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ELDERLY HOUSING DESIGN FROM THEORY TO


PRACTICE: CASE LJUBLJANA
Conference Paper January 2014
DOI: 10.13140/2.1.4767.6160

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15. Section ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN / ARCHITECTURE AND SOCIETY

ELDERLY HOUSING DESIGN FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE:


CASE LJUBLJANA
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Domen Zupancic /
University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Architecture
ABSTRACT
Architecture design for elderly people could be aligned with kindergarten design. Both
processes need integrated approach, using ergonomics and daylight conditions as guide
lines. Forming a space is a cognitive process combined with standards and other
regulation in the field of engineering and health (medicine). Additional aspect is the
scope of cost of investment and cost needed for maintenance of the building. Costs are
nevertheless combined with human resources, also.
In the field of architectural theory the group of elderly is quite neglected. Does this
group really need a section in the field of architectural theory? References are generally
design oriented and rarely present any social aspects of the design. Population ageing in
Slovenia is raising problem and could be more efficiently managed. Those aspects could
be divided into two distinctive groups: social policy with urban planning and targeted
architectural design. Theoretical frame work could be combined with practice and
projected back to theory recuperation theory.
The paper presents economy of investment in this field combined with social policy and
targeted architectural design. All those issues are presented in the case of Ljubljana
ika home for elderly. Using European energy efficiency funding (EEE F) we may be
able to combine those inputs and gain benefits in the field of social role of architecture.
We compared private and public homes for elderly in Ljubljana: comparing room sizes,
ergonomic design, number of inhabitants etc. We compared given social approaches and
predicted the possible outputs for future.
Keywords: Integrated Design Process, Ergonomic Design, Daylight, Dysfunctional
Space, Homes for Elderly

INTRODUCTION
Let us start with the statement, designing the living environment for special group
(elderly, children, blind persons,) is a special task. It includes several questions: who
are going to be the users of this spaces; how they share daytime tasks; do they have
common habits; do they share common interests; do they need any assistance
involving other group of users of the same space, Of course there are several other
questions in the field of personal issues / needs. More interesting are those in the field of
public issues concerning making those spaces liveable and sustainable. As Christopher
Alexander [1] stated, the central issue of architecture is to provide encouragement and
support for life-giving comfort and profound satisfaction life as worth living.

SGEM 2014 International Multidisciplinary Scientific Conferences on Social Sciences and Arts

Architectural design can be used, misused or obeyed; all those options are possible
nevertheless how the building codes and standards are set. The most misused term in
90ies and last decade in 21st century is the term sustainability. Almost any architectural
design using wood or stone was sustainable, almost any glass faade using aluminium
construction was promoted as most energy efficiency and sustainable architectural
realization. In mass production sustainability cannot be the smartest goal. On the other
hand, using standardized design and construction could help identify inefficiencies in
the process, which could potentially lead to lower costs [2]. The more encouraging and
less abstract task would be if the word sustainability is split into two words: sustain and
ability. This is the basic idea in the architectural design.
Designing a space to serve only one targeted group obey the idea of sustain and takes
only the part of idea of ability. However this is more or less short cut to non-liveable
environment. In kindergarten are children with several needs some are common others
are different from person to person depending age, health and character of the child.
Combining them in groups is a natural step. However they need assistance (nursery,
teachers, parents and other visitors) the scope of special task is wide and involves
several groups. When designing a liveable environment for elderly the same issues
occur.
HOME FOR ELDERLY: DESIGN ORIENTED STRATEGY AND
ADAPTATION OF EXISTING BUILD ENVIRONMENT
Elderly people are those who are over 65 years old, generally are retired and have
growing health / medicine needs. According to the data, in 2020 almost 20 percent of
residents of Slovenia will be aged over 65 years and more than 30 percent will depend
on institutional elderly care [3]. Management of the population of elderly people
combines social policy aligned with urban planning using targeted architectural design
solutions. The statement is fine in theory; practice is far more complicated and includes
several aspects. In the field of architecture there many guidelines prescribing project
management approaches when designing for the people with special needs [3], as
elderly group certainly is.
From the scope of guidelines we could define the working field as: design oriented
strategy and adaptation of existing build environment. Design oriented part follows
those criteria: existing status is obsolete; new design of environment suit latest building
codes and follows standards; high level of cost control (cost drivers). Andrews set the
cost drivers list: project scale, project design and construction, finance, program and
investor requirements, regulations [2]. Those cost drivers may be well applied to design
oriented strategy in the USA, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand, where private
investor sector has high share in the field of providing services for elderly (housing,
nursery, ...). Design is not just design of space it includes inventive solutions in the field
of economy, financing and developing tools in communicating with local community.
Those steps are part of adaptation in the integrative design process.
Adaptation is a wide and complex process; it takes motivation to start the process; it
takes time to perceive the task from different points of view; it takes different
participants to present their views, needs and it takes decision-makers. These steps are
part of an integrative design process and take into account the generative, responsive
and reactive aspects. The designing process is generally constrained from two opposite

