The Devil is in the Details: Designing a Building Envelope to Stand the Test of Time

I’m one of the drafters at RLPS.  We’re the people who document all of the details of constructing a building – how all of the individual pieces go together.  Yes, we use state-of-the-art 3D modeling software to design each building, but we still “draw” a lot of the details individually – the digital equivalent of putting pencil to paper.

What is the building envelope?

One aspect of building design that we spend a lot of time detailing is the building “envelope”, the outer layers of the building that keep the elements out and keep the interior comfortable.  The envelope performs those duties by managing and controlling heat transfer, rain and snow, water vapor and air movement. Continue reading

COLOR TREND FORECASTING: Finish Meets Fashion; Science Meets Art

various images using pantone's 2021 colors of the year For only the second time in 20 plus years of color forecasting, the Pantone Color Institute has announced that its 2021 color of the year is two colors!  This led us to take a deeper dive into color trend forecasting. Color trend forecasts have garnered more media attention in recent years and seem to be increasingly impacting interior design trends, as well as fashion, home décor and consumer products from blenders to cars. Who’s behind the color picks each year and how are they selected? Continue reading

MERRY & BRIGHT: Everyday Lighting Strategies

collage of various interior lighting samples Lighting is one of the fundamental aspects of interior design—whether it’s a senior living community, educational facility, hospitality venue, office, or really any type of occupied space. Lighting strategies are especially important now that most of the country has moved back to standard time. Those of us living in the northern hemisphere are experiencing reduced natural light and likely getting outdoors less than usual.

As we move into the darker days of winter and the sparkling lights associated with the holiday season, it’s a good time to devote our attention to everyday lighting strategies.  We’ve asked a few of our interior designers and lighting design consultants to share their thoughts on various aspects of lighting. Continue reading

POST-PANDEMIC PRIORITIES: Interior Design Strategies for Senior Living

various spaces in a senior living community For both the near term and into the future, senior living is going to look, feel, and function differently. An intensified focus on infection control has drastically altered day-to-day operations which are now viewed through the lenses of health, density, and safety. We are taking a different approach to senior living design strategies, such as space layouts, finish materials or furniture and equipment selections, to help senior living communities respond to changing priorities. Continue reading

Biophilic Design for Learning

a collage of various biophilic design samples in the real world Despite the documented benefits of getting outside and experiencing nature firsthand, students spend most of the day indoors and a growing proportion of that time is spent staring at a computer screen.  This reality reinforces the value of applying biophilic design principles to a new school building or campus renovation to create a better learning environment for students.

Open Air School, Netherlands, 1918
Open Air School, Netherlands, 1918 – The health benefits of nature connections have long been appreciated. Open air schools originated in the early 1900s in response to tuberculous outbreaks. The first open air school in the US opened in 1908 in Providence, Rhode Island.

Biophilic Design Defined

Biophilic design has received growing attention in recent years. The idea that nature connections help to inspire, calm and nurture us almost seems like common sense. Biologist Edward O. Wilson, who literally wrote the book “Biophilia,” describes our innate tendency to affiliate with nature.

Biophilic design acknowledges this reality and focuses on strategies to increase occupant connections to the natural environment. This is achieved through a combination of direct connections, simulated nature, and space and place conditions. Continue reading

THOUGHTFUL DESIGN: Interior Design for People with Dementia

collage of various interior design ideas for people with dementia

Professional interior design melds functional and aesthetic qualities of spaces with current codes to protect public health, safety and welfare. Interior design for people with dementia requires additional considerations to respect each individual without compromising dignity or comfort.

Memory support since the 1990s
Fostering outdoor connections is one design principle that has not changed. This photo is from The Sylvestery at Vinson Hall in the early 2000s.

RLPS has been designing senior living communities since the 1950s.  Specialized settings to support people with dementia emerged in the early 1990s and demand has increased significantly since that time. More recently, some senior living communities are moving away from a separate setting for people with dementia. This integrated living approach requires appropriate staff training, effective use of technology and community-wide supportive strategies to provide safe and comfortable living spaces for all senior residents regardless of cognitive abilities.

