A building in the 'LEED'

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Great light and invigorating fresh air are hallmarks of the seashore, and Benchmark at Split Rock includes eco-friendly features to ensure that the natural landscape is preserved and residents fully benefit from the great environment just miles from the Long Island Sound.

The new 92-bed assisted living and memory care community in Shelton, CT, was constructed according to the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design guidelines. The 20-bed memory care unit is a case study in how the LEED elements blend with other features.

In all the interior spaces, energy-efficient LED lighting creates “a better quality of light,” says Bill Cook, Benchmark's senior director of project management. However, because lighting has particular importance for memory care, this area was given a special upgrade, he notes.

“The rest of the building is bright, the memory care unit is especially well-lit,” he says.

But the light is not harsh, and other design elements contribute to a soothing atmosphere. Artwork is “basically canvas” and does not have any reflective surfaces, Cook says. A handrail has a wood cap that contrasts with the wall behind it and provides a pleasing feel, encouraging residents to move through the space.

“We've designed it so as you travel down the hallway, it leads into the kitchen, activity room, back around,” Cook notes. An outdoor courtyard also features looping paths. A staff office is centrally located to provide sightlines down the corridors.

Brilliant light, soothing colors and easy-to-navigate layouts extend throughout the building, Cook emphasizes.

Air quality also enhances the environment, says Doug Cormack, Split Rock's executive director.

There's continuous bathroom exhaust, special filters for incoming air, a roof membrane to reduce heat absorption, and low chemical-emission carpets and flooring. Mats at the entrances help keep dust and dirt out of the building. An advanced control system modulates kitchen exhaust hoods, addressing the problem of air conditioning “cranking in the hallway” but being “sucked right back out again,” says Cook.

LEED also is a marketing advantage, appealing especially to the adult children of prospective residents, Cormack notes. 

The building totaled $25 million, but another LEED plus is that lower operating costs are sure to compensate for higher initial outlays, says John Dragat, senior vice president of development. Green building already is the norm for office buildings, and he sees senior housing following suit. 

Teamwork and forethought are crucial for constructing green spaces, emphasizes Cook. Memory care experts, interior designers and the team at Callahan Construction were on board “early and together,” he says. “You can't design a project and decide to be LEED later.”

Yet, creating an eco-friendly building isn't as different from other projects as it might initially seem, he believes. 

LEED, he says, is “just good design.”

Lessons Learned

Commit to eco-friendly design early and get all stakeholders collaborating right away.

Investigate the full range of LED lighting to provide optimal conditions for memory care.

If daunted by initial costs, consider all long-term benefits of green design, including improved marketability.


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