Future forward system considerations for your new senior living facility
By Donovan Geske
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The ongoing health crisis is highlighting the need to change how senior care facilities are designed to improve outcomes for residents who are at a high risk of contracting infectious diseases like COVID-19. To do this, we must consider new designs and technologies that can be integrated at the beginning of the design process:
Improved filtration. Many existing and new filtration systems can limit the spread of disease. In their “Guidance for Building Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” ASHRAE recommends using MERV-13 or the highest compatible with the filter rack and sealed edges to limit bypass.
Negative pressure zones. To maintain energy efficiency, it is best to have systems that provide the appropriate amount of outside and exhaust air. However, it’s important that these systems have the flexibility to increase exhaust air when there is a larger presence of disease in the facility to keep the resident rooms negatively pressured, compared to one another, and limit transmission between rooms.
Infectious disease areas. In new facilities, the developer should consider having a negatively pressured dedicated infectious disease area where residents can be isolated. Include a vestibule in between with an area for staff to decontaminate.
Telemedicine. Though still in the early stages of implementation, consideration for the dedicated space and technology infrastructure needed for virtual medical visits and virtual emergency assistance should be included in a design. Some hospitals are implementing telestroke, or stroke telemedicine, services to connect doctors with advanced training in stroke treatment with patients who’ve had a stroke – regardless of where they are. This future forward approach gives facilities the capacity to deal with more resident issues on-site without the need for transporting residents to a clinic or hospital.
As we emerge from the pandemic with more health and safety precautions, it’s important to implement these system considerations at facilities where our most at-risk groups live. We have the opportunity to provide residents with better outcomes and overall health through these future forward system designs.