A Building that Breathes

The Dovetree Aged Care Community is Wesley Mission Queensland’s’ newest residential aged care community, situated in the leafy suburb of Sinnamon Park. The facility is perched on a steeply sloping site surrounded by dense vegetation. The river and Jindalee Creek cut swathes of green through the suburb, which are being threatened by encroaching surrounding development. In this context, connection to landscape and the protection of the feeling of this green oasis was one of the fundamental drivers of this project.

The challenge on this site was creating a community that included a 144 bed facility, with a large area of associated functions and services, on a limited footprint, over a steep slope. The resultant 7 storey building is Wesley Mission Queensland’s first foray into a vertical model of community for aged care. The design intent was to embed this building in the slope, to allow the landscape to flow through and around it, to disassociate itself from the institutional language of multi-storey health and care facilities, to create a “Treehouse.”

The large floor area was broken down into smaller wings, with the two longest wings running east-west to maximize the northern and southern aspects. All of the rooms and communal spaces are oriented to take advantage of the best views, long and more immediate.

Occupy outdoor spaces
All of Wesley Mission’s residential aged care communities are modelled around the Eden philosophy of care, a resident-centred approach which focusses on empowerment, and surrounds residents with gardens, animals, friends, family and community- qualities that signify “home”. Having the ability to choose outdoor spaces, and the way one can use them is an enormous contributing factor to feelings of autonomy and independence.

Central to the facility is the sub-tropical courtyard which feeds from the surrounding landscape. It is a focal point of activity or repose and a unifying orientation element from all parts of the RAC. The podium level is also home to a Therapies Centre which is open to the public and connects the community of Sinnamon Village as well the wider community.

Throughout the building itself there is also a variety of outdoor spaces from the large verandahs to the intimate crows’ nests, offering a range and a choice of orientations for different times of day and seasons.

Illuminate with natural daylight
Maximising natural daylight is particularly important for the elderly in order to maintain the body’s normal responses to diurnal rhythms.

At Dovetree we have also used glazed elements at the ends of corridors to assist residents with orientation, ensuring there are no “dead end” corridors. The mass of the building is broken down by glazed links which bring natural light deeper into the building.

Natural Air and Ventilation
All habitable spaces in Dovetree have openable windows. The design of the windows to the individual suites has been developed to allow every combination of light and breeze, and variable control by the residents. There are also openable windows to ends of corridors to promote cross-ventilation.

Shade and Protection
Glazing is protected from harsh western sun but is open to plenty of natural light via the use of external sun-shading elements. Large overhangs to verandahs make them comfortable for most of the year, with a range of orientations to allow for seasonal occupation.

The fact that the entire building itself is raised off the podium level, allowing the landscape to run under it, provides the whole campus with an enormous area of protected, usable and delightful outdoor space that is either open to the sky or protected by the coolness of the mass above it.

Reduce Energy and Waste
Dovetree’s design has been guided by sustainability principles to minimise adverse environmental impacts and improve environmental performance, by implementing the following sustainable initiatives:

  • The majority of the building is naturally ventilated and lit
  • Durable construction materials imbue a sustainability ethic. Materials have been selected for low maintenance and long-life expectation to reduce ongoing maintenance and operational costs of the facility
  • Sunshading limits heat loads whilst maintaining views and breezes
  • Outdoor recreation spaces promote social sustainability by encouraging residents, their families and friends to interact together, creating memorable experiences.
  • The landscape uses a subtropical, climate appropriate plant palette.
  • Extensive weed removal and revegetation of the Jindalee Creek.
  • The landscape design stabilises the site’s steep embankments to prevent erosion and sedimentation of the adjacent Jindalee Creek.
  • Sustainable water management captures, treats and stores rainwater, bio-filtration and natural swales direct flows and improve the site’s natural hydrology prior to discharge into the Jindalee Creek catchment.

Dovetree has a 6 Leaf Certification rating with the EnviroDevelopment assessment scheme across the elements of Ecosystems, Waste, Energy, Materials and Community.

Words by Katerina Dracopoulos, Director
Email Katerina