Category Archives: Architecture

Remodeling and Adaptive Reuse Projects

Adaptive Reuse Project | Grancare Gardens

Finding more affordable ways to improve marketability

As architects specializing in senior living design and construction, we hear it often—care facility owners and executives like you are challenged with appealing to more discerning clients (and their children) while keeping costs in check. So, what happens when your senior living community is years out of date or when market demand calls for more capacity? That’s when more affordable alternatives to new construction may come into play, including remodeling your facility or embarking on an adaptive reuse project.

If you’re thinking about how you can meet customer demand when you don’t have the ability or aren’t interested in building new, it’s worthwhile to consider these alternatives.

Master planning: The first step

Differentiation is always the name of game in senior care. While the care you provide is the most important, your facility’s look and atmosphere is a major driver in whether a prospective resident chooses you over your competitor. Today’s seniors and their children are looking for their next living space to feel like home, a space where they are comfortable and can stay as active as possible.

Considering facility changes? Stay competitive with architectural design by starting your planning phase sooner rather than later. This is especially true if a new long-term care facility is planned in your market—the goal would be to have your project done about the same time so that new competition doesn’t get a step ahead of you.

If you’re in a competitive market and considering adaptive use or remodeling, a comprehensive master plan will benefit you in a variety of ways:

  • It’ll help ensure your remodeling or adaptive use project meets market needs.
  • It’ll provide you with a detailed financial analysis to determine whether the project is cost-effective.
  • Finally, it’ll provide you with a general concept of what your design will look like and the programs and services you could offer.

If you’re planning a facility remodel, this initial document should also include a plan for construction with minimal resident or caregiver disruptions. At CLS, we even create plans that involve and engage your residents in viewing construction progress, when possible, so that they feel included in their home’s evolution.

Considering adaptive reuse

If a master plan reveals your local market could use more senior living facilities, you may want to consider an adaptive reuse project, rather than building from scratch. Empty medical facilities, hotels, schools and other commercial buildings may lend themselves to such projects. Adaptive reuse is a commercial construction trend that many senior living facilities are adopting around the United States due to the scarcity and high land costs. In some cases, it’s also helping senior living communities locate in coveted spaces close to downtowns or cultural centers, where today’s seniors want to be.

But not every available space lends itself to a more affordable option. That’s when careful planning and a complete understanding of what it would take to convert the property becomes a significant piece of the planning process. While these are considerations for any senior living facility, it’s important to keep them in mind through an adaptive use redesign:

  • Mobility: How will seniors enter and exit easily? Do the materials used in the original construction provide high contrast to improve visibility? Is lighting sufficient? If the space is especially large or has several stories, consider upkeep on elevators and providing rest spaces to break up longer walkways.
  • Socialization: Seniors’ physical and mental health relies on socialization with others. Ensure they have access to common spaces, even if it’s in a lobby area as well as outdoors.
  • Public spaces: Based upon the location and size of an adaptive reuse project, it may lend itself to public use. Perhaps a portion could be rented out for a local shop or café. Or, your public-facing space could be designed to invite the community to share a cup of coffee or fitness class.

An adaptive reuse project success

When Grancare Gardens in Green Bay, Wis., approached us to develop a new assisted living center, we saw an opportunity literally next door. Grancare’s long-term nursing facility shared the block with an abandoned medical clinic and its parking lot. Although Grancare had been looking for a green space to build, we approached them about reusing the former clinic because it offered two benefits: it would allow Grancare to provide a continuum of care on one campus, and it offered cost savings.

We  transformed the dark clinic environment into an inviting 16-unit space with large windows and a gazebo that draw in natural light, comfortable interior design elements, an open-concept common area and a beautiful outdoor garden.

Architects specializing in senior living

If you are considering remodeling your senior living community or see an opportunity for an adaptive reuse project, give us a call at (920) 969-9344 or visit our Contact page. We can help you develop the most cost-effective plan to meet your market needs.

The Power of Light and Space in Dementia-friendly Environments

Designing space and lighting solutions for memory care facilities

In creating a dementia-friendly environment, the right lighting and space design can have an incredibly positive effect on resident quality of life. In fact, both artificial and natural light, as well as space design, can have an impact on emotional and psychological well-being.

