Andy Allwine, AIA, recently attended the 14th annual North America Passive House Conference, sponsored by Passive House Institute US. The conference, titled “The Profitable Blueprint for ZERO,” included pre-conference education sessions, keynote talks and two days of education sessions all centered on passive building techniques, detailing and marketing, building science, carbon neutrality and safe building materials. We asked Andy about some of his take-aways from this conference.
What is a Passive House?
A passive house is a building with an airtight, well-ventilated, highly thermally insulated enclosure that reduces the external loads on the building and allows for a smaller, more efficient mechanical system. These factors also happen to make for a more durable building that requires less maintenance, provides a higher degree of health and comfort for occupants and helps mitigate the effects of climate change through radically reduced energy consumption and global warming potential. Almost any building type, use, size, and climate region can achieve passive house standards, including retrofit conditions. In my option, almost all of our projects would be worthy candidates to apply this standard.
According to the Passive House Institute, the term passive house is something of a misnomer as the approach is increasingly being applied to multifamily apartment buildings and large scale commercial buildings as well. As a result, the term passive building is gradually coming into more common usage, as it’s a more accurate term than passive house.
What is your interest in Passive House?
My interest was partially project-specific research and partially general information gathering. We currently have a client interested in passive certification so we wanted to learn everything we could in advance of that project design. However, I was equally interested in the value and viability of passive standards for all of our work. Recognizing that college and universities have been early adopters of this standard to help accomplish their on-campus sustainability goals, my objective was to attend sessions that focused on those types of spaces that have utilized the standard.
This conference reinforced my passion for helping RLPS continue to move towards a more high performance building design standard. My next step in this journey will be taking the Certified Passive House Consultant training this year.
What are the cost implications for Passive House?
This year’s overarching topics were the push to net-zero/net-zero ready buildings and reducing or eliminating the cost premium for building to passive house design standards. Much of the premium seems to already have been reduced to negligible levels in markets where passive design has been practiced for a number of years and contractors are familiar with the standard. Also, as more large-scale window and door manufacturers bring high-performance products to market, economies of scale are expected to further drive down costs.
Ultimately, I believe that the use of passive house principles will lead to healthier buildings that are less expensive to maintain and operate for our clients. It seems likely that this level of high performance design and construction is going to continue gaining ground—either through code mandate, market demand or a combination of both, so it just makes sense for the RLPS team and our clients to understand the benefits and start implementing the principles sooner rather than later.
What are some of the steps we can take now for highly efficient design?
Much like other sustainable design and healthy building initiatives, the best results are achieved through the combined efforts our architects with the engineers and general contractor team members.
A few of the steps we can explore immediately include:
-More insulation, less air leakage and smaller/better mechanical systems (Passive House basics).
-Cost efficient design and construction methods: finding savings opportunities during the design process that can be reallocated for high performance design, better finishes and other design ‘extras’.
-Thoughtfulness in materials selection – avoiding toxic materials, understanding environmental impact, and reducing carbon emissions.
We’re already doing all of this to a certain degree. Passive house is just about prioritizing the long-term value of highly efficient design when evaluating the options and making the tough cost decisions that occur on every project.
What was your big take-away from the conference?
Buildings, and especially building envelopes, that are built or renovated today are meant to last 30, 50, or in some cases even 100+ years. That means that the consequences or benefits of any decision we make today will be around for our lifetime and for future generations. A humbling thought to keep in mind throughout our work, especially given the current worldwide climate trends.
Passive House by the Numbers
The first Passive House (Passivhaus) residences were built in Darmstadt, Germany in 1990, and occupied by the clients the following year.
In the United States, the concept of passive design was first implemented by Katrin Klingenberg in 2003 when she built a passive home prototype named “The Smith House” in Urbana, Illinois
In 2019, Park Avenue Green, a low-income housing building in New York, became the largest certified Passive House in North America.
Since the release of the PHIUS + 2015 Building Standard, more than 1,200 projects and 1.1 million square feet have been certified across the United States.
Currently, a passive house typically costs about 5-10% more than a conventional home.
Larger projects benefit from the economy of scale: a multifamily passive building typically only costs 0-3% more than a building built to an Energy Star baseline.
