The Top 8 sustainable senior housing trends for 2016
The green living trend is sweeping the nation, and senior housing facilities are no exception. It’s not just about enticing earth-conscious baby boomers, though their desire to leave a greener world behind certainly factors into the decision for many facilities. Going green also helps cut heating and cooling costs, improve water conservation efforts, and meet Energy Star standards across all of the devices used in the facility.
Today’s seniors have a more sophisticated understanding of sustainability than ever before and are willing to pay for sustainable principles. They want to know how their housing and other aspects of the facility impact the environment. It’s not just a matter of whether or not the upfront costs of building green are worth the effort. As a matter of fact, Senior Planning Services, a northeast Medicaid planning company, cites a recent study by Civano Living working with the market research firm American LIVES which found that a majority of Baby Boomers would pay more for green, sustainable practices, with the average willing to pay 7 percent more for their purchase.
The senior living industry is increasingly trending toward developing more green retirement communities. This is great news for seniors who want to continue living a green lifestyle after retirement! Check out these green trends that are shaking the industry for 2016.
Natural resources are dwindling quickly, and mounting climate change pressures mean that buildings need to be designed to withstand whatever natural disasters may come their way. Industry professionals are seeking out the materials that are strong enough to stand up to tornados, floods, earthquakes, and more. Most importantly, they’re designed and built sustainably, so that construction on these critical buildings can continue without worrying about depleted resources. Many facilities often look for ways to generate energy on-site so they can withstand the effects of a natural disaster that cuts off power or water from the city without being forced to move their residents.
Tiny Homes on Wheels
Instead of adding “stuff,” many people are choosing to live with less—especially seniors, who have the benefit of being able to live with the items necessary for just one or two people instead of supporting an entire family. The tiny house movement is making this easier than ever. These tiny homes are very environmentally friendly: they can include solar power systems, composting features, an incinerating toilet, gray water irrigation hook-ups, rainwater integration, an advanced electric fireplace, and an energy-efficient induction cooktop. Tiny homes on wheels are great for seniors who want to retire on the road: home goes with them wherever they travel!
Indoor air quality isn’t just important for keeping it green. When indoor air quality is good, seniors are healthier and feel better in general! Daylighting, or providing more access to natural light and taking advantage of it to light up rooms during the daytime hours, can also improve moods through increased access to sunlight.
Recycled Buildings and Remodeling
Recycling is no longer just for cans and newspapers! One common sustainability concept that’s popping up more and more is adaptive reuse of existing buildings. One interesting trend? Monasteries and convents are increasingly being converted into senior living facilities. These buildings might not have been put together with an “all the frills” attitude like some of today’s senior living communities, but they’re build to be durable, standing the test of time. In addition, when remodeling, many facilities choose to use recycled content that has been FSC-certified.
When you’re going green, encouraging green attitudes in the senior community is critical to maintaining that green footprint across the across the facility. The community may include policies for recycling or water usage. The closest parking spots might be reserved for green vehicles. However the facility chooses to increase its green footprint, it’s clear that putting these policies in place has a substantial impact on the community as a whole.
Energy and water conservation is paramount, from smart water heaters, energy-efficient appliances, and smart lawn irrigation systems that manage water usage to compact fluorescent lights, green roofs on campus buildings, and electricity usage that is generated from green sources. White, reflective roofing systems with insulation that reduces cooling costs in the summer and heating costs during the winter are growing in popularity. Many communities are also using geothermal wells for heating and cooling or putting together vegetated roofs to reduce the urban heat-island effect.
As more people go green, technology is developed to help manage that energy efficiency. Replacing outdated equipment with the latest technology ensures that there’s no energy wasted. Many facilities also equip a data screen that displays current electricity savings.
Green Outdoor Environments
There’s no reason why all the “green” has to be indoors! Many senior living communities create wildlife-friendly habitats or offer views of nature, gardens, and water features. They may create large-scale door panels that fold into the facility’s walls to create a better view of the outdoors or to offer easy access between indoors and outdoors. Facilities may also have their own free-range chickens or organic gardens. Permeable asphalt allows access to native grasses, while native plants used in the landscaping process can provide up to a 50% increase in visiting birds and local insects.
As the needs of retiring seniors change, the senior living community must adapt in order to provide them with the environment they seek. These green features are only a few of the sustainable changes being made in retirement communities across the United States. As the focus on green living increases, it’s likely that even more facilities will follow suit.