How we integrate lighting design into dementia care homes

At Community Living Solutions, we’re dedicated to designing and building senior living communities that get to the heart of what our clients and their residents need. And when it comes to designing dementia-friendly environments, lighting design plays an integral role in not only creating a peaceful, healing environment but also making life easier for those who care for the residents.

Dementia care is complex and can be challenging to manage. So how is it possible that lighting and space—construction aspects that seem deceptively simple—make a difference? The answers may surprise you.

Biodynamic lighting allows us to harness daylight’s biological effects even in an environment with artificial lighting, like senior living communities. These biological effects are profound. Reduced exposure to daylight can lead to sleep problems, mood disorders and chronic fatigue. Meanwhile, biodynamic lighting allows us to mimic the variations of natural daylight through intentional design and light management. From a design and construction perspective, opportunities abound.

First, it’s important to note how lighting is shown to make a significant difference in the lives of senior living residents, in particular residents with dementia.

Tailored lighting intervention is proven to help those living with dementia

According to a recent 12-week study of multiple dementia care communities, increasing indoor exposure to daylight was shown to reduce depression among residents. More, it’s been found that exposure to the right amount of daylight is an effective non-drug treatment for those with dementia. Designing a space that allows for increased daylight exposure for residents could then feasibly improve quality of life for the 20 to 30 percent of individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD).

In addition, appropriately tailored lighting has been shown to alleviate sleep disturbances. Among individuals with ADRD, nighttime wandering is a common concern. By reducing sleep disturbances through lighting design for dementia care homes, facilities can also reduce this phenomenon. Less wandering results in a reduced risk of dangerous falls. Also, a tailored lighting design or intervention that stimulates the resident’s natural sleep and wakefulness cycles are shown to decrease what’s known as “sundowning,” or late-day confusion among dementia patients, while improving behavioral problems and lessening agitation.  One recent study on lighting and Alzheimer’s patients showed at the end of just four weeks of lighting intervention, sleep disturbance and depression dropped significantly, and by the end of six months, sleep disturbance and depression scores dropped by half. Other studies have mirrored these findings while also noting decreased agitation scores.

The power of human-centric lighting

We all know that feeling we get when we’re outdoors and the sun just begins to dip below the horizon, the drowsiness that accompanies a rainy day or the joy of seeing the sun spread its golden light across the horizon in the morning. The role light plays in our mood and wellbeing is proven to us time and again, almost without us noticing it. With human-centric lighting, we design lighting while keeping in mind how it affects the many aspects of our lives. That means human-centric lighting is designed to optimize:

  • Mood
  • Productivity
  • Perception
  • Circadian rhythms
  • Visual acuity
  • Sustainability

How well we can see is central to a number of our needs, from our sense of safety and wellbeing to our health, mood, task performance, social communication and aesthetic judgment. As a result, how we see and perceive our environment impacts our emotions, motivations, behavior and even our long-term memory.

Through biodynamic lighting in design for dementia care homes, we are able to send the appropriate cues to our bodies by mimicking the appropriate outdoor lighting for everything from dawn to daylight to dusk, including the nuances of an overcast sky, mid-afternoon sun rays and even sunset. Lighting “dose” can be adjusted for intensity, duration, timing and more, and it can be customized for individual environments, including resident rooms, community rooms and general areas.

Recommendations for creating dementia-friendly environments with light

Now that we recognize the potential for lighting in senior living environments and how it factors in dementia care, here are some recommendations for designing and building a dementia-friendly environment.

  • Maximize resident exposure to daylight during the day, but especially in the morning
  • Evenly illuminate spaces, to minimize contrast and especially shadows
  • Minimize exposure to blue-rich light sources after 8 p.m.
  • Use amber, or warm light sources, after sunset
  • Create dark environments for sleeping
  • Avoid using artificial light sources during the night
  • Be mindful of quality of life over quantity of light

Facility design for dementia care homes

In addition to lighting interventions, use of space and purposeful wandering capability for residents improves quality of life for individuals with dementia. From an architectural perspective, it’s important to design a home-like environment for residents, one which engages the senses, reduces confusion and feels familiar. Common areas that feel homey, including living room-like spaces and comfortable dining areas, go a long way in comparison to the hospital-like environments in the past.

