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Best Assisted Living Design of 2022: Olympic Spirit Lives On at Aegis Community Near Seattle 

The University of Washington Men’s rowing team stunned the world by taking a gold medal at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. Nearly 90 years later, Aegis Living has distilled that Olympic spirit at an assisted living community just north of Seattle.

The community, located on the east bank of Lake Union, does not simply include tidbits of the 1936 rowing team; it is built as and is a testament to local history, culture and lifestyle. The community also embodies an ambitious spirit and lust for life that Aegis residents bring to the fold.

At a shade over 73,000 square feet, the six-story, 79-unit assisted living and memory care community also is touted as the world’s greenest senior living community, and represents forward-thinking work in environmental design from Aegis and its project partners.

Aegis Lake Union’s storytelling, energy efficiency and execution earned it the gold medal in the 2022 Senior Housing News Architecture & Design Awards for the “Best Assisted Living” category.

The Concept

Planning for the project began in 2017. Aegis didn’t just want the community to pay homage — the project planners actually designed it to resemble a nautical vessel. For example, the design included a lobby with a racing shell spanning the length of the ceiling.

The community’s connection to rowing is far deeper than aesthetics, according to Brian Palmore, senior VP of development with Aegis Living.

“This project took a little longer to get through the planning process because we had a lot of options on the site,” Palmore told SHN.

When Aegis acquired the site, a two-story building was already there, so the Bellevue, Washington-based senior living developer and the operator needed to take its time making a plan.

When Aegis Living Vice President of Interior Architecture Jeanna Korbas dove into the designing of the project, she and her colleagues factored in three main elements.

First, the team wanted to incorporate the architecture of the surrounding areas. Secondly, they wanted to incorporate the marine lifestyle. And third, they wanted to tell the story of their residents — and “the best way to tell that story is through the story of the Olympic Spirit,” Korbas told Senior Housing News.

Other design elements included a full-sized mural of the rowing team and another mural inside that honors each member of that team individually.

Aegis worked with Ankrom Moisan for the architecture and interior designing of the community and contracting Absher Construction Company to build it.

Aegis paired its nautical design with a goal to become the most energy-efficient senior living community in the company’s portfolio, if not in the entire industry.

Washington as a state focuses on a few aspects of environmentally conscious buildings, most notably energy neutrality. As such, Aegis needed to determine the energy and water consumption for a building of this size.

“From there, we had to calculate the energy usage of this new building and we had to offset 100% of our energy usage in its fully-filled state,” Palmore said. “Then we had to make up 105% of that through on- and off-site energy creation.”

But while the energy efficiency goal brought some challenges to the project, Aegis has a big goal of making more energy-efficient communities in the future.

“[The contest] really piqued our interest considering that we’re really focusing on wellness and wanted to have a wellness brand within our company,” Palmore said. But while the initiative checked a lot of boxed for Aegis, that meant an additional year of planning.

Washington as a state focuses on a few aspects of environmentally conscious buildings, most notably energy neutrality. This means that Aegis needed to determine the energy consumption for a building of this size with these resident needs including water and energy.

“From there, we had to calculate the energy usage of this new building and we had to offset 100% of our energy usage in its fully-filled state,” Palmore said. “Then we had to make up 105% of that through on- and off-site energy creation.”

Additionally, Aegis achieved its energy objectives by adding about 1.7 million kilowatt hours through an array of off-site, clean energy farms. The building also has an enhanced thermal envelope that is comprised of triple paine window glazing, thermal insulation and heat recovery through air ventilation. And LED lighting with senors and monitors saves as much as 320,000-kilowatt hours.

The Construction

The 1936 University of Washington Olympic rowing team faced substantial hurdles en route to their gold medal performance. And the Aegis development team drew inspiration from that team when it faced hurdles of its own, according to Korbas.

“It’s almost the perfect story of development for us considering all of the things the Olympians had to overcome … so it just fits the concept and the theme of the building that we also had struggles,” Korbas said.

Those struggles started just a few months after the project broke ground.

“We had just excavated to the bottom of the hole [when Covid hit],” Palmore told Senior Housing News.

The project halted for a time due to the pandemic. In response, Aegis sought and received emergency authorization to continue building its community.

“We bid on this project specifically because we were at the bottom of the hill,” Palmore said. “And we had an 85-foot shoring wall supporting the hill and the people that live right behind us. As we were going into the winter or the wet season, it was necessary to continue going in.”

Like nearly every other senior living company, the Covid-19 pandemic led to delays for Aegis’ maritime-themed community, but in the end, the project was set back only by about three months, according to Palmore.

Covid wasn’t the only hurdle the team faced. During the later months of the project, a union for concrete drivers went on strike.

“We worked very closely with our general contractor and our concrete supplier to hire and locate truck drivers that would cross picket lines and to find alternate methods or locations to get concrete,” Palmore said.

The project’s cost ran about 15 to 20% more than a typical Aegis development, but it was still within budget, according to Palmore. Aegis Lake Union rang up at about $62 million, or about $750,000 per unit, and amounted to the company’s most expensive per-unit build at that time.

“It was a tough pill to swallow,” Palmore said. “But we thought ‘we’re playing our cards and really focusing on the future of development, the future of our industry and what the market and the environment needed.”

Aegis Lake Union has 79 units, 66 of which are assisted living units with the remaining 13 units dedicated to memory care. The apartments start at $4,500 per month.

The Completion

When Aegis began welcoming residents on August first, 2022, the interior had been decorated with historical relics and artistic homages to the 1936 Olympic gold medal-winning Olympic rowing team.

Atop the building is a sky lounge that includes a view of nearby Lake Union and the Seattle skyline, including the Space Needle.

“We felt that it was very important to orient the building so that it has a lovely view of that feature,” Korbas said. Aegis has made the sky lounge available to lease out to the community at large.

Inside the building, the color palette includes silvers and blues to remind one of life on the water, “whether you’re in a boat rowing or whether you’re on a larger craft, or you’re just viewing it from the shore,” Korbas said.

The art and artifacts include an actual Olympic torch that was used for the 1936 games in addition to an actual crew shell built by George Pocock. In Aegis Lake Union, it hangs suspended from the ceiling, immersing residents, and family members in staff of the feel.

The community also pays homage to local indigenous people in various ways. For example, the community includes a venue called the Little Lake Juicery because “Lake Union is considered ‘Little Lake’ by the Duwamish and Chinook people,” said Korbas.

Other amenities include a massage room, theaters, a public-facing salon and a “wellness corridor” with a balance studio.

The building has “exceptional design details,” according to Hord Coplan Macht Principal Cynthia Shonaiya, who also served as a judge in the design competition’s assisted living category. She also commended the building for its consistent and compelling context, welcoming high-quality amenities and exciting views.

“That’s what we do,” said Korbas. “We served people. We create environments for them to live in and to continue their life well-lived.”

The post Best Assisted Living Design of 2022: Olympic Spirit Lives On at Aegis Community Near Seattle  appeared first on Senior Housing News.

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