Best Skilled Nursing/Post-Acute Design 2021: Innovation Soars in Tiny House Concept


Built on the former site of Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan State’s newest veterans home is the first to serve the Southeast and Detroit area. And it does so with an innovative tiny house concept that delivers infection control and other benefits in a cutting-edge way.

The Michigan Veterans Home’s 152,000 square foot campus in Chesterfield Township consists of four “neighbourhoods”, which each offer 32 private rooms and common space, surrounding a central community building with clinical space, physical therapy space, pharmacy, multi- prayer room, hair salon and faith salon. A café-bistro and a gift shop are also located in the central building.

Each of the 128 units on campus has a private bathroom, desk, wardrobe and sink. Common areas feature a “residential-style” kitchen and outdoor courtyard accessible only to residents of that neighborhood.

The project is such a standout example of the tiny house concept that it won top honors in the “skilled/post-acute nursing” category of the 2021 Architecture & Design Awards from sister publication Skilled Nursing News. , Senior Housing News.

The concept

In its design, there are no spaces that are just linear, double-loaded hallways with rooms on either side; such elements are typical of traditional institutional frameworks, said Kerry Buck, principal of architecture firm SFCS.

Neighborhoods and individual units are more of a “familiar residential experience,” Buck explained, where you walk into a house and there’s a living room and living room, the kitchen can be seen, and there are places to get together in small groups. The further you enter the living space, the more private it becomes, just like a typical single family home.

“Each house, each neighborhood has its own kitchen. It is a full commercial kitchen. The food is hot and, you know, colorful and appetizing. That’s probably one of the benefits our home is able to offer our members is the quality of a meal,” said Michigan Veterans Home Administrator Jennifer Manning.

Residents sometimes have diminished appetites due to certain medications or illnesses, which makes a good appetizing meal all the more important, Manning added.

Chesterfield’s interior and exterior design is what Buck considers untraditional for the industry – “visually pleasing, fresh and new” without a “traditional institutional appearance”.

Gracyn Robinson, director of Merlino Design Partnership and one of the judges involved in the SHN Architecture and Design Awards, said the “modern porte-cochère fenestration” serving as the entrance to the community center offered a remarkable nod to the historic site. ; the former Selfridge base was home to the Michigan Air National Guard’s 127th Wing.

The entrance pierces through the air like an “aircraft between earth and sky,” Robinson said.

And the sense of lightness extends through the design.

“Natural light was very important. There’s really no space that doesn’t have natural light,” Buck said. “The finishes are very residential but durable as this is a retirement home. It was a very successful mix of all these requirements.


SFCS Architects designed the Michigan Veterans Home in Chesterfield Township to follow the specifications of the state’s Veterans Homes Grant Program – 65% of the project cost was covered by the program, according to Buck.

The company has offices in Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Kentucky and relied on its expertise to develop the tiny house concept for this project.

“We’ve done several tiny house projects in various states and what we’re seeing is that in terms of responding to the infection control demands of COVID, this tiny house model is working really well,” Buck said. “Better than the old traditional institutional hospital model.”

The Chesterfield location was originally designed to replace the Grand Rapids location of Michigan Veterans Homes, a traditional institutional-type model with sometimes up to four people per room, said Anne Zerbe, executive director of MVH. .

Instead, two small model house campuses were designed, both by SFCS, for MVH residents. The Christman Company was the builder and general contractor for the Chesterfield project; TowerPinkster has been listed as the official architect and SFCS as the design architect, according to documents submitted to Senior Housing News.

“What we have effectively done is reduce our census [at Grand Rapids]; so we’ve split it into 128 beds there and 128 beds on the east side of the state, and we plan to continue adding beds as we receive support and funding to do so,” Zerbe said. .

Eventually, MVH hopes to have more than 700 beds across the state.

The modular nature of Chesterfield’s design helped the SFCS team expand or reconfigure to fit the site, Buck said. The construction of Grand Rapids was taking place at the same time as the Chesterfield project, using the same model of a small house.

“It’s not as pure as a [small house]model due to site limitations,” said Buck of the Grand Rapids project, noting that the site was cramped and the company had to work around existing buildings.

However, she said the basic design of the tiny house held up well in both projects.


The completed project has proven its merits in the incredibly difficult environment of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chesterfield’s four wards provide the “inherent ability” to isolate residents if necessary. Michigan Veterans Home can “cut out” four to eight beds for a small isolation area, Buck said.

“Infection rates are much lower in small house projects than in the traditional skilled nursing model where you can have a long hallway with 50 beds next to it… [it’s] one of the biggest benefits we’ve seen in this design,” she noted.

Manning said the provision allows staff to “dress down” and obtain properly fitted personal protective equipment (PPE) from a clean environment in each quarter.

The layout also works for norovirus and influenza, Manning said, with staff better able to minimize infections and cross-contamination.

“Other buildings are multi-story buildings where we have to deal with elevators, how staff get to the unit. We eliminate a lot of those issues with the design of these new homes because, like the Jennifer pointed out, we have inputs and outputs that we can kind of isolate from the rest of the facility if needed,” Zerbe said.

So far, MVH has not had to hire more staff to provide care, or drastically alter logistics to accommodate the campus layout.

“[Neighborhood] storage rooms, clean facilities, linens, everything is, for lack of better words, a cookie cutter for every home, so they don’t have to walk across campus to get an item,” Manning said. . “There’s really no reason for [staff]having to navigate the rest of the campus.

For residents, the design suggests a sense of place rather than a hospital wing. The routine revolves around day-to-day activities and being able to make their own choices, whether they want to eat at home or go to the main cafe, or meet friends at the community center, Buck said.

The data suggests that choice is key to a better quality of life within an SNF and leads to longer lives, Buck said.

“The design really matters in terms of improving resident outcomes, which is the whole point. That’s really the genesis of what started this idea,” Buck added.


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