Designing Dignity

Community Living Solutions

While many construction projects are unique, designing and building assisted living facilities, independent living units and other works for seniors requires more than in-depth expertise – it requires passion and a commitment to improving the lives of others.
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Founded in 2007, Appleton, Wisconsin-based Community Living Solutions (CLS) has been behind the successful completion of over 100 memory-supportive, long-term care nursing homes and projects for those 55 and over across the Midwest. Taking on works in locations including Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, and Illinois, the company created a second office several years ago in Iowa’s capital city of Des Moines to better serve clients in the area.

With over 150 years of combined industry knowledge, the staff at Community Living Solutions lives by its motto: Creating, Transforming and Sustaining Senior Living Communities. Working with a team of professionals including President and Partner Tom Martin, Chairman and Partner Terry McLaughlin, VP of Design and Partner Duane Helwig and Chief Financial Officer Deanna Perras, Senior Architect and Partner Thomas Lemkuil takes pride in Community Living Solutions’ creative designs, “which are true reflections of the personalities that inhabit them. My goal is to create environments that are functional as well as aesthetically pleasing,” he says.

The power of 3D
Starting with about six staff, the company has grown to 15 full-time employees including architects, construction managers, and field project superintendents. One of the first hires shortly after the firm was formed, Lemkuil, a member of the American Institute of Architects and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, had actually worked with all the other partners at a previous company.

Taking on new construction projects in the million dollar to $20 million range, CLS also performs renovation works for clients. While generally working on larger projects today than in the past, the company has deliberately remained consistent with its staffing levels. “We like the size we are at,” states Lemkuil. “We have really focused on improving the technology that we have, so we can offer more 3D rendering and visual cues for our owners to help them with their decisions as we make the designs – they are essentially able to ‘fly’ through the building so they can see what they’re getting before we start construction.”

Among the programs used by the company are Revit®, a sophisticated Building Information Modeling (BIM) suite, and Enscape. A plugin for Revit, Enscape allows architects to create 3D designs you can “seamlessly walk through,” which are interactive and allow clients to immerse themselves in the experience at the design stage, long before a single brick is laid. And since every building is completely different and designed specifically for the needs of owners, 3D capabilities can help them visualize what the final result will look like.

“A lot of owners like to see exactly what they’re getting with 3D rendering,” says Lemkuil, “and this also helps them to market their projects. They like the 3D rendering, because it gets their communities excited for what’s coming.”

Caring, compassionate, and professional
Designing structures for senior living requires not only in-depth knowledge of the unique needs of this growing sector, but a genuine interest in the men and women who will occupy these buildings, and their needs, which may include physical rehabilitation and memory care. From precise planning to building consensus among stakeholders, budgeting, assessing market needs, careful site evaluation, creating appropriate Master Plan Design Concepts and more, every step of all projects is structured to ensure success for clients and the comfort and care of future residents.

Among CLS’s recent projects is the Hawkeye Care Center of Dubuque. With construction commencing in September of 2016 and wrapping up last September, the new 80-bed center for skilled rehabilitation and long-term nursing care also features a dedicated assisted living 30-unit memory care section. Featuring spacious rooms outfitted with private baths, the Hawkeye Care Center offers dining for residents with a display kitchen and private dining for family functions, a spa salon, common living areas, a wellness center, screened-in porches, and other amenities, including three interior courtyards along with walking paths and gardens. With a gorgeous therapy garden attached to the rehabilitation wing, residents can work on exercising their joints if they have had knee surgeries, and can walk along curbs, stairs and ramps to aid in their rehabilitation. Along with a therapy room inside the facility, there is also a mock apartment set up, where residents can train themselves in doing laundry and other daily activities before they return to their homes.

With the design and development of construction drawings taking about nine months, and construction approximately one year, the team at Community Living Solutions faced several challenges with the greenfield site, including the area being extremely hilly. To compensate for this, considerable earthmoving was required, with the project designed and built into the side of a hill. Developing the floor plan to optimize views with 60 feet of elevation relief – along with an elevated outdoor dining and activity area – the structure is stacked in such a way that residents on the second story can look over another roof to a beautiful view of the rolling hills of Dubuque.

Along with the Hawkeye Care Center of Dubuque, CLS is working on a number of upcoming projects, including the Eventide Senior Community to be located in Denison, a city in Crawford County, Iowa. Here, Community Living Solutions is in the process of completing construction drawings with the goal of getting the building process underway by the spring of 2020. Set to replace an existing facility, Eventide will be a new 80-bed nursing facility, with additions to the existing memory care and assisted living components.

The Hawkeye Care Center, Eventide, and many other assisted living, skilled nursing, and memory care projects in the company’s extensive portfolio serve as examples of CLS’s team efforts and the positive outcomes to be had working in collaboration with clients to see their vision realized. “It’s always a joint effort with the end user,” explains Lemkuil. “A lot of times, the owner will have something they’ve seen in other places or they have read stories about it, and we will come up with our own ideas as well and facilitate off of that. We will also give some suggestions as far as what we’ve seen and what works well.”

The company’s collaborative approach garners frequent accolades from repeat clients, such as the Carriage Health Care Company in Lakewood, CO, who praised the company for the great care it put into building functionality “for both older adults and their caregivers,” knowing every regulatory requirement inside and out, “and their ideas for maximizing space and making logical connections to existing facilities [which] resulted in flawless designs and an efficient work environment.”

Looking to the future
In this sector, continuous improvement is crucial, and the dedicated staff at CLS are continually learning. A member of many associations, including the American College of Health Care Administrators, the Iowa Health Care Association, Leading Age (in Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin), the Society for the Advancement of Gerontological Environments, Wisconsin Assisted Living Association and others, CLS holds professional registrations in Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

Always thinking of the future of assisted living, CLS is focused on making its projects as effective as possible for both residents and staff alike. With some facilities experiencing difficulty finding qualified employees, CLS is working with owners to make the buildings themselves as effective and purposeful as possible, including thinking creatively to improve floor plans and flow patterns so staff can walk shorter distances.

Intending to reach out to other geographic markets in the near future, Community Living Solutions is confident in its abilities, its team, and its growing market. “We have a specific niche, and our sole focus is on senior living,” states Lemkuil. “We elected to do that when we started the company, because it is such a growing and changing industry, and we wanted to make it our focus so we are on top of the industry as it moves forward.”

Bespoke Backyards

Years ago, backyard beautification usually meant planting some flowers, adding a couple of shrubs, and laying down a few patio stones to create a small deck. Outdoor furniture – if you could truly call it ‘furniture’ – usually comprised a picnic table and aluminum lawn chairs with uncomfortable, sticky plastic mesh seats and backs. Barbecuing was still somewhat exotic, and most outdoor grillers used folding barbecues or tiny rectangular hibachis. Unless among the wealthy, in-ground pools were few, with above-ground corrugated steel or plastic versions more likely.

July 22, 2019, 5:40 PM EDT