Senior living communities pose some unique challenges to the design and construction of the physical environment that will become the platform for care and sense of home for older adults. The financial realities of developing or repositioning a community constrain both construction and ongoing operating costs. Of course, of utmost importance is the health and comfort of the senior living community’s potentially frail residents.
Having built more than 25,000 homes for seniors, The Weitz Company has explored mechanical systems of all varieties. While some systems are more appropriate for senior living than others, the balance between first costs and operating costs is always delicate.
With variations in climate, acuity, utility rates, local codes and regional trade practices, no one system can be declared universally “best” for all situations. That being said, one innovation in mechanical systems has recently proved to be optimal in its balance between low operating costs and low first costs.
The chart below distills are 50 years of research and expertise into mechanical systems for senior living by distributing each into one of four quadrants: Sustainable (low operating costs but higher first costs), Budget (low first costs but higher operating costs), Infeasible (high first and operating costs), and Optimal (low first and operating costs). Only one system reliably proves to fall in the Optimal category for senior living communities.
The Weitz Company Senior MEP Systems Manager Greg Blythe helps senior living developers and owners evaluate the right system (or systems) for their communities. Reliably, a one-pipe system that meets the demand load through managing BTUs to a terminal unit rather than varying GPM flow can deliver exceptional comfort and savings. A one-pipe system uses roughly 40% less piping and smaller horsepower motors which lowers construction labor and material costs. The even and steady flow of hydronics takes advantage of water’s inherent thermal inertia to deliver steadier temperatures which are critical to seniors’ comfort.
Additionally, a dual-coil terminal unit can be used that provides the ability to heat and cool at the same time, a feature traditional two-pipe systems fail to provide in shoulder seasons and/or moderate climates. In fact, much like VRF, a dual-core one-pipe system with paired loops can balance the load across southern and northern exposures to reduce energy consumption at the central plant. And most important to residents, each apartment individually controls its own terminal set point and heat/cool mode.
– Written By Michael Hass, Director of Senior Living, The Weitz Company