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How to gain more space just by thinking about it.

Taking a fresh look at an old facility led to finding new space for new uses

John J. Hennelly, Administrator:

Because we had been in the building for 20 years, we thought we knew every nook and cranny of the St. Edward Home - what space we needed for what function, what needed to be "fixed," and how to go about doing it. So, when we began our Master Planning and Renovation Analysis for the facility, we believed we had the answers we needed.

Throughout its 20-year existence, the building had contained 100 nursing care beds on three floors, ancillary support facilities for residents on the first floor and lower level, and a 16-bedroom convent with common space areas, on the second floor.

Because the population of available Dominican Sisters who originally staffed the St. Edward Home had decreased, the convent was almost vacant. Therefore, it seemed to us to be the logical area to renovate and convert to use as an assisted living facility. The solution seemed obvious.

We retained an architectural firm, William Dorsky Associates, to assist in creating the overall Master Plan for our site, and together we planned and programmed the renovation to provide assisted living. But, while our initial financial study indicated we needed at least 20 assisted living units for the project to be feasible, the first scheme developed by the architects could provide only 12 suites. We persevered and asked the architects to undertake a total building analysis.

Taking a fresh look at our building, the architects saw things we had not conceive. We began to revise our plans, and ultimately we met our goal by providing 22 assisted living units without having to add any space.

Cornelia C. Hodgson, Architect:

When we first got involved in the St. Edward planning process, two things concerned us about the client's plan to locate the assisted living units in the almost vacant convent area.

First, the convent was located on the second floor and was not directly accessible from a grade level entrance. Second, entry to the assisted living area would be through the central nursing home entrance. This configuration, rather than promoting a sense of independence for the assisted living residents, emphasized that they were "in a nursing home."

We quickly began searching for other solutions. The first step was questioning Mr. Hennelly and his staff on the functions of all the spaces in the building.

This part of the planning process can be particularly frustrating and time-consuming for the client. We physically walk through the budding, room by room, and we question and challenge how things really work. "What do you do here?" "What is this used for?" "What, is this equipment?" "What are these boxes?"

Our client understood that our questions are not meant as a challenge to the administration, but are a brainstorming process that allows both parties, the client and the architect, to arrive at the best solution considering existing conditions: the actual building, the operation of the home, the functioning of staff, and - most important - the needs and desires of the residents.

At the St Edward Home, this process uncovered several areas that were functionally underutilized. Rather, they had become storerooms for 20 years of "stuff."

The most exciting element of this analysis was the discovery that the lower level, which had always been thought of as the "basement," had in fact several attractive attributes as a possible living area. First, it had grade level access that could be developed as a separate entry for the assisted living wing. Second, it provided significantly more square footage than the convent area, and this allowed for additional assisted living units.

As another part of the renovation plan, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and the arts and crafts area, which had been on the lower level, were relocated to the second-floor convent area. This put them on a nursing floor and meant that staff no longer had to bring residents down on the elevator to these programs.

A major portion of the renovation program involved relocating the central laundry room from one part of the lower level to an area that had once been the assembly room for the building. The assembly room, meanwhile, was relocated to the second floor convent (now assisted living) area, again providing better access for nursing home residents.

In addition to assisted living, several other areas in the existing home were renovated, including the nursing stations, the resident dining room and activity rooms, and the reception and entry lounge for the nursing home. Most important, a new covered entry to the nursing home was provided.

The ultimate lesson of this project was that creating new uses for old spaces is a challenge - a challenge to how we function in our buildings, a challenge to our daily routine. Sometimes the process challenges our logic, as well. But, in the end, creating the new from the old - starting fresh and thinking through - is a most exciting and rewarding process.

John J. Hennelly is Administrator of the Village at St. Edward, Fairlawn, OH. Cornelia C. Hodgson is Vice President of Facilities for the Aging, William Dorsky Associates, Cleveland, OH.
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Title Annotation:conversion of a convent into a home care facility
Author:Hodgson, Cornelia C.
Publication:Nursing Homes
Date:May 1, 1992
Previous Article:Preserving the old while building the new.
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