Size 306,855 ft²
Program Senior living apartment homes, common areas, lobby, café, events, and fitness space
Awards 2012 NAHB 50+ Housing Award “Gold Achievement Award”
Developer Spectrum Consultants
Client Brazos Presbyterian Homes
Architect THW Design
General Contractor Lend Lease
MEP Engineer Barrett Woodyard Associates
Structural Engineer Uzun + Case
Certification LEED Silver (expected)
Site Brownfield redevelopment, public transportation access, bicycle storage
Materials 75% of construction waste recycled, local and recycled materials, low-VOC paints, adhesives, and finishes
Water Low-flow fixtures reduce usage by 30%
Energy LED lighting, lighting control system for public spaces, high-efficiency HVAC system
Landscape Native and naturalized plants used, green roof planters on three levels
Simply put, the senior housing market isn’t the easiest to work in. Residents expect certain amenities, such as community spaces, which can be hard to balance with space for apartment homes that generate more revenue. It’s a lot to consider when starting to build a senior housing development, but it is exactly this challenge that North Carolina’s Spectrum Consultants has faced—and increasingly expertly solved—since 1978.
When the company was tasked with oversight for the renovation and expansion of Bayou Manor, a 50-year-old, Houston-based senior living community on a seven-acre campus, Lonny Blessing, Spectrum’s vice president of development, knew he could entrust the actual construction of the new Brazos Towers at Bayou Manor to the firm’s longtime partner, THW Design, with building the LEED-certified, 14-story high-rise. This time, Blessing had a decidedly different set of responsibilities to attend to.
It was Blessing’s job to reposition Bayou Manor as a sustainable senior living community geared toward an active, healthy lifestyle, and Spectrum chose to go for LEED Silver certification for the Brazos Towers project. THW Design president Jim Hudgins says that the goal for Brazos Towers is to go beyond just energy savings and to use building elements to create a beneficial living space for residents. “It was about creating a healthier living environment for seniors, who can be vulnerable to poor air quality,” Hudgins says. “These issues are addressed by careful selection of nontoxic cleaning agents and low-VOC materials for paints, carpet adhesives, and low-formaldehyde cabinetry. As part of our certification requirements, we will also be using regional as well as recycled materials.”
The building will include a great deal of glass for plenty of natural light, known to boost moods and increase productivity, and signs will be posted throughout the building to educate residents on Brazos Towers’ many green features. “There aren’t many LEED-certified senior housing communities, so this is going to be a project we can all be proud of,” Hudgins says.
For the residents who wouldn’t be sold solely on the sustainable aspects of the community, Blessing did some research into what amenities could be added to better fit senior citizens’ unique needs. What kind of research? He sat down to do one-on-one interviews with current and future residents. “People who are in their 60s and 70s are planning to move into the community,” Blessing said. “For many people, they’re moving out of a home they lived in for 40 years in order to join a community. It’s not an easy decision to make, but by having certain amenities in place it can make the transition easier and a lot more appealing.”
Residents expressed interest in doing water aerobics and water walking, so Blessing made sure the pool would be large and deep enough for these exercise options. Because seniors often have vision issues, the lighting levels in the hallway were adjusted to be brighter. Extra handrails and lean rails were added around the building for those who have balance issues, and vanities and sinks were also raised for easier use. “They seem like small details, but these are the details that will make people feel comfortable in their new home,” Blessing says.
With all of these special touches, Brazos Towers is primed for senior citizens who want a green senior living community—but it is also a great place for those who don’t put an emphasis on sustainable features because they just might learn a thing or two about green design after moving in.