Senior wellness is defined by more than just physical health. As humans, we are social by nature, seeking ongoing opportunities to remain connected to people and places around us. Wellness programming that engages both the physical and mental elements of older adults’ well-being presents creative opportunities for today’s senior living communities.
Seniors may experience loneliness due to the loss of a spouse or partner, or distance from family and friends. While senior living wellness programs offer ample opportunities for social and emotional engagement, older adults can also benefit from opportunities that transcend community boundaries.
Wellness programming that exposes residents to external community connections can prevent isolation and loneliness and give older adults a sense of purpose. Community partnerships that provide opportunities for intergenerational interaction through the community’s own facilities, educational outreach, or other public programs not only expand social connections, but also engage residents’ unending desire to learn.
As a result, senior living communities are creating wellness programs that facilitate resident experiences both on and off campus, and also allow non-residents to enjoy programs available within a senior living community.
Performance centers integrated within a campus or community center can help residents fulfill a need for intellectual and social stimulation. Art exhibitions, concerts, staged productions, and other events that are opened to the public elevate the community’s value for all guests. This is a powerful marketing tool, demonstrating a vibrant and active community lifestyle for non-residents to see.
Pools and natatoriums are often considered basic physical wellness components, but don’t need to be limited exclusively to resident use. Like a performing arts center, opening a pool or natatorium to the greater community can build strong public partnerships with local groups and educational institutions. Allowing swim teams or not-for-profit groups to use the facility for competition or educational programs creates intergenerational opportunities for residents and community members alike. Resident volunteers can participate as hospitality hosts, timing officials, swim meet marshals or in other capacities. A campus may also allow employees and community members to register for pool memberships that permit access to the facility during set hours.
Intellectual curiosity and educational exploration are common themes, as most senior living residents maintain their love of learning well into older age. Lifelong learning opportunities on and off campus are an increasingly popular program offering among seniors. Pursuing educational or informational courses can help older adults refresh early life experiences, learn new skills, and understand distant cultures while interacting with others who share common interests.
The key to life-long well-being lies in both physical and cognitive exercise. Senior living wellness programs need not be limited to campus residents alone. Operators who can open wellness programming to staff, not-for-profit groups, and others from the greater community create a win-win for campus residents and the general public alike.
For more about how wellness is evolving in the senior living arena, read our latest case study, Wellness in Independent Living, available through the Wellness resource page.
To learn how Wellness might fit your development needs, Contact Us today for more information.
Wellness among older adults has traditionally been considered a physical goal of health and mobility, often achieved in a gym, pool, or fitness center. But senior living community operators are now tapping into the natural environment for resident wellness programming opportunities as well.
Today’s senior living population is more active into older age, and often engage in some type of physical activity as part of their lifestyle. A significant portion of seniors cite wellness programs as a deciding factor in choosing a senior living community, suggesting that wellness is increasingly important to both current and future residents.
In response to changing expectations, senior living communities are looking outdoors to enhance their resident wellness programming. Including exterior spaces such as walking trails, community gardens, exercise areas, and fitness stations not only serves to enhance residents’ physical health, but other areas of wellness as well.
Outdoor wellness programming in senior living environments has been proven to positively impact all areas of resident wellness. In this context, the term wellness takes into account the whole person, incorporating not just physical health, but also residents’ emotional, spiritual, intellectual, occupational, social, and environmental well-being.
Open-air senior living environments now serve multiple purposes. A beautifully-landscaped community courtyard may double as a meditation garden or exercise area for yoga, tai chi, and other fitness classes. While focused on physical exercise, these activities also encourage social interaction and serve to enhance residents’ emotional, spiritual, and environmental wellness. Flower gardens maintained by community residents can be used for social and emotional wellness, or to visually enhance interior spaces by bringing nature indoors.
Recreation areas for lawn games such as bocce ball and croquet, or shuffleboard and pickle ball courts, target residents’ physical health, yet also enhance their social, occupational, and environmental wellness. Intentionally designed exterior spaces, like walking trails with fitness stations, offer less strenuous activity than lawn games but create equally impactful environmental and social experiences.
