Fighting COVID-19 with Bi-Polar Ionization

As we continue to learn, adapt, and move forward during a global pandemic, we understand that poorly ventilated buildings are a significant risk factor in the transmission of COVID-19.  Operators and developers who are planning new senior living communities will want to consider air cleaning technology as an option for creating and maintaining cleaner indoor environments that reduce the spread of disease.

Bipolar ionization systems have been tested and found to reduce the levels of various types of airborne contaminants with a MERV equivalent of 13 without the pressure increase of MERV 13 mechanical filters.  During the cleaning process, ions attach to airborne particles like dust, dander, and pollen, subsequently increasing their mass and size. This allows the air filtration system to easily capture the larger particles, increasing the capture efficiency of the HVAC system.

In addition to health benefits, this technology can save building owners 30% on conditioning costs because it...

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What’s the New Standard in Senior Living Communities?

It’s hard to believe that it was in May that I blogged about being ready to “turn the corner” on everything that was impacting the country.  I guess I was a little impatient.  In the meantime, it is as we predicted that there would be some creative times ahead in the design and construction of senior living communities. 

We have spoken with a lot of our colleagues in the senior living operations and design community in the last couple of months to learn about what they want to implement into their future projects to increase health and safety when a contagious health crisis such as Covid-19 hits.  At the top of the list is upgraded HVAC systems to better filter airborne pathogens as well as increase fresh air circulation.  A close second is UV technology to kill microbial particles (both incorporated into HVAC systems as well as other equipment options for...

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The Growing Cost of Lumber

Perhaps one of the largest issues builders and developers are currently dealing with is the recent surge in lumber prices coupled with the scarcity of lumber materials.  According to Nasdaq’s lumber report, lumber has increased 87% since the beginning of the year, which is a staggering increase.  However, what is more, shocking is that lumber had only risen 1.6% from January 1, 2020, to July 1, 2020, but then jumped 85.4% from July 1 to August 20!  The cause is a result of diminished supplies coming out of the mills due to Covid-19 related shutdowns. At the same time, demand has remained high due to strong residential housing and multi-family construction markets. 

The magnitude of this pricing increase is putting pressures on margins for contractors, builders, and developers and could cause projects to be deferred or canceled should these increases continue into the 4th Quarter.  The question on everyone’s mind...

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Quality

Quality control in today’s construction environment continues to be a daily challenge in our industry. Several factors that are contributing to this are lack of skilled labor, lack of subcontractor supervision, and incomplete construction documents. Quality is essential in the success of a project; when managed properly, it results in timely completion of our projects, reduced punch lists, lack of rework, all of which leads to satisfied clients. Over the years, The Douglas Company has put in place several processes and standards to help minimize rework and provide our clients with a quality end product. These processes include:

  • Conduct pre-construction meetings with subs to review the plans and installation instructions and sort out any discrepancies before work being put in place.
  • Mockups which allow for a clear expectation of what the end product is to be amongst the project team (Owner, Architect, and Contractor).
  • Quality inspections are filled out by our project teams...

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Designing Senior Living Communities for COVID-19

Recently I had the privilege of participating in a design charrette for a new IL/AL/MC facility.  Obviously the current pandemic is on everyone’s mind.  No one knows when it will end, if the virus will morph and/or come back, or if we will someday need to deal with another similar crisis.  So the decision was made by the client that the facility needed to be designed not only to protect the residents and staff but also in such a progressive manner that the operator could use this as a strategic advantage in the marketplace.  Their concept is that they want to be known as a place safer than home-where professionals know how to keep you safe. In my experience, these discussions are just starting, so there is much to learn and will continue to be, but some of the ideas that came out were as follows:

  • Electrostatic sanitation systems.
  • Safe visitation areas.
  • A...

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Communication of Construction Delays

A recent report I came across revealed some stunning data about construction delays. According to the 2020 National Construction Payment Report (https://www.levelset.com/blog/2020-reportconstruction- wasted-time-slow-payment), “80% of construction businesses expect delays on some or all of their projects.” That is four out of five construction projects across the board that will have a delay and lose time! While it is no secret that delays are an unfortunate and often frequent problem in construction, numbers this high tells me that some conversations should be occurring on nearly all construction projects across the board that may not be happening.

