What makes a great design...great?

Posted by Jennifer Clement

May 1, 2015 2:42:09 PM

Each year, architects, owners, operators, industry experts, and many others gather at the annual Environments for Aging Conference.  This year's event was held in Baltimore, April 18-21. The best of the best projects are submitted to compete for five top awards in EFA's Design Showcase, and reviewed by an industry panel of professionals.  


One of those panelists was Quantum Age's own CC Andrews, who offered her perspective on what makes a great design...great. Competition was stiff this year among the nearly 60 submissions.  As quoted in the article EFA Design Showcase Jurors Offer Unique Perspectives, CC Andrews explained: 

It's about the greater community

"...From my perspective, as a strategist, I was particularly interested to see how each project responded to the needs and opportunities presented by the greater community it served. I was looking for projects that went beyond the standard models of skilled nursing/short-stay rehab, assisted living, or independent living—and combinations thereof."

"Were there new ways to blend services or settings to offer something uniquely tailored to a specific marketplace? Did design teams anticipate future changes in demand and design with flexibility of services (and spaces) in mind, so that providers can be agile and responsive to change?"

Evidence of collaboration 

"Of significant interest to me was each submission’s description of the collaboration process. I looked for evidence of engagement between the design team, the developer/operator, and stakeholders in the greater community. But it seemed that, in most cases, designers collaborated amongst themselves and with the client, but that was the extent of it—leaving huge untapped opportunity to get input (and buy-in) from the outside world."

"Those projects that did describe collaboration with the greater community seemed to really incorporate what they learned and, as a result, fared better in this competition. Their projects were more distinctive, less commonplace."

Key differentiator

"The innovation section of the submissions was revealing, as well. What did the design firm think was new and different about their project? In many cases, innovation related to the physical environments. Land parcels that required creativity to navigate, leveraging and conserving the natural habitat, and energy efficiency/sustainability seemed to stand out this year."

Differentiators ain't what they used to be

"On the flip side, innovations describing the interior (work and living spaces) weren’t all that innovative in actuality. Using a neighborhood or small house model was listed several times as an innovation, but that's becoming more of a norm these days (a good thing)."

"I would love to have seen projects with more diversity in the services offered. There are so many needs that providers can fill beyond the traditional short list. Day care (adult and child), respite care, outpatient services of many kinds, wellness services, and community education are just a few that come to mind. There are also services unrelated to senior care, specifically, to be considered."

"Collaborating with the greater community is a way to assure that a project is relevant and marketable—and a diversified investment, which can also go a long way to reduce risk."  

Like hear how CC's fellow panelists made their selections? Meet the panel experts here. 

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