Purposeful wandering has been shown to reduce agitation and confusion. Incorporating purposeful wandering into your design can be done in several ways:

  • Minimize dead-end corridors
  • Create activity areas to encourage movement
  • Design nourishment areas where residents have easy access to snacks
  • Develop sitting nodes, for a sense of place
  • Build interior, secured courtyards as a special focus for community spaces, and a safe place for residents to connect with nature
  • Organize life stations for residents to display familiar images and items
  • Incorporate memory boxes into wall spaces

Lighting and space: new frontiers in building a dementia-friendly environment

At Community Living Solutions, we’re eager to help you design the future of your dementia care home. From lighting to space design and more, our experts are ready to help you create a senior living community that provides the highest possible quality of life for residents while achieving your business goals.

If you are interested in seeing how we can help you develop senior care solutions and design for dementia care homes, request a consultation through our Contact page or call us at (920) 969-9344.

Senior Living Construction with Community Living Solutions

How we bring the pieces of the puzzle together

At Community Living Solutions, designing and building senior living communities isn’t all we do. We think beyond brick and mortar to ensure our clients are making the best decisions for their future. How do we do that? With a comprehensive planning process, a commitment to active listening and informed decision-making. That way, all the pieces of a senior living construction project come together in a state-of-the-art facility that will meet residents’ and employees’ needs for years to come.

We often compare our process to a three-legged stool made up of planning, architecture and construction. Our extensive planning process leads to thoughtful design and construction, which is based on our clients’ vision coupled with current and future market demand. When one of those legs doesn’t function effectively, the project suffers. See how we approach each of these services to ensure all three legs work together to create a state-of-the-art senior living facility.

Our planning process

Before we begin designing your senior living facility, we take a significant amount of time gathering information to fully understand everything about your organization, your team, your residents and your board of directors. Thanks to our experience in designing and building only senior living communities, we also bring insight we gained from past projects to help ensure yours goes smoothly.

We have assisted clients with developing strategic initiatives of their business plans. We helped them obtain financing and determine the capital cost of their project. Typically, we assist with identifying third-party market feasibility consultants to help our clients determine what to build—or whether to build—based on market demand.

We enter every project knowing there are numerous decision-making possibilities, and every decision affects the whole. Like a Rubik’s Cube®, if you change one thing, there are another five sides that could be affected, for better or worse. That’s why we take master planning so seriously. Without proper planning, making changes without noticing how they affect the whole can leave you frustrated. And worse yet, leave you with costly mistakes both now and in the future.

Staying on trend in architectural design

We design and build only senior living facilities because we share our clients’ passion for providing seniors the best quality of life possible. Our person-centered designs are uniquely creative as they need to solve a series of complex problems—focusing on residents’ quality of life, maximizing operations and staff efficiencies, minimizing overall costs and taking advantage of the latest market trends.

We do our due diligence by researching not only overall architectural design trends but also new products or new ways of delivering care that may affect the design. Three examples come to mind:

  • During a recent memory care expansion at Bethel Home & Services in Viroqua, Wis., we brought the first Snoezelen room to that market. These multi-sensory rooms help reduce anxiety, especially for those living with memory loss.
  • In post-construction client surveys, we learned that while the long-term care market is demanding private bathrooms, there are fewer people available to clean those bathrooms. At the same time, we learned of a light fixture that is said to kill germs and bacteria. Could installing these light fixtures help upkeep these bathrooms in some small way? It’s possible.
  • Those living with memory loss may benefit from a room design with the subtle reminder of having the restroom in view from the bed. The possibility of reducing accidents allows caregivers to spend time on greater needs and interaction.

Our portfolio is full of projects that not only brought beautiful new living spaces to area markets, but they also solved day-to-day challenges, both big and small.

Helping reduce senior living construction costs

People often ask about assisted living construction costs, as well as construction costs of other senior living facilities. At Community Living Solutions, we take pride in bringing together all the disciplines needed under one source of responsibility: us. That helps keep costs down.