Outdoor cooking and dining present additional opportunities for senior living wellness programming. Open-air cooking classes and demonstrations, fully-equipped outside kitchens, and al fresco dining venues are increasingly popular among senior living communities for their social, intellectual, environmental, and occupational values. Produce made available through community herb or vegetable gardens and greenhouses can be used to create a farm-to-table experience and promote healthy eating.
Meeting seniors’ wellness needs transcends physical exercise and therapy activities. Today’s residents want greater opportunities to maintain and enhance their wellness as part of a healthy lifestyle. Senior living communities are looking to the natural environment to improve residents’ lives across the spectrum of wellness, helping to provide spaces to socialize and enjoy individual and group activities that stimulate the mind as well as the body.
For more about how wellness is evolving in the senior living arena, read our latest case study, Wellness in Independent Living, available through the Wellness resource page.
To learn how Wellness might fit your development needs, Contact Us today for more information.
Hybrid homes™ evolved as a new senior housing model that enabled providers to incrementally add independent housing with more flexible financing options and the potential for a la carte service offerings with a higher density footprint than stand-alone cottages. This model appeals to consumers for its outdoor connections, emphasis on natural light and appealing amenities including covered parking.
No two hybrid home models are alike. Each community puts its own spin on the right mix and style of individual units, appropriate scale, regional building materials and optimal layout. This ongoing evolution has led to the development of a new generation of hybrids based on diverse operator needs and consumer demands.
The original hybrid homes were stand-alone buildings, often constructed in pairs, but distinct from the main community center. Typically marketed to more active adults who wanted to maintain their independent lifestyle, the hybrids were separated from campus amenities. To counteract the potential isolation of this approach and strengthen community connections, many of the Hybrid 2.0 models provide covered walkway connections back to the community center.
These new Hybrid 2.0 models marry the two things the younger senior demographic values most: appealing private residences and opt-in socialization. Socialization is something baby boomers view as a choice. Want to share a meal? Invite neighbors over to your kitchen. Want to enjoy a quiet summer evening without interruption? Head to your balcony, deliberately oriented on the corner to be as far from chatty neighbors as possible.
Hybrid homes offer both at the same time—corner units for maximum privacy, yet easy access to community amenities when social interaction is desired. For example, at The Langford at College Station, Texas, we worked with the owner to develop a hybrid home concept that connects to the campus clubhouse building via interior walkways, making it easy for these independent living residents to join in campus activities.
Covered Parking Options
Another Hybrid 2.0 feature is taking a different approach to the covered parking aspect of hybrid homes. At Sycamore Square in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, the owner endorsed an adjusted parking design with individual garages, each with its own door, eliminating the need for a full concrete-and-steel floor above the parking level. This market-friendly feature helped to lower the overall construction cost.
Multiple Price Points
New housing for Oakleaf Village in Toledo, Ohio needed to meet consumer expectations for abundant daylight, open floor plans and covered parking while maintaining affordability for older adults in this Midwestern working class area. The design result is two parallel hybrid home apartment buildings with a connected pavilion between them. These three buildings form The Crescent, a micro-community for active seniors that is securing HUD financing to provide affordable rental housing.
The variety of hybrid home options is expected to continue to expand as providers find new ways to customize the model to meet their available property constraints, consumer expectations, individual financial needs and market realities.
To learn more about hybrid homes and their potential for your senior living community, read our latest case study, Hybrid Homes: Evolution in Independent Living available through our Hybrid Homes resource page.
To learn how Hybrid 2.0 Homes might fit your development needs, please Contact Us for more information.
Emerging ideas in architecture and interior design are creating new models of independent living, pushed by baby boomer seniors who don’t want to sacrifice their lifestyles and love of outdoor spaces to move into a senior living community. One design solution that has been popping up at communities across the county is the hybrid homes™—built to integrate the benefits of cottage homes and apartment living.
Hybrid homes look and feel more like condo living, providing lots of daylight, plenty of storage space—and garage parking while also incorporating opportunities for social interaction with common amenity spaces. Creative layouts avoid the long interior corridors common in apartments while allowing for units that can range from a modest 800 sq. ft. to 2,300 sq. ft., a size that rivals some standalone homes.
The hybrid model is a little bit different for each community, but these homes are all about the corner layout with expanded views, abundant natural light and private outdoor space.
