Standard’s senior housing concept finds inspiration in Native American history
Too often plans for affordable senior housing skipped good or even interesting design in favor of conformity or the familiar. Standard, a Los Angles-based design partnership of architects Jeffrey Allsbrook and Silvia Kuhle, has come up with a model that is both affordable and sustainable and offers the premise that one’s golden years need not be spent looking at four dull walls.
The design for Bahia Meadows, which recently received an honorable mention in the California Senior Housing Design Competition, draws inspiration from the indigenous people who formerly inhabited the North Bay area. Standard designed a sustainable senior housing
complex that blends a historic low-tech precedent with modern technology to
create a new community for active residents.
The Bahia Meadows complex in Novato, California features 30 accessible, low-energy senior
dwellings and a range of community spaces. The dwellings are
inspired by the wooden, turf-roofed structures of the Coast Miwok people
whose territories once stretched from Marin County up to Bodega Bay. In this
environmentally sensitive area, grass roofs promote biodiversity by replacing
the ground displaced by the housing.
On each suburban-sized parcel, groups of up to three south-oriented dwellings,
Including duplexes, are placed side by side. Slight variations in orientation of the homes prevent monotony and create unique spaces. This planning strategy fights suburban sprawl and encourages social interaction between the
residents while allowing for their privacy. Grouping the homes within a compact
footprint reduces the effect on the environment and integrates passive solar energy.
The floor plans and sections are carefully designed to balance natural light, heat
gain and loss, access and views. Wood decks on the east facing ends of each
home offer sweeping views over the protected river estuary and the San Pablo
The 24-foot wide dwellings are wood framed with a raised floor, substantially
prefabricated offsite to reduce impact of construction. Eco-friendly materials
and systems are integrated throughout the project to minimize natural resource
consumption and waste, including engineered lumber, natural linoleum,
recycled carpets, non-off-gassing cabinetry, and low-VOC paints. Photovoltaic
and solar water heating panels are mounted on trellises at one end of each
home, to shade the parking and offset the already low energy use of the
dwellings, targeting “net zero” energy consumption.
Although it is still a concept design, Bahia Meadows offers some thought-proving ideas on greener and more fun senior housing.