Not-for-profits can have their cake and eat it, too

John Ward, Director, Fulton Trotter Architects, shares his insights on how providers in the not-for-profit (NFP) sector can use design to meet operational requirements while providing a high level of amenity and care for their residents.

Time to consider the needs of the NFP market

The current discussion in the industry on how to cater to the baby boomer market focuses largely on the upper end of the market, while the majority of aged care providers in the industry come from the NFP sector.

NFP providers deal with a complex range of budgetary, regulatory, and organisational constraints on a daily basis. One of the biggest challenges for the NFP aged care sector is getting the right balance between budget and client amenity. Good design can help operators provide a better quality of life for residents while at the same time relieving some of the burden on nurses and carers, lowering the cost of care, and helping to attract higher fees for the fee-paying beds.

Each project is unique. The key is to find the two or three things that make a significant difference to the residents’ amenity in each project and to focus on those.

4 key things to improve amenity and still meet the budget

1. Avoid an institutional lay-out

Although long, dark corridors with bedrooms coming off them is a cheap solution, reworking this design can make a big difference to how residents feel, improve the experience of visiting family and friends, and can also be very cost-effective.

A well-designed lounge and dining area can also have a positive impact on the way a building works, and how it feels to live there. A simple strategy is to have the entrance of the building open straight into a lounge/dining area so you don’t have to walk past corridors of beds — just the way you’d walk into the living area of a house and the bedrooms would be at the back.

2. Maximise light, ventilation and access to the outdoors

Another tactic is to connect common and service areas to the outside with a breezeway or courtyards. This lets people see in and creates a sense of activity and community. So, too, connecting bedrooms with the outside with large windows or access to courtyards, which increases natural light and helps residents feel connected with the rest of the community, can make a big difference to the atmosphere.

3. Choose interior fittings and finishes for comfort and a residential feel

Soften up the environment and make it feel more homely with hard-wearing but appealing finishes. For example, instead of using the usual vinyl sheeting, place wood panelling low down where chairs can run into walls to create an easy-to-maintain, residential look. Timber doors and hand rails also wear well and can be buffed and refinished if needed. Many of our NFP now choose residential-style materials because the benefits they provide far outweigh the cost of the minimal maintenance required.

4. The key is consultation

The key to successfully implementing these strategies is consultation with all stakeholders. This can be a complex and time-consuming process but it is essential to achieve a quality outcome within the constraints of the NFP environment. We find managing this process effectively throughout the project saves time in the long-run and leads to a better project that really suits an organisation’s needs.

Case study
Award-winning NFP project – Parkview, Brisbane.
Fulton Trotter Architects. Client: Wesley Mission.

Parkview is an aged care facility home to 144 high care residents that has “re-defined institutional style aged care through sensitive and well considered design. Based around landscaped courtyards, the corridors and rooms capture views, breezes and light, creating a feeling of warmth for its residents. Thoughtful details create a sense of home while welcoming in the broader community,” Malcolm Middleton – Australian Institute of Architects.

The aim of the Parkview design was to develop a high care residential project that promotes a well-being focus. The design created a community where residents can live well with integrity, respect, empowerment, hope, justice and compassion.

Parkview incorporates materials that suit its surrounding urban context; the lounge areas have verandahs that echo the local Queenslander style and make the place feel like it is part of the surrounding community, not separate to it.
The layout was designed to create flexibility for future development as well as reducing resident isolation by removing dead-end hallways and creating recreational spaces to stimulate a sense of community.

Parkview reinforces a residential feel with simple colour schemes that encourage residents to decorate their rooms as if they were at home. Each module of apartments is called a ‘community’ rather than a ‘ward’ and these communities feature their own identity and theming with unique colourful artwork and use of local timber species throughout.

The large, fixed glazed windows in the bedrooms have solid louvres on the side that give natural light and ventilation but are easy to maintain, and keep patients safe. The rooms open on to courtyards that are attractively landscaped and well used.