The design guide helping retirement homes beat the pandemic

By PRP – 13 July 2020

PRP has launched a report, “Safe, Happy and Together”, which outlines a series of practical design recommendations to control the transmission of coronavirus, and other every day infections, in later-living housing* whilst maintaining social interaction for residents.

The document is intended to be a practical guide for designers, operators and developers refurbishing ageing later-living housing projects or considering new ones.

As recently revealed by the ONS, more than one in three deaths from coronavirus in Great Britain have been people aged over 85, highlighting just how problematic a poorly designed later-living setting can be.

PRP has therefore identified thirteen specific areas that would require improvements in order to safeguard the mental and physical health of residents, and to enable staff to manage additional tasks that might be required of them during a pandemic.

Some of these measures can be considered vital all year-round whilst others could be brought into play temporarily.

Key recommendations include creating a separate entrance for staff and deliveries, additional storage for PPE, ventilators, sanitation equipment at all entrances and installing a traffic light system in the lobby to control movement in and out of the building or a ‘pop-up’ shelter in the entrance courtyard for supervised visits.

Key recommendations

  1. Main entrance for residents and visitors: Create a separate access point for staff and deliveries and install clearly signposted hand washing facilities close to the entrance.
  2. Gardens and external space: Include socially distanced outdoor seating and sheltered spaces to encourage residents to socialise and breathe some fresh air all year-round.
  3. Staff facilities: Plan for staff changing, lockers and showering facilities inside a secondary staff entrance.
  4. Natural ventilation, light and views out: Improve ventilation and design generous window openings, opening roof lights and open deck access for social interaction at a distance.
  5. Deliveries: Provide a separate entrance for kitchen deliveries and another for disinfecting and wiping down. Supplies for management should be immediately stored in a holding room close to the main entrance.
  6. Movement within the building: Plan for increased routes to move around the building safely and reduce bottle-necks and the need for two-way traffic in confined spaces.
  7. Communication: Include individual smart tablets and communal information screens in rooms to enable communication with families.
  8. Considerations for the building plan: Design passing points in corridors or on deck access to ensure that it is possible to pass others without being closer than 2m. Passing points could be provided via occasional ‘pop-out’ balconies, seating bays or recessed entrances. Front doors to apartments should be arranged at least 2m apart.
  9. Multi-purpose and flexible use spaces: Provide the ability to re-purpose a room or space. For example, use of spaces for storage areas and staff sleepover instead of guest sleepover areas, spaces for treatment and also prayer, reflection and relaxation.
  10. Storage: Include additional storage for PPE, ventilators and sanitation equipment.
  11. Sanitation: Provide hand washing stations at all entrances. Residents should all be provided with a washing machine in their own apartments to avoid the need to use a shared laundry.
  12. Meals: Plan for meals to be delivered to resident’s apartments to avoid the need to shop or receive food deliveries during a lockdown scenario.
  13. Visitors: Install a traffic light system in the lobby to control movement in and out of the building or a ‘pop-up’ shelter in the entrance courtyard for supervised visits.

Jenny Buterchi, Partner at PRP comments: “We have been working closely with our clients to review how later living communities can be better designed. Looking at how best to respond to the challenges of bacterial and viral spread, whilst also addressing key lessons learned including the distressing impact of self-isolation and social distancing.

The ideas presented in our design guide are for consideration and discussion and may indeed have a financial impact on build costs and this must be acknowledged. There will be conflicting requirements for cost-efficient space planning and a desire to ensure the environment is domestic rather than clinical.

We now hope to engage further with other designers, operators and developers so that we can continue this thinking and keep talking and learning from each other. Sharing our experiences is critical.”

This latest research builds on PRP’s long-term experience in the design of high-quality housing and care options for older people across the UK, and on its role as an advisor to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People. Most recently, PRP published a factsheet for Housing LIN on key design principles and issues to consider when developing a brief for a new Extra Care Housing development.


Notes to editor

The full Safe, Happy and Together report can be read here.

*Later-living housing refers to residential accommodation consisting of self-contained apartments with associated communal, support and ancillary spaces under one roof.

For more information, please contact Amelie Barrau, Head of Communications and PR at PPR:

About PRP

PRP is a long-established architectural firm with over 100 awards to its name. An interdisciplinary practice, PRP offers a full range of design and building services including masterplanning, urban design, landscape and development consultancy.

Few know as much about housing design and urban regeneration as PRP. With over 55 years’ experience to draw on, PRP has established an exemplary track record in the design and delivery of homes and places of varying scale, complexity and diversity. PRP employs more than 250 staff across its London, Manchester and Surrey studios.