For example, at Givens Estates Creekside Apartments in Asheville, North Carolina, we worked with the owner to develop hybrid homes based on four units per floor, giving every unit a corner orientation. A central lobby on each floor gives residents a place to meet and socialize. Units include amenities more commonly found in upscale condos, including nine foot ceilings, dens, generous balconies and walk-in closets.
Senior living operators love the hybrid home model as much as residents do, primarily because hybrid home buildings can be constructed one at a time and then filled before beginning construction on the next one, often allowing operators to skip the costly bond financing involved in larger-scale projects like apartments. The challenge, operators say, is introducing a new style of living to consumers who think they should choose apartments or patio homes simply because those are the independent living models they’ve seen before and what their parents may have had. But at many Life Plan Communities, hybrid homes are becoming the fastest-selling model in the portfolio. Marketing teams report that once people see the finished product, they understand the difference. The lack of long corridors and the views are typically the features that sell the hybrid home concept.
The model is constantly evolving, especially as designers seek ways to make the construction more affordable in rural areas with lower housing values. The ability to adapt the architectural design to the specific needs, vernacular and marketing demands of each community is driving its appeal to both operators and consumers.
Increasingly, hybrid homes are a key driver for attracting younger residents. Average ages for people moving into hybrid homes have been 76 to 81 with anywhere from half to three quarters of the units being occupied by couples. Hybrids offer baby boomers the lifestyle options that many demand and give operators flexibility to build incrementally with more favorable financing options.
For more about hybrid homes and their potential for your senior living community, read our latest case study, Hybrid Homes: Evolution in Independent Living, available through the Hybrid Homes resource page.
To learn how Hybrid Homes might fit your development needs, Contact Us today for more information.
The mindful combination of technology and design keeps residents connected to their social networks while fostering independence in senior living.
Nearly 20% of Americans age 62–91 report feeling lonely frequently. – Connect2Affect report
It’s well documented that people who feel lonely are at greater health risk both physically and emotionally. Of the primary contributing factors to isolation, many are directly related to growing older, including relocation to a care setting, the death of older friends and family, the loss of hearing or vision and the decline of cognitive function and/or mobility. Together these create a perfect storm for older adults struggling to maintain a sense of social and community connectedness.
“Loneliness has been associated with increased mortality and a range of adverse health outcomes that are both prevalent and costly in older age,” notes a 2017 Connect2Affect report funded by the AARP Foundation. “Loneliness, however, is often a hidden problem. It has few clear outward indicators, some degree of stigma attached, and no proven solutions beyond conventional wisdom about trying to make friends and find meaningful pursuits and activities.”
Combatting loneliness is not just about interacting socially or participating in activities. The type of social connection matters, too, the study authors note. Healthy social connection works to raise a person’s self-esteem and sense of belonging while fostering emotional caring and the sense of purpose.
While engaging in activities and making new friends both have value, the ability to maintain connection with already-familiar relationships is just as vital, notes a 2018 literature review published in BMC Geriatrics.
Several of the studies reviewed touted the merits of technology-based connectivity that goes beyond email and telephone. Tools such as video-conferencing and online groups can bridge the gaps between static communication and in-person interactions. Other key interventions to combat loneliness include learning new things (courses, workshops, skills classes) and participating in purposeful activities (charities, volunteer work creating meaningful things to donate).
The IQ Home incorporates sophisticated technology into the living spaces, so friends, activities and community news are just a click away. Through a partnership with K4Connect, residents stay informed of campus happenings through a personalized portal, share video calls with grandchildren, participate in social media groups online and search for information whenever they wish.
Integrated connectivity for tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices helps create a sense of ubiquitous connection to anything they wish to access—making a resident’s own home a central hub for the “Internet of Things.”
The best ways to maintain healthy social connectivity are to stay in regular contact with existing family and friends, nurture family relationships to gain a sense of family support and inclusion and stay connected to the local community, whether it is by attending religious services, joining a community organization or participating in community events with family and friends.
IQ Homes put powerful technology tools in residents’ hands in a user-friendly form, giving them the ability to reach out and stay socially connected—all while supporting success in the independent lifestyle they have chosen.
