ARCHITECTURE: Community corridors bring care home residents together

Barton Court Care Home was bought from a local Kent charity by Stephen and Julia Gilmour in January this year, and they have since drawn up exciting plans to bring the 1970s property into the 21st century. Tim Ball, director of JHD Architects, is overseeing the upgrade, and shares his vision of how corridors linking different parts of the building can be turned into lively community spaces that enhance care.

Barton Court Care Home in Minster-on-Sea, Sheerness, has been home for up to 37 elderly residents for over 40 years. But the 1970s property had become increasingly difficult to run for its previous owner, Avante Care and Support, so they decided to sell it as a going concern to Stephen and Julia Gilmour in January this year.

Mr and Mrs Gilmour intend to invest in a dramatic renovation and expansion that would improve care for all residents, make the home more attractive to future customers, and increase capacity to 69 residents, each with their own en suite bedroom.

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They called in JHD Architects who immediately wanted to overcome the problem of closed spaces that discourage people spending time with each other. “We want to create spaces that give residents more choice about how they wish to spend their day,” explains Tim Ball, a director of JHD Architects.

“Many care homes have long featureless corridors so typical of institutional buildings, with rooms that are only used for single uses such as “The Dining Room”. The same rooms also have limited space for groups of residents to talk together or for their families to talk to them when visiting. Rooms tend to be simple rectangles on plan with chairs arranged around the walls leaving residents little scope to interact with each other, the staff or their families. That discourages residents from taking control of their own lives, relying instead on staff to bring everything to them in their chair,” he describes in a summary of the issues the company often finds in care homes.

Barton Court was not a failing care home. It has a good reputation on the Isle of Sheppey and has been close to full all the time with a mix of private and Kent County Council clients. However the home had not had any investment to upgrade it recently and large areas are still as they were designed and built in the 1970s.

Mr and Mrs Gilmour already own three other care homes in Manchester, Cranbrook and Gravesend. JHD Architects worked with them on the Cranbrook project where the company added bedrooms and communal areas as well as making significant improvements to the entrance and public areas. The success of that project helped JHD secure the work to modernise Barton Court.

6 North Courtyard

JHD is a small practice that extensively uses modern technology to punch above its weight. In particular the firm uses Building Information Modelling (BIM), which allows clients who have little experience in architecture and design to visualise the project and give their input into how the plans will impact their ability to provide the best care.

“We work in 3D right from design to construction drawings stages so that the client and everyone else involved with the project benefits from the better understanding that 3D models can give over conventional 2D plans. This was well illustrated at the recent presentation we gave to staff and families where we were able to walk them through the new design live and respond to their questions.

“Our 3D models have useful embedded data in every building element. We can then interrogate the model to extract that data in many different ways. This allows is to keep track of the current floor areas and room schedules at each design change then later to create complex schedules of room uses, locations of equipment, furniture lists, etc. These all contribute hugely towards accurate cost control and better management,” Mr Ball explains.

Barton Court is adopting three key concepts: an internal street, an internal courtyard and mixed use communal areas.

The internal street serves as a the main circulation space running right through the centre of the home, from the entrance, through the internal courtyards, under the main existing block and out into the rear courtyard that connects to the annexe. However, as well as being used for circulation, it’s also a place to sit, meet and chat with other residents, staff and family. “So if residents are feeling gregarious, they might decide to spend all day there,” says Mr Ball.

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There is a kitchenette nearby for drinks and snacks, a small shop area to buy day to day essentials and a hairdressing salon. “It is bright and colourful with a wave form ceiling, creating a stimulating environment for residents, staff and families alike,” Mr Ball describes.

The home will have three new internal courtyards. They are safe and secure, which frees all residents to use them. These courtyards split up the plan of the home providing daylight and views from the rooms adjoining them. Residents are able to go out whenever they wish, sit on a bench, look at the planting and do some of their own gardening. The operator is also kitting out one courtyard with play equipment for visiting grand-children and age appropriate outdoor exercise equipment.

Finally, the project aims to change the communal rooms from single use to flexible use, so that each area can be for sitting or dining. They will also be zoned into smaller spaces to provide different characters; some near the hubbub of the street, others tucked away as quiet areas. The plan is to create enlarged corridor spaces that can be used for small groups.

The scheme changes a home with a floor area of approximately 1,500 square metres with 37 rooms to one with a floor area of 2,300 square metres with 69 rooms. All the new areas are designed for people with dementia but can also be adapted for those who are in need of hospital after-care. Each room has space for a standard hospital bed with room all round to allow nursing care if needed as well as en-suite shower rooms with sliding doors to allow easy access and wet room floors to avoid any steps into the showers.

The scheme is due to be submitted for planning at the beginning of July and JHD Architects expects work to start on site in early 2017.

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