COVID-19 has created a renewed focus on healthy building strategies, particularly for senior living residents who spend a great portion of time indoors, shared speakers at the 2021 EFA Expo & Conference. As Carie Shingleton, senior interior designer at SFCS Architects, pointed out, everyone can benefit from healthy environments, but seniors, especially immunocompromised individuals, can benefit far more from better indoor air quality and disease control at senior living communities.
And she wasn’t alone in this sentiment. Joining her during the talk, titled “Creating Healthy Environments: Design Beyond COVID,” Shingleton was joined by fellow colleagues Amy Carpenter, principal at SFCS Architects and Allen McNutt, senior associate at SFCS Architects.
Using Healthy Building Strategies to Stimulate Everyday Wellness
During the pandemic, SFCS Architects sponsored a study on attitudes about senior living communities, finding that residents already living in senior living communities felt safest in that community. Meanwhile, those who were not currently living in a senior living community felt skeptical and nervous about moving.
Inspired by these findings, the firm collaborated with owners to find solutions to make all feel safer, from utilizing more outdoor areas longer; building multifunctional spaces within communities for visitors; promoting healthy building strategies to residents; and increasing communication about disease prevention strategies with residents in the community, Shingleton said.
She also highlighted how indoor air improvement strategies, inclusion of biophilic design, and new space-planning design protocols “have come to the forefront of financing priorities.”
Developing Better Indoor Air Quality
While much has been learned about COVID-19 transmission over the past year, such as research showing that COVID-19 transmission through the air poses a bigger threat than surface transmission, McNutt said evolving standards and good practices will focus on improvements in air filtration and ventilation.
“We’re also looking at air flow patterns more closely, setting up the air flow such that resident rooms are under negative pressure, and locating supply and return air vents more strategically to capture exhaled air closer to the source and prevent it from washing over others, but making sure there are no areas of air stagnation,” Carpenter added.
Using Design and Technology to Connect Residents with Nature
The speakers said they’re also seeing more senior living communities embrace biophilic design elements to help bring the outdoors in, including the use of nature-based patterns such as a honeycomb patterns in artwork; natural materials such as wood and stone; earth tone colors such as greens and yellows; green walls and plants; and views to the exterior.
Another strategy gaining popularity is the use of artificial lighting to provide circadian benefits. “Lighting is one of the first things targeted by contractors and owners to reduce costs, but it can have the biggest impact for residents,” Carpenter said.
Shingleton also noted that another area where she’s seeing a great desire for change is in dining spaces, such as creating niche areas for smaller groups through the use of panels and partial-height partitions “Gone are the large open dining venues that feel more like a country club ball room,” she said.
Another version of this article originally appeared on our sister site Environments for Aging.