There is no single “right” answer. Our team draws on evolving research, specialized programs, and input from our clients to inform our approach to support the needs of people with dementia through interior design. For example, intentionally designed spaces for programs such as Montessori or Opening Minds through Art (OMA), function as a silent partner reinforcing these research-based initiatives. Continue reading

There’s a Code for That? Hand Sanitizer Station Guidelines for Schools & Campuses

Hand sanitizer guidelines can be found in the International Building Code and the International Fire Code

There are differing opinions regarding best scenarios for getting back to classes this month. Good hand hygiene is the most universally accepted measure for keeping students, staff and faculty safe when returning in-person to schools and campuses this fall. Many of our education clients have indicated that installation of hand sanitizer dispensers is a key component of their preparations. However, it is important to be aware of hand sanitizer guidelines when installing or placing stations in your buildings.

A Simple Solution, but Guidelines Can’t be Overlooked

Hand sanitizer is a preferred hygiene solution due to having less touch points than the traditional soap and sink hand washing.  Its ease of use and ready availability may also encourage more frequent sanitizing by students. Hand sanitizer dispenses are simple to implement, with both wall installation and self-standing options available.

Did you know  that hand sanitizers are addressed in the International Building Code and the International Fire Code for all school and campus buildings? According to the codes, hand sanitizer is not considered a hazardous material if dispensers are installed correctly and limited quantities of material are stored appropriately.  However, incorrectly installed or stored supplies risk being flagged by code enforcement officials as hazardous material. Continue reading

Isolation Rooms in Residence Halls: Will They Be the New Norm?

Is now the time to introduce isolation rooms in campus residence halls? A single room with an en suite bathroom for students who require heightened privacy has become a programming “must” for new and renovated residence halls. Often referred to as “medical rooms,” they provide a private room and bathroom for students with medical needs.  This includes conditions like Crohn’s Disease, diabetes, or other immunodeficiency disorders.  More recently these rooms have been available at some institutions for students who are transitioning or exploring their identity development.

Following the onset of COVID-19, our architectural team has been discussing if higher education institutions need to consider a similarly designed room for residence halls—an isolation room. This type of specialized space is commonly found in medical facility design, but isolation rooms are not typically included on college and university campuses.  Could isolation rooms be one of the long-term changes we see? Continue reading

COVID-19 SENTIMENT REPORT: Survey of Independent Living Desirability and Safety

As we look to the future, there are many questions about how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is going to impact senior living communities.

How will this health crisis reshape consumer priorities and delivery of services to older adults?

Are social isolation requirements and community quarantines causing people to re-evaluate senior housing options?

How do staff members feel about the added pressures they are facing and how is the new normal impacting their ability to provide services?

To start to answer some of those questions and help senior living communities prepare for the future, RLPS was one of the sponsors for a senior living survey of independent living desirability and safety spearheaded by Plante Moran Living Forward and Retirement Dynamics. This survey included independent living residents, prospective residents, and staff members in 70 communities located in 13 states.  More than 5,000 survey responses were collected, along with 7,000+ write-in comments and compiled into the final report.

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The COVID-19 Sentiment Report will help us better understand how people feel about living or working in an independent living community and how the pandemic is impacting future choices and priorities. The insights from this report will help us reshape senior living communities and services for long-term market strength and resiliency.

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5 Interior Design Trends for Outdoor Spaces

various outdoor spaces in a collage While social distancing remains a priority, outdoor venues have provided opportunities to get outside and gather in small groups.  Restaurants across the country have been able to open outdoor seating areas prior to dine-in options.  Many of the current interior design trends for outdoor spaces reflect their popularity for life plan communities, 55+ housing, school and university campuses and hospitality venues.

Even when we are not experiencing a pandemic, biophilic design principles reinforce the value of spaces that meet our innate need for nature connections. The WELL Building Standard calls for its projects to have a biophilia plan to incorporate nature through environmental elements, lighting and space layout.  This includes interior settings as well as porches, patios, courtyards, dining terraces, pool decks and rooftop venues that encourage people to get outdoors.

Continue reading