To learn more about the IQ Home and its features for keeping residents connected to their friends and family, visit our IQ Homes Resource Page to download the free ebook, IQ Home: Purpose-Driven Technology Keeps Residents Connected.
Mindful design focuses on preventing falls, reducing hospitalizations and championing confidence in aging independently
On an annual basis, more than one in four older adults will fall, and it’s the top reason for hospitalization in those age 65+. It’s also one of the top reasons why seniors have to leave their homes and enter assisted living. Interior and architectural design play key roles in creating a home environment that is safe, aesthetically pleasing and adaptable as the resident’s needs change.
For the IQ Homes at Masonic Villages at Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, RLPS Architects designed a new model of independent living that fuses mindful design with transparent technology to tackle the top safety concerns of older residents.
Reducing Falls Risk
Environmental hazards—from raised doorway thresholds and poorly designed lighting to storage areas that force residents to reach too high for an item—are key contributors to falls, notes a 2018 study in Health Environments Research & Design Journal (HERD). “The current study provides empirical evidence of the link between environmental hazards and older adults’ falling, which is useful for developing effective fall intervention design strategies.”
Smart lighting design gets seniors from dawn to dusk without the dangers of too-dim or too-bright lighting. Sophisticated sensor technology monitors for dangerous patterns, including when a resident has been out of bed too long at night, possibly from a fall. Zero-threshold entryways eliminate tripping hazards and enable easy use of wheelchairs and other mobility devices.
The most popular place for a fall in the home isn’t the staircase, it’s the bathroom. Falls that occur in or near the bathroom have a higher correlation with hospitalization than falls in other areas of the home, the HERD study notes. Zero-threshold flooring, roll-in showers, grab bars and height-adjustable fixtures provide safer toileting and showering without introducing an institutional feel.
Clearing the Air
Breathing difficulties (COPD, emphysema, bronchitis, pulmonary edema and others) are among the top 10 reasons older adults seek treatment in an emergency room.
Asthma is a special challenge for older adults, since even a mild episode can cause dangerous shortness of breath and the risk of respiratory failure, notes the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. The treatment of asthma in seniors also presents difficulties, as steroid-based medications can cause severe side effects in older adults or interact with other medications prescribed for common geriatric conditions.
Controlling air quality within the home can reduce flare-ups from pollen, pollution and other irritants, lessening the chance of a breathing emergency and reducing the need for intervention medications. The IQ Home’s deliberate inclusion of sophisticated air filtering technology is the cornerstone of new research in how filtration impacts the reduction of hospitalizations and medication interventions due to breathing issues.
Having a sense of safety and control over the home environment is a major part of living independently. Part of it is autonomy: Not having to ask for assistance to reach something, cook something or move from room to room. But much also relies on a sense of safety, knowing that technology and mobile access are working together to allow residents to control security lighting, door locks and garage doors with one click from a handheld device.
Statistics show the overwhelming majority of older adults would prefer to age independently in a home setting. With mindful design, the IQ Home provides the safety, accessibility and confidence residents cherish while preserving their ability to live the way they wish.
To learn more about the IQ Home and its features for enhancing the safety and ability of residents who live independently, visit our IQ Homes Resource Page and download the free ebook, IQ Home: Intentional design for resident safety.
“I never try to teach my students anything, I only try to create an environment in which they can learn.”
— Albert Einstein
Although collaborative learning seems to be a relatively recent innovation, this interactive approach to learning was actually the norm centuries ago. In Ancient India, life and learning coexisted much like the student and his teacher, or guru, with every aspect of daily life presenting opportunities for learning. Likewise, scholars of Confucius, Muhammad and other well-known ancient teachers gathered as a group for a variety of interactive learning experiences.
What is your relationship with your Building Code official? Is it non-existent, adversarial, or healthy? Ideally, you have a clear, open line of communication with your Building Code Official (also known as a BCO.) Cooperating and addressing issues openly with your BCO will provide many long term benefits for you and your facility.
If your profession involves senior care, you have undoubtedly heard the term “culture change” for the past few years at conferences and in numerous publications. Generally speaking, everyone agrees that culture change is a necessary and desired shift in the delivery of services and care to seniors. Developers advocate culture change. Design professionals support it. Retirement communities have incorporated the term and its concepts into their brands and mission statements.