15. Section ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN / ARCHITECTURE AND SOCIETY

directions: time and cost. Other influences are hierarchically positioned lower down.
From the aspect of the investor, time is a scarce resource, costs are commonly reduced
and often focused on immediate savings. From the architect's point of view, time has an
influential role i.e. seasons (spring, summer...), observing people's habits, traffic, legal
aspects (ownership), allowances and other aspects depend on time [4]. From the aspect
of architecture the idea is: to anticipate the future and create current space in a place.
Although the western world and the Slovenia as part of EU flows in the time of socioeconomic crisis the time to develop ideas is now. A real deficit of projects is giving way
to planning on large scale and sometimes over long periods [5]. The statement of
Desvigne could be used in the field of adaptation of existing environment. As
architecture and urban planning are tied with the investment cycles the experimenting
and studying development scenarios is a basic way of function. At this point the idea of
ability of thinking of different spatial conditions is dominant. Thinking of different
spatial conditions is part of integrative design process, where economy plays one role
among others, but not the main role.
RECONSTRUCTION PROJECT OF IKA HOME FOR ELDERLY
Building was designed by A. Zupan in 1978 using concrete construction system called
UNITOR. This system was in 70ies and partly in 80ies quite popular in Yugoslavia. The
system was easy from several aspects: modular grid of 6 m was used for drawing (in
time before CAD this was a great time saving method); on the building site the building
process was efficient (quick, simple and modular). Result (to build) was easy to gain
reinforced concrete was at that time the mainstream architectural expression and served
to reach rising share citizens living in towns. In that time the concern of producing
energy efficiency buildings was not an issue nor in architecture nor in economy. The
goal was to produce as many flats and roads.
In competitive environment any spared atom of fossil energy could be a benefit for all
involved groups. From this aspect we could start the project of reconstruction and run
towards EU goals set in EEE F programme. At this point the group of participants
(project group) took a step further with the question / hypothesis: could we combine
several small projects in the common time line to gain better end results. Those
challenges were: empowerment of the people (inhabitants, organisation staff), reduced
energy consumption and making more economic profit from public spaces (cafeteria,
gallery, catering in park).
The home is not a set of service and sleeping spaces, these are places for a special group
of people whose adaptations to any change are slow and may be quite stressful for them
in both positive and negative ways. In conjunction with the energy efficiency project,
the ground floor was simultaneously redesigned and refurbished. Both projects were
conducted separately; while the EEE-F project was financed by the EU, the costs of the
parallel project were covered by other DSO Siska sources. The decision to run both
projects parallel to each other was based on the synergy of three major elements: (a) the
predicted stress level for the inhabitants would be lower than in the case of running the
ground-floor project separately from the energy efficiency project (EE project); (b) the
shift from the EE projects iterative design towards an integrated design by resolving
design problems with functionality for everyone linked with DSO Siska; and (c)
optimisation of the time and cost. [4] These combined phases are well described in the

