Extra Care: Beyond Expectation

Extra-care residents should no longer be thought of as old, they’re young, IT savvy with high expectations in terms of design, privacy/community, living standards and technology.

As architects, we look to create extra-care buildings that aim to deliver on a number of levels; addressing the needs of our current and future generations, to be harmonious to their surrounds, to provide holistic solutions that complement the way our clients work, and to ensure high levels of sustainability and long-term efficiency.

Wellbeing

At the heart of the government’s new Care Act is the requirement to put the individual first with the notion of the wellbeing principle. Although housing and accommodation standards are not specifically identified in the contributing wellbeing factors listed, we recognise that the home and care environments are fundamental to an individual’s wellbeing, and as part of our people first principle, fundamental to our design ethos.

Promoting independent living, whilst offering varying degrees of care, and communal facilities that are well planned, designed and finished; homes in which people can feel secure and cherish, and communities that people can feel a part of. Well designed accommodation to provide the foundation of people’s lives.

Community

The essence of community is central to all our schemes, nurturing and homely places to provide varying degrees of activity, flexibility and with outlooks onto well designed gardens.

Accessibility is key to the success of the communal living/dining and activity spaces, therefore ensuring these facilities are well located is critical to resident’s well-being. Smaller, more intimate and informal sitting areas are also integrated into our larger developments of apartments and villages, to provide localised meeting areas that are generally quieter and low key.

Privacy

Whilst community plays such a strong part in the success of many schemes, maintaining independent privacy is equally as important. Notional thresholds between the communal and the individual dwelling are important devices in creating buffers and maintaining privacy. Private gardens, terraces or balconies provide another layer, a zone that allows outwards looking within a private, often enclosed and secure place.

Adaptability

Beyond lifetime homes, we try and integrate wheelchair design space standards into various aspects of our dwellings, in a bid to anticipate the resident’s changing needs and enable future adaption. Adaptability is critical in this type of accommodation; with residents looking to remain in their property for a number of years, as such most internal partitions will be none load bearing to allow for the future removal of sections for dementia sufferers or possible reconfiguration, open-plan design would be championed, along with dual aspect apartments, and adaptable communal spaces. Wherever suitable, we generally look to frame construction methods to provide a totally flexible and adaptable structure one of the fundamental principles of sustainability.

Sustainability

As a business, sustainability forms one of our core principles. No matter how large or small our extra-care schemes, sustainability will be addressed specifically to the individual project.

We believe that the future adaptability of the extra-care schemes is key in ensuring the long-term sustainable life-cycle of the building, as well as meeting the ethos of our clients and local government. As recognised by the BRE as the most sustainable construction material we would normally recommend timber frame for our smaller projects. For larger extra-care schemes this could involve maximising off-site construction with a panellised timber frame system; at once maximising future adaptability, reducing site wastage, increasing quality and reducing construction timescales. Where possible we may recommend the use of off-site manufactured bathroom pods that are delivered to site fully equipped with specialist bathroom fittings and services. All of our residential buildings are highly insulated with an airtight building fabric offering lower running costs and consistent comfort levels.

Large windows are also specifically important the wellbeing of residents. Not only benefitting with views outwards, but also allowing higher amounts of natural daylight to penetrate into the rooms, as well as larger openable window areas.

Technology

The upcoming aging population is more technologically proficient more than ever before. Watson Batty Architects is constantly appraising new technologies that can improve the older person’s wellbeing and make everyday tasks easier. Often these technologies complement highly sustainable lifestyles that minimise energy consumption and enhance comfort levels.

From simple interventions such as underfloor heating, material and component specification (windows/doors etc.) and sunlight shading; to MVHR, ‘learning’ thermostats and optimising the role of WIFI and media systems, Watson Batty will work closely with clients and specialist consultants to develop bespoke and fully integrated technical solutions to maximise living standards.

We are currently working with several clients, including both specialist providers and councils, to develop design principles in line with current thinking. We also attend regular seminars, discussions and conferences in the UK to strengthen our own specialist knowledge. We are always very interested to hear from other professionals, providers and end users, please feel free to email us at: april.marsden@watsonbatty.com