior living won’t fit the rapidly evolving desires of current and future consumers.
Continually update your product to maintain or improve your market position. The most successful communities have modernization plans (Master Plans) that can be refreshed regularly as the competitive product offering evolves. It’s better to continually make enhancements on a smaller scale, rather than wait 20 years and try to do one huge project.
6. Visceral Quality to Design
There are many design trends on the market such as display kitchens, boutique amenities, modular carpet tiles, and green/environment-friendly features. When considering individual design features, it’s critical to tap into both the positive and negative responses your sales team is hearing from consumers, and then analyze the cost versus the benefit of everything…BUT…
Avoid using financial metrics exclusively. There are visceral qualities that are hard to formulaically analyze. You can’t always say, “If I do this and that, the design and product will be a success.”
Owners and sponsors need an experienced team to help assemble and guide the design, procurement, construction, and other key processes necessary for successful occupancy and financial performance. Architects, engineers, and designers need well-conceived design constraints that are based on market research and carefully analyzed with financial modeling. While the focus of any project in the pipeline should be on your product, your market, and your customers’ desires; keeping these overarching trends and approaches top-of-mind will likely improve your metrics of success and avoid costly mistakes. Closely analyze the perceived need of each design element, as well as the cost to construct the space and operational expenses.
Partner with a design and development team that works with providers/operators to help mitigate risks and ensure all aspects of a project are considered.
About Joel Bleeker:
Joel Bleeker, along with a small group of design managers, is responsible for managing the design services at LCS Development. Joel started with LCS Development in 1991 as design manager and over the next 15 years rose through the ranks of design and project development management. In 2006, he was promoted to director of design. Joel holds a Bachelor of Architecture and an MBA from Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.