News & Views
23 Nov 2021

Architectural and acoustic considerations
for social care settings: Putting human
experience at the centre of good
care home design

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the architecture, acoustics and design of care homes have an acute impact on the wellbeing of residents. However, guidance in this field is limited. At KP Acoustics we’ve joined forces with WGP Architects to explain how a considered balance of architectural and acoustic considerations can contribute to care home residents’ wellbeing.

Back in 2015, the NHS proposed new care models to redesign the health and care system for older people living with frailty. However, it’s not just our healthcare systems that need to evolve, but the physical spaces where this care is given. Unfortunately, the care environment does not often match with the therapeutic goals of caring for the elderly.

So, what role can architecture and acoustic design play in keeping older people healthier and happier for longer?

A question of comfort

What comes to mind when you think of home? Warmth? Comfort? Cosiness? The link between older people’s mood and their health has been the focus of many studies. Notably, Health Psychology Journal evidenced that a positive mood on the day of vaccination can increase subsequent antibody responses to the influenza vaccine in older adults. While more research is necessary, it’s an interesting phenomenon.

Feelings of comfort can also be influenced by the built environment. A 2017 study demonstrated that architectural factors, such as the colours and light of the facility, can influence the sense of home and comfort in care homes. Practical considerations, such as the layout of the rooms, are also important, as James Potter, director at WGP Architects explains.

For residents with dementia, navigating the different rooms and long corridors within a care home may prove quite disorientating. Clear and consistent signage can go some way to combating this, but if architects consider the flow between private rooms and key spaces for socialising at the design stage, they can make a facility easier to navigate and more homely for all.

Keeping private spaces private

While comfort and clarity in the built environment is essential, it is also crucial to keep privacy in mind in residential care — both physically and acoustically. At KP Acoustics we’ve worked on a number of projects such as the Burgess Park development in collaboration with WGP Architects.

Care homes are a rare environment that must cater to the vast needs of their residents but also their employees. They must provide the comfort of a home, the focus of an office and the calmness of a medical facility. This creates a complex task for architects and acousticians looking to design the care homes of the future.

 Care homes integrate both private and public spaces. These private spaces are what really contribute to the feeling of being at home and noise transfer between rooms can jeopardise this. Opting for balanced sound insulation will give a level of control and comfort to all residents.

Well specified glazing is also essential to combat noise complaints and finally, soft furnishings go a long way to preventing echo, often associated with cold and uninviting medical environments.

Harnessing the latest technology

There’s also opportunity to improve care home design through technology, particularly for technology-aided independence.

Acousticians are investigating how biosensor technology can be used to detect the noise and vibration associated with falls or other health concerns. Noise and vibration sensors can also be embedded into furniture such as beds. This would allow high-risk residents moments of privacy with the assurance that a care worker would get an automatic notification if an emergency arose.

As technology advances and as social care systems evolve, it’s important that architectural and acoustic considerations for care homes also keep pace. There are many small tweaks that can be made to existing buildings that will have positive effects on residents’ wellbeing.

So, what do you think the future has instore for care home design? If you would like to discuss an upcoming care home project, contact us today.

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