Every project is led by a CLS partner who develops and helps to manage a team of about 20 subcontractors. In every instance, we hire local tradespeople who fully understand the area’s building codes. We vet them thoroughly to make sure they are fully staffed, have the right experience and background, and are financially sound. We also ensure they share our common values so they become a trusted partner of your complete construction team.

We save money by acting as our own general contractor, and we pass those savings on to you. It’s estimated that a competitive construction management procurement process, such as the one we deliver, can save an average of 8 percent on construction costs.

The CLS way

We view success as lessening for our clients any burdens that may come from a building project; delivering an efficient, homelike facility; and saving clients money in the long run. If you are interested in seeing how we are different, request an introductory meet-and-greet by visiting our Contact page or calling (920) 969-9344.

Align Your Nursing Home Layout Design for Today’s Senior Needs

Nursing home design trends to use (and leave behind)

Working on an updated assisted living or nursing home layout design? Customer demand and increased competition are driving design innovation across the LTC industry. If you’re looking for help choosing the right design elements for your community, read on as we share nursing home design trends to consider and the ones to pass by.

Warm, welcoming and fresh spaces

Ambiance and aesthetics are becoming more important than ever. Today’s seniors are savvy consumers and decision makers. They seek out communities that fit their lifestyle and personal identity.

Think of your community in the same realm as a resort or hotel. Hospitality industry-inspired design in lobbies, common spaces and dining areas is here to stay as seniors look for spaces they can see themselves living in. They also want their family and guests to feel welcome and comfortable. Speaking of resorts, Senior Housing News reports that restaurant-style dining has become a need-to-have amenity. Think outside the “bistro-box.” Multiple dining options within a single community are becoming more and more common, and it doesn’t have to drain the budget. Well-planned restaurants and take-out dining can generate revenue, community involvement and even potential resident leads!

Thoughtful senior living design layout offers flexibility

Layout flexibility that meets facility and resident needs may be the “next big thing” in LTC community design. A thoughtful, flexible layout can help your residents age in place—a strategy that benefits resident health and the bottom line. Three of our projects feature designs to provide flexibility now or in the future:

Each of these was built to accommodate various levels of care, as well as various payment sources.

Aside from providing additional levels of care, thoughtful nursing home design can drive real living spaces that support people and the lives they want to create. Create spaces the build community and feel like home. You might ask, how do we know if we’ve designed a community that supports our ideal residents’ lifestyles? Get to know your audience via market research and customer data.

Research to identify the lifestyle needs and desires of your current and future residents isn’t always covered in a standard market needs assessment, but these customer level insights are critical for successful community design. Considering needs of different types of residents and their family members will help prioritize potential design options. For example, dining options may seem like the most important design upgrade for your community, but your residents might be more concerned about how your community helps facilitate their active lifestyle. Customer data can guide those investment decisions.

Generally, demand is up for private rooms, and college roommate style private bed and bathrooms with shared living spaces can provide desired privacy while maintaining affordability. Consider The Livability Index’s finding that seniors are living active lives but varying social gatherings between private homes and public spaces. This supports the need for cozy common spaces and not just large multi-use spaces. Consider designing some spaces where:

  • Family members could gather for a birthday party
  • Residents can host a game night with friends
  • Small bible studies can meet
  • Intimate groups can gather for coffee

Creating real living spaces also means that one-size-fits-all fitness centers are out, and usable wellness spaces focused on group classes or one-on-one personal training or therapy are more desirable. Fitness centers are one area where you can skip the general hospitality industry approach. Few people love using that boring hotel fitness center, and your residents likely feel the same. Seniors are looking to stay as active as possible, and purposeful spaces can help make that happen.

Put these nursing home layout design trends to work in your community

Considering a design shift or new build for your senior living community? At Community Living Solutions, we have vast knowledge in all areas of senior living facility planning, designing and building. In fact, it’s all we do.  If you are preparing for a remodel, addition or new senior living facility, connect with our team or call (920) 969-9344 for your free consultation.

