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Creating a Senior Living Master Plan that Works... Part 2: The Built Environment

This part of the discussion addresses how the client’s goals are translated through the built environment.

Even before the marketing feasibility study is complete, the collaborative effort of considering built environmental options for a repositioning, or “right-sizing” of campus care program, operations and environment can begin. Establishment of goals and expectations, not only for the outcomes of the engagement but for the process utilized to achieve those outcomes, is the initial task. These goals are based on the client’s perceived needs and culture along with any specific environmental and functional deficiencies. Exploring any and all options and ideas in an expedient and economic way is really the purpose of master planning. These goals and expectations become touchstones throughout the process, revisited each time the team meets to ensure the team is progressing along the right path. Of course, this does not mean that the team cannot modify goals or address additional goals which may be initially determined as unattainable.  

The established goals should be focused on an organization’s strategic plan developed prior to initiation of the master planning process. They can be divided into short and long-term categories with appropriately assigned timeframes including marketing goals, built environmental goals and financial and scheduling/phasing goals. As the plan progresses, it is critical to consider how care program, staffing, and operational changes will be met, how resident relocation, will be accomplished and how to communicate campus disruption in a positive manner.

Creating a functional program for the campus is also an important step generally taken at the onset of the master planning commission. This is a dynamic exercise completed by the provider for each area of service, amenity or support that they are currently providing or want to provide for their residents. While the team assists in the completion of these forms, it is important that the provider address these key questions in order to fully inform design adjacencies, the day-to-day functioning of each area of service and staffing requirements. As a side benefit, this exercise often results in comments from providers that help gain insight or a renewed focus on specific areas of care provision to their campus they may not have previously recognized.

If the master plan is aimed at a campus repositioning, it would be appropriate to prepare and analyze an existing space allocation program and assessment of the built environment’s remaining useful and functional life, particularly mechanical and structural systems. With the knowledge gained from this exercise, it can be determined if the existing built environment may function within the parameters of a new care approach or a new housing or care product. Benchmarking this information against space allocation data compiled on a national basis from previously completed projects informs the master plan as to where there may be imbalance between uses such as support space versus social space. The financial consultant also uses this information to ascertain existing ongoing operational and maintenance costs which can be compared to those of new structures.

By maintaining a detailed data resource of project space allocation from a variety of campuses across the country, expeditious decisions can be reached as to where changes or additions should be made within the existing campus in order to meld the built environment with the anticipated care program or housing need indicated in the market study.

Once complete, an overall space allocation program is created to fully meet the needs of the intended or modified care program. Examining areas of existing construction which are suitable for repurposing is included in this space allocation program. This exercise provides and informs concepts for the built environment and indicates the need for specific spaces, including “grossing” factors that take into account circulation and the area necessary for walls.

Working directly with the market analysis as well as the functional and space allocation programs (tools subject to change over the course of the engagement), discussions can begin about opportunities that may present themselves to the provider and how these might be addressed. Of highest importance are areas that might enhance the direct revenue for the campus such as additional care programs, housing products or conversions of existing care programs.

View Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

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