Around one-in-three people in the UK over 65 dies with dementia (BBC). Currently, there are about 800,000 people in the UK with dementia which is expected to rise to around one million by 2022 (i.e. a 25 per cent increase in less than a decade). By 2051, this figure is estimated to be 1.7 million (Alzheimer Society).
Traditional care facilities in the UK are not designed to respond to the specific needs of dementia sufferers and there is a lack of funding in the NHS to support the development of new designs. As a result, private care facilities are being developed faster and these are setting a new benchmark in design.
The client, Anchor, has undertaken extensive research into the specific needs of elderly dementia patients and incorporated many of the findings into the design of its new care home, West Hall in Surrey. Atkins’ project architect, Duncan Cryer, used elements of Anchor’s internal Engagement and Consultation report to help inform the design approach, including feedback from residents and staff in existing Anchor care homes on ways in which the design could be improved to meet their needs.
Duncan also undertook visits to a range of care home sites across the UK and incorporated his observations into the West Hall design. In addition, he attended a course at The University of Stirling’s Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) covering a range of design issues including effective commissioning, project management, design of the internal and external environment and lighting. This course provided guidance on using the DSDC’s design audit tool as a reference text for the design process.
The development comprises three individual cluster buildings each organic in form, arranged over three floors set beneath sweeping green roofs and behind timber brise soleil, providing specialist accommodation for up to 117 customers.
In addition to its sympathetic design within a rural setting, another key aspect of West Hall is its use of best practice thermal envelope and energy efficient, low carbon technology including ground source heat pumps and roof mounted solar panels.
Features specific to West Hall include: minimising the use of long corridors and ‘dead-end’ areas; an interior design approach which aims to be ‘dementia transparent’, i.e. finishes, fixtures and fittings assist those living with dementia whilst also appealing to users/visitors not living with dementia; memory boxes recessed into walls to help individuals identify their bedrooms; coloured textured panels providing a tactile indicator, also to help identify bedrooms; a landscape design which provides interconnected routes around the site aiding site-wide orientation and facilitating customers’ returning to their own building.
A post-occupation review of West Hall is planned for West Hall 12 months following its opening in July 2012, allowing Anchor Homes and Atkins to assess the efficacy of the design features and, where appropriate, undertake modifications to further improve the benefits to patients and staff.