Interior Design for Dementia Care Homes

How to use color and design elements to improve quality of life

We all know that as our bodies age, the way we see things changes—quite literally. Cataracts and other issues cloud and distort vision so that colors and designs are not as sharp and vivid to an older eye. But, did you know that dementia and Alzheimer’s disease changes our vision even further? The brain of those living with memory loss interprets what the eye sees differently than those who have better memory function. As a result, choices in design elements may impact a person’s feeling of safety and security so that interior design for dementia care homes needs to be carefully planned to ensure residents feel comfortable in their surroundings.

How the brains of memory care residents differ

Besides struggling with memory recall, those living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease lose depth perception. According to online mental health resource PsychCentral, “A light fixture flush with a nine-foot-high ceiling may seem to them to be reachable while standing on the floor … A strip of black linoleum visible around the edges of a light carpet can be interpreted to be a bottomless pit ….”

Added to that, these seniors have an especially difficult time interpreting shapes and other visual cues in poor lighting, both lighting that is dim and casts shadows or light that glares, as from a bright window.

3 elements to consider in interior design for dementia care homes

If you are looking to design a new facility or remodel your current space, there are three design elements to consider when creating welcoming spaces for those with memory loss. Some of these ideas are so simple, you could easily make some changes even if you are not undertaking a larger building project.


Not only does sufficient lighting increase safety and aid in wayfinding, studies have found that seniors who spend much of their time in well-lit spaces sleep better and exhibit fewer episodes of anger or other disruptive emotions. The Lighting Research Center estimates that seniors need about 70 percent more light than they did in their earlier years to see objects. LED lighting design helps in meeting these needs. LED lights also can be mounted under beds for better wayfinding for residents and third-shift caretakers, as well as under mirrors and along handrails.

To reduce glare from a window bouncing off objects, use carpet and sheer window treatments. Also, consider the glare that could be caused from light reflecting on art work that is behind glass.


It’s best to keep interior design simple—like carpeting, furniture and even bedspreads—for Alzheimer’s patients and others living with memory loss. Complex patterns and prints will confuse these residents, maybe even leading them to believe objects are moving. In addition, residents may interpret patterns on floors, like checkered rugs, as holes they may step in or steps up or down. Even a dark throw rug placed on a light-colored floor could be mistaken for an unsafe hole.

This simplicity extends to the amount of décor, as well. Less is more for those with memory loss, as clutter can confuse them to the point where they will shut down and be less active.

Color contrast

Like the example of a dark rug on a light floor, color contrast extends to other interior design elements. Chair colors should contrast with floors so the senior clearly sees where to sit. Even tablecloths and table settings have an impact on seniors. Contrasting the plate color with either a placemat or tablecloth will allow your residents to see their food and eat more. Research also has shown that bright plates stimulate appetites.

The best colors for dementia patients

While specific colors may or may not be better for people living with memory loss, we do know that aging eyes distort colors. And, certain colors can make spaces appear or feel smaller or larger, warmer or cooler.

When choosing colors for your facility, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Colors can help define an area, improving wayfinding and reminding residents of where they are based on the color.
  • Color contrasts between floors and walls can improve balance in people who have poor vision.
  • High color contrasts in small spaces can cause eyestrain and perhaps headaches.

In addition, it’s important to remember that seniors cannot easily distinguish between blues and greens, so avoid attempting to differentiate two things—like a sign and wall—with these like colors. Also, many people are colorblind and are unable to see the difference between red and green.

Contact our interior design experts

Considerations for how interior design affects those living with memory loss has become such a hot topic, there is even an app developed by Alzheimer’s Australia for those who can use help, especially in private homes. With so much to consider in interior design for dementia care homes, the task can be daunting. But, we are here to help.

If you are interested in learning more about architectural design and facility planning to enhance memory care, read our Memory Care Facility Design blog. As specialists in senior living community design and construction, Community Living Solutions can help you design, remodel or build a memory care facility to enhance your marketability. For your free consultation, contact Terry McLaughlin at 920-969-9344.

If you are interested in learning how outdoor spaces can improve the health of those living with memory loss, read our Dementia Garden Design blog.