Care home design

possibilities. Wearable technology enables health monitoring, from heart rate to steps taken, allowing staff to capture and record data automatically. That, in turn, means they can access and deliver real-time updates on residents, ensure digital records are held centrally, and develop more efficient systems for business operations.

Technology will remain a driving force in evolution of care home design. A 2015 report by care provider Anchor Hanover set out the abstract possibilities including ambient monitoring walls, rotating gardens, virtual pets, and 3D hologram computers incorporating voice-activated commands.

Addressing environmental performance

With climate change and environmental impact now firmly on the agenda at both a national and individual level, it is time for care homes to follow suit and ensure design is best fit for environmental

performance. UK targets to reduce carbon emissions, together with investor demand for sustainable buildings, now make this a collective opportunity. Sustainable technology specifically has been integral to improving the environmental performance of care homes. At the simplest level, reducing energy bills has historically been important for cost reasons, but societal shifts have moved this up the agenda to the extent that it is now a point for public discussion. That presents a unique challenge for care homes, operating a 24/7 business model that requires above-average temperature conditions for elderly residents.

As a result, UK care homes have had to make strides in this area over the last ten years. Starting points have included increasing insulation in buildings, along with access to green spaces surrounding them. Many homes have gone on to replace oil and electric heaters with biomass wood-chip boiler systems.

They have also installed solar thermal panels, in some cases combining these with ground source heat pumps. The UK government’s Renewable Heat Incentive, introduced in 2014, allows homes to be paid for every unit of heat produced through renewable technologies. Care homes have also come a long way in how they handle by-products of their operational business. In previous decades, waste management was not really a term ever discussed by management, let alone monitored or reported on.

Looking forward, as pressures to tackle climate change increase, and investors look for more reassurance on the sustainability of real estate, factors such as building performance will become increasingly important considerations.

Improvements in diagnoses and understanding of later life conditions

Technology and sustainability are important themes in care home design. But other macro factors affecting care homes include the detection and treatment pathways of medical conditions experienced by residents, with great advances being made specifically in the areas of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

It is estimated by NHS England there are approximately 850,000 people suffering with dementia in the UK. In past decades there was not a clear understanding of how to treat dementia or improve the quality of life for patients and so design elements of care homes could not reflect this.

However, there are now several not-for- profit organisations working to shape policy and raise awareness of dementia, its impact on individuals and society. As the spotlight falls on this disease and understanding increases, the real estate industry has also responded and there are

40 • July 2020

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