SGEM 2014 International Multidisciplinary Scientific Conferences on Social Sciences and Arts

following statement: "a good design team is challenged with stretch goals some
goals are added but without the crutch of a budget" [6].
From the aspect of organisational services home remained the same. The changes are
summarized here [4]:
The ground floor of DSO Siska was not dealt with as a disposal area for the standard
features connected with functional corridors and as an area where everything is
precisely measured and classified. However, the aim was to turn the existing transit
space into a place for socialising (meeting, talking, reading books, communicating,
writing, educating and eating). We encouraged people associated with DSO Siska to
participate in the project using a holistic approach such organisation should be a
vehicle of common memory and identity.

Figure 1: Sketch of the wall in cafeteria.


In the process of adaptation to the local environment, we took into account the fact that
the residents generally come from Ljubljana and have different pictorial memories
related to Ljubljana. The integrated design process was at this point a logical path to
take. Daily meetings with different participants at DSO Siska led us to draw up a list of
pictorial memories precious to the residents. This listing was made up of streets and
squares of Ljubljana. The people in the home for the elderly are old; we shifted this
theorem to the point of perceiving persons as living carriers of memories, the same as
items in a museum. It was probably this controversial point of view that opened up a
new field of dialogue. The ground floor should become a carrier of those messages; it
should become a living museum and a hotel for special guests. We transformed the
collected visual perceptions into sketches of Ljubljana. We chose a place where the

15. Section ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN / ARCHITECTURE AND SOCIETY

most vivid reactions might be triggered. Sketches were installed in the most populated
place: the dining hall. The walls were no longer physical barriers, instead of dividing
different spaces they became information screens. The response of the users was very
positive and many of them were affected by the drawings on the walls. They help them
enjoy the scenery of the city in which they had spent the most productive years of their
lives.
The cafeteria was named after a lady who had recently passed away; she had left her
legacy to be enjoyed by the residents and visitors of the home (porcelain ware, special
crystal glasses and other valuable items). All of these items were documented and
presented as a museum collection. The idea of a museum was included in the newly
designed cafeteria that was named "Vida" after her. On the wall there is a sketch of a
washerwoman on the outskirts of Ljubljana (see figure 1).
The ground floor is a place devoted to Ljubljanas environments and selected historical
details. Those details, solutions and motives are used as therapeutic elements. They
improve cognitive abilities, while newcomers are less disoriented and have lower levels
of anxiety.
The project fits in with the so-called triple bottom line framework that describes
relationships among social, environmental and economic values circling around market
success. We conclude that investing in homes for the elderly or similar public
organisations may yield great benefits, not only financial but also the more important
social ones.
STEWARDSHIP OF THE INTEGRATIVE DESIGN PROCESS
Corporations have realised that businesses lacking social and ecological integrity are not
economically viable in the long term: their costs eventually increase and their consumer
loyalty declines [7]. The team framed the right questions and identified the deeper
purpose of activities and decisions:
by asking why the problems are solved;
by avoiding solving the design problems by querying how solutions are
measured; and
by using mapping as a tool in the design process to optimise the time and cost.
The integrated design process helped us develop the relationship between the people
and the place [4]. The main outputs of integrative design process are: social equity,
economic development of the home and higher share of civility on the neighbourhood.
This project could be considered as a brownfiled project, we rehabilitated 35-year-old
building. Existing alienated space of cafeteria become living place for all inhabitants,
employed people, visitors and the most important meeting place for neighbour citizens.
EE investing combined with integrative design may gain higher benefits than using
iterative design steps (following minimal requirements and building codes). For market
success we seek for equilibrium among social performance, environmental performance
and economic performance (see figure 2).

SGEM 2014 International Multidisciplinary Scientific Conferences on Social Sciences and Arts

Figure 2: The triple bottom line of the project.


