The value of refurbishment in Aged Care facility design

On the blog today, Gilmore Interior Design is discussing the age-old question – to refurbish or not to refurbish?

The short answer is that you should absolutely consider refurbishing an existing aged care development!

There are multiple benefits and with the right design expertise on board, you can effectively bring it up to par with contemporary standards of compliance, aesthetics, and care provision.

The long answer? Read on to find out…

Benefits of Refurbishing an Existing Aged Care Facility

Availability of Land
Lack of stock in major cities can be a serious barrier to a new facility build. In the Sydney context, there are very few empty or 'greenfield' sites available in high-density areas. Typically, this is where the largest demand for aged care service provision exists, as potential residents desire proximity to family or to where they've previously lived and spent significant time.

As the cost of purchasing property inflates across the board, those providers who may have once sought to purchase homes and develop new facilities in areas of demand are now constrained in their ability to do so. By contrast, refurbishing an existing facility is often the most financially viable - and geographically available - choice.

This one is simple - in almost all cases, the costs associated with a new build or extension are going to outweigh a refurbishment project. Not only do you have demolition costs, but you also need to accommodate a longer timeframe for construction.

Continuity of Service
Another consideration which also involves financial implications is that any new build requires the re-housing of residents from their existing facility.

Rather than having to navigate an extended disruption to service provision (one that can be extremely disorienting for residents), a refurbishment can be completed via a staged approach. This enables you to continue to house residents, operate and provide care services to the community, while still progressing with your project.

Environmental Considerations
Generally speaking, if a building is in reasonable condition, retaining and refurbishing it is the superior option when it comes to environmental impact. Any new build is going to have a higher carbon footprint - from demolition and disposal, right through to the acquisition of all new materials required.

Determining if a Facility is Suitable for Refurbishment

Despite the benefits, refurbishment is not a complete catchall solution in all circumstances.

There are always going to be scenarios in which you need to pursue new stock, or where the benefits of refurbishment are outweighed by the potential investment required to make it happen.

The best way to determine whether a facility is suited to refurbishment is through a feasibility review. By accessing expert, objective analysis, you’ll be equipped with the information you need to understand:

  • the comparative cost of a refurbishment VS the construction required in a new build
  • whether the building can be operational for the next 5-10 years with a refurbishment
  • if compliance can be sufficiently improved or it’s untenable for any reason
  • what returns are achievable in the location in relation to real estate values in the catchment area and achievable RADS

What to Expect in the Refurbishment Process

As well as undertaking a feasibility review, it's important to understand what kind of refurbishments are likely to be needed for a typical facility.

A lot has evolved over the past decade regarding best-practice aged care design. These evolutions are led by research into how people navigate spaces as they age and requirements around ageing in place, as well as an increasing shift towards consumer-directed care.

This means that existing, older facilities are usually going to require a significant upgrade in order to align with current market expectations around standards of living and care provision, as well as compete with newer facilities cropping up in close proximity.

These upgrades can be loosely categorised as those that are specifically related to compliance and those that are guided by aesthetics and the end user experience (naturally, there's some overlap between the two!)

From a compliance perspective, part of the refurbishment process will need to focus on:
  • conducting a risk assessment of all spaces, including dimensions and spatial allowances for disabled access, and considering how they can be easily perceived by individuals with cognitive and visual impairments
  • evaluating current materials in use and ensuring a revised selection of materials and colours that enable greater ease of navigation (e.g. high contrast)
  • upgrading and replanning spaces such as double rooms and shared ensuites
  • improving lighting and air conditioning systems

There are also a variety of measures you can take – that while not necessarily mandated from a regulatory perspective – will make a significant difference to the experience of residents and their families and the functionality of the overall space.

Working with an interior designer will help you maximise this internal space planning, specific to your existing facility. But immediately, we recommend that you anticipate:

  • shifting from a dormitory-style configuration (4x beds to a room, a shared bathroom) to single bedrooms and private ensuites
  • ensuring sufficient, unimpeded access to natural light, exterior garden spaces and areas for exercise/walking
  • creating larger communal areas for socialising and activities
  • private spaces for family visits and celebrations
  • exploring the use of materials that are inherently antimicrobial, with the ability to kill germs, improve indoor air quality and promote infection control
  • improving signage and wayfinding to ensure residents can move around the space with ease and minimal disorientation
  • generally beautifying the environment so it resembles a home-style aesthetic
  • considering the current acoustics and how to nullify the sounds of care provision, resulting in a less clinical feel
  • making space – where applicable – for additional services like a cafe, hair salon, gym and theatre

All these examples will contribute to the comfort and sense of ‘normalcy’ that a resident feels within the space, with significant flow-on effects for their behaviours and experience of anxiety and/or disorientation.

Are you currently weighing up whether a refurbishment is the right choice for you? Gilmore Interior Design can help!

Get in touch with us or an obligation-free chat

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

gilmore id