Rodiek’s students sweep national nursing home design competition

Susan Rodiek

Susan Rodiek

Environmental design student teams from Texas A&M swept a national design contest, winning first-, second-, and third-place awards, as well as honorable mention with plans for renovating a skilled nursing facility in Jacksonville, Florida.

The winning two-person teams designed the facility and surrounding landscape to showcase the latest innovations in resident-centered nursing care and to exploit the therapeutic benefits of natural, functional outdoor space. The teams, composed of students from two undergraduate design studios taught by Susan Rodiek, holder of the Ronald Skaggs Endowed Professorship in Health Facilities Design, were asked to adhere to Florida guidelines for skilled nursing homes and to submit an essay explaining their design decisions.

The “ [Renewing Home] ( ” competition, sponsored by the [Society for the Advancement of Gerontological Environments] ( and the [American Institute of Architecture Students] ( , was tailored to showcase state-of-the-art designs for long-term care environments and to exemplify the architectural challenges such renovations pose for designers.

The first-place team, Kevin Marek of Meeks, Texas and Kindall Stephens of Corpus Christi, earned a $2,500 cash prize and will be formally recognized next spring at the [Environments for Aging] ( conference in Orlando.

Their design envisioned residents' private rooms as "homes" located within a "neighborhood" defined by the facility's community space. The wide use of assessable communal areas, they said, would encourage residents to interact and form relationships.

Like all of the Texas A&M teams' designs, Marek's and Kindall's solution emphasized and facilitated residents' visual and physical interaction with the natural settings surrounding the facility.

"Ties to nature allow people to see that they are not isolated in a building complex," the team wrote, "instead they can explore difference areas and see the changes of the environment around them."

Part of the renovation guidelines called for the adaptive reuse of at least 55% for the existing structure. To this end, Marek and Kindall opted to remodel the administrative and community space and design new residential space to be more attuned with the long-term care philosophy known as “culture change,” which emphasizes the influence of cultural capital — attitudes, values, aspirations and the sense of self-efficacy — on individual and community behavior.

The aim, they said, was to create housing that gives "residents a feeling of being at home and confidence that their lives have purpose."

Second-place winners Yesika Soto of Houston and Briana Strickland of Dripping Springs earned $1,500 for their Tuscan mansion-inspired scheme using stucco and stone walls with wood trim, a red terra cotta roof, loggias, and indoor and outdoor vine trellises.

In their design, numerous large, low-sill windows connect bedrooms to the beautifully designed landscape beyond, allowing residents to enjoy the therapeutic benefits of the natural environment from the comfort of their beds.

The outdoor areas of the Tuscan design features accessible curved pathways connecting all of the homes. Located along the paths are intimate and public gardens, vine-covered pergolas, fountains and sculptures and a public pavilion with an outdoor kitchen located near a pond for parties, dancing, bingo and other recreational activities.

The provision of abundant natural lighting was a key element in the third-place design, which garnered $750 for Chris Boykin of Euless, Texas and Tao Li of Nanjing, China.

“Research shows that people over age 75 receive about one-eighth the amount of light a 20-year-old receives,” the team noted in its design essay.

To counter this problem, their concept included more than 25,000 square feet of outdoor space around the building, including an entry garden, shared outdoor spaces, a breezeway and an outdoor garden for exercise and gathering.

The facility's common spaces are all directly linked to the outdoor spaces, providing easy access and generous nature views.

A $250 cash award went to honorable mention winners Micah Birdsong of Hurst and Troy Grant of Rockwall, whose concept provided a home-like experience for the nursing home residents with a complex of households centered within a natural environment.

“Our design team focused on single-occupancy roomsefficient for both residents and staff members,” they said. “Each individual room was designed to have enough space for multiple-sized beds, entertainment and clothing storage, night stands or bookshelves, a bathroom with a personal transfer shower, large window views to nature, and access to a shaded, private, outdoor porch.

These single-occupancy rooms were clustered around a central park with a large, shaded circular pavilion for outdoor events, parties or leisure. Other outdoor spaces in their design formed unique nature zones, each populated with a variety of tree and plant species to produce varied color palettes throughout the year, fragrant scents and fruits that attract preferred wildlife.

posted April 30, 2012