Several elements were out of order and the great loss of energy was an issue (room
temperature, overheating in the summer season, loss of potable water, large share of
artificial lightning, architectural barriers). The project was shifted from a reactive
towards a proactive design process, employing the general structure prescribed by the
EU EEE-F call: defining the goals, paths, methods, precise planning support and
accurate calculations of the costs and benefits as well as the description of the result
monitoring. The energy efficiency project lasted 6 months; execution of the project took
9 months. [4]
Organising and managing integrative design process is an answer for crisis time while
the financial sources are scarce and rate of unemployed young people (from 18 30
years more than 24% of all unemployed population). Including young people in those
projects takes considerable time and energy; however they may get new experiences and
widen their job opportunities.
At this point Loopmans thinking fits well: The opportunity structure offered by the
neighbourhood context can be divided in characteristics of the physical as well as the
social environment. The last can be split up in either pure aggregational effects of
mechanisms operating at the individual level or relational effects operating at the level
of groups.[8]. Loopmans describes impacts of neighbourhood and context of community
involvement in Antwerp in Belgium. Those attributes will be gathered and analysed in
the next phase using public survey and presentation of the EE project steps (from
beginning to execution) (planned in XI / XII 2014). At this point we could make internal
first step revision of the project. Revising integrative design steps and outputs is a part
of pushing participants out of their comfort zones. This is a list of attributes:

15. Section ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN / ARCHITECTURE AND SOCIETY

Negative:
The iterative design process of the proposal for the energy efficient renovation: a
low level of control over input data and output benefits.
The low level of communication within the project team and with the client.
Secure EU funding > jet lag of the project company.
No map of the project. Mapping was established upon execution of the works at
the site.
Positive:
Active decision-makers: a high level of participation of the client in the design
process (the ground-floor renovation).
Developing new solutions and introducing innovative steps.
Custom design is not a matter of prestige, it is a way to achieve better outputs.
The results that are obtained are better when the participants are pushed out of their
comfort zones and do not simply follow the steps of the design process
prescribed/required by legislation. To start with, the participants need more human
resource energy and have to be informed about the methods and goals of the project.
The team should be aligned with the strategy of development of care for the elderly. The
most important is to go beyond the idea that everything should be measured and ticked
off on a check list. A checklist attitude is a contemporary paradigm. Using long lists of
statements and following them leads to alienation from solutions. The resulting
dichotomy incurs costs of adaptation time and creates new social and spatial conflicts.
The purpose of spatial design and planning is to incorporate future social issues and
provide places to serve them. The question of aesthetics is just one part of a complex
process.
REFERENCES
[1] Alexander, C., Hansjoachim, N., Alexander, M. M. The Battle for the Life and
Beauty of the Earth. A Struggle Between Two World-Systems. New York: Oxford UP,
2012.
[2] Andrew, J., Ross, L. M., Simpson M., Spotts. M. Bending the Cost Curve: Solutions
to Expand the Supply of Affordable Rentals. Washington, DC: Urban Land Institute,
2014.
[3] Imperl, F. Kakovost oskrbe starejih izziv za prihodnost. Logatec: Senior project.
2012.
[4] Zupancic, D. The socioeconomic value of eee f funding case: the home for the
elderly in Siska, Ljubljana as a generator of social life. ReNewTown. 2014.
[5] Desvigne, M. The Landscape as Precondition. LOTUS 150, pp 20-26, 2012.
[6] Yudelson, J., ed.. Engineering a Sustainable World: Design Process and Engineering
Innovations for the Center for Health & Healing at Oregon Health & Science
University, River Campus. Portland, OR: Interface Engineering, 2005.
[7] Guenther, R. Vittori, G. Sustainable Healthcare Architecture. Hoboken, New Jersey:
John Wiley & Sons Inc, 2008.
[8] Loopmans, M. Threatened or Empowered? The Impact of Neighborhood Context on
Community Involvement in Antwerp, Belgium. Urban Affairs Review 2010 45: 797.
DOI: 10.1177/1078087410364604. 2010.