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A Dallas-based senior housing architectural firm is building with the future in mind by designing “flex rooms,” a concept that allows providers to convert units as residents’ needs change.
The concept takes an innovative approach to infrastructure that includes wiring and designing a building’s electrical and plumbing lines in a certain way to facilitate future unit conversions as they’re needed.
As part of a new $11.5 million assisted living and memory care community that will break ground in the Dallas-Fort Worth area this June, three: living architecture believes its unique design feature will provide both long-term savings and greater flexibility for providers as their residents age and move across levels of care.
“Flex rooms are for providers that want the flexibility to fill up either of their assisted living or memory care neighborhoods,” says Cliff Holasek, senior associate at three: living architecture. “We’re adding the infrastructure so the units can be adaptable as needed for memory care or assisted living.”
three is coordinating the plumbing and electrical lines for the building, Rochester Springs Assisted Living and Memory Care, while also working with consultants in both trades for the framing of the project to make converting the units from assisted living to memory care a seamless process.
Converting a unit from one residential care setting to the next goes beyond simply moving walls to accommodate a change in living space, says Holasek.
“Flexibility doesn’t require moving walls,” he says. “It can be as simple as adding casework for a kitchenette or adding a door between two spaces to provide a living room and a bedroom space.”
With the infrastructure already in place from the initial design period, the cost for providers to convert a unit translates into a “couple thousands of dollars” at most for additional work, Holasek says, which would be in terms of adding kitchen space, millwork or doors for privacy, if needed.
“There is a small upcharge at the amount of infrastructure that we’re providing, but it can pay back for itself if and when units are adapted from one level of care to the other,” he says.
Even with additional work to be done to convert a unit, with the infrastructure to facilitate the conversion already in place, Holasek assures that there would be “very few” walls that would need to be modified and that modifications wouldn’t affect or disturb the remainder of the community.
“There’s no large scale renovation construction going on,” he says. “The’re relatively quiet and easy renovations.”
While three: living architecture has experience in designing units that can facilitate the conversion from adapting two assisted living units into one larger assisted living residence—or two smaller independent living units one larger independent living residences—this is the first time the company has made units that are adaptable from assisted living to memory care, and vice versa.
The ability to physically adapt units not only benefit residents by being able to cater to their aging care needs, but adaptability can also help a provider stay in tune with future demand shifts within the market.
“In the next year, five years or even ten years, if there is a demand for more assisted living and a lesser demand for memory care, then the memory care neighborhood can be easily adapted,” Holasek says.
Written by Jason Oliva