Developers - Are you receiving notice letters and having open conversations about delays with your construction team? No one likes sending or receiving letters, but contracts often require them, and they don’t need to be contentious. The Douglas Company, one of our 68 documented process systems, requires that we send letters for all delay events,...

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Post Covid-19 Senior Living Communities

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted nearly everyone and somehow touched every aspect of the world in which we live.  It will change many aspects of the senior housing industry, including not only the prospects for new development but the design and functionality of new senior living communities.  While the ramifications both short and long term are still unclear, the pandemic will not change the vast wave of baby boomers who will provide steady demand growth for senior housing for several years beginning in 2022.

Most experts within the senior living industry continue to express optimism about the long term prospects for senior housing, and particularly the assisted living, memory care, independent living and active adult segments, all of which have experienced significantly fewer cases of Covid-19 than have been realized in skilled nursing communities.

As we begin to look to the future, it seems inevitable that Covid-19 will have a lasting impact...

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COVID Construction

As our country begins to transition back to a new level of normalcy, it brings to light how fortunate we were to be able to continue to work relatively unscathed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing us to fulfill our core purpose to contribute to the success of our clients and associates. While there is a lot of uncertainty about what all of the long term impacts this crisis will bring, I believe that it is fair to assume there will be some changes to our industry moving forward as a result of the past few months.

The virus has brought to focus on the importance of worker health and safety on our job sites, while some of the policies are tedious, it is better to be safe than sorry. It will be important to continue practicing these policies moving forward into the future to help mitigate any future waves of...

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How much will construction prices go down in the current COVID-19 recession?

The current slowdown is unfortunate in its cause, with all of the people suffering from the virus.  It is hugely disruptive to all of us both professionally and personally, but it is the reality.  Though this arose fairly quickly, our clients are intelligent, optimistic, and focused and are already asking how much prices are going to come down and when.

The best predictor of the future is usually the past, so I did some research.  RS Means, a widely respected resource for pricing in our industry, reports that the 2008-2010  recession had stable pricing, not decreasing.  I think we all know this isn’t right, so I checked the Turner Construction Company historical index.  It seems more realistic, reporting an 8.4% decrease in construction costs in 2009 and a 4.0% decrease in 2010 for a total of 12.4%  This seems more accurate.  All recessions are different.  There was a milder recession in...

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Turning the Corner

Turning the Corner in design for senior living

Who is ready to turn the corner on everything that has been in front of us in the last couple of months?  I know I am.  While The Douglas Company has been fortunate and grateful to continue operations as an essential business during this pandemic, it has, of course, prevented me from getting out and seeing clients, prospects, and my networking partners, unfortunately.  As I’m sure many can relate, Zoom is just not the same!

That being said, and while it could have spawned from better circumstances, there will be some interesting and exciting times ahead for the design and construction of multi-family spaces in particular senior living communities. 

We have been busy in our estimating and pre-construction departments assisting clients with conceptual budget estimates and value engineering as usual and look forward to seeing more and more creative ideas on how to address health crisis type issues that can...

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BIM

What is BIM? BIM stands for Building Information Modeling; essentially, it is a software that allows the entire project team to integrate their respective components into a 3-D model. When appropriately used it can help streamline not only the design stage of a project but also the build of a project. Some of the advantages of BIM include better visualization of spaces before they are constructed reducing the amount of changes during construction, increased coordination and clash detection which can save time and avoid costly rework, increased productivity through the utilization of prefabrication, safer projects, and ultimately a higher level of quality throughout the building. Some of the disadvantages to BIM are it can be costly and lead to additional time in the design stage of the project, as well as, finding subcontractor’s/firms that are experienced in the software can also be challenging. As our world continues to evolve through...

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Third Party Plan Reviews & Inspections

One of the biggest challenges the construction industry has faced over the past few years is the ever-increasing difficulty to have project plans reviewed in a timely manner, with a fair and reasonable critique of the documents for code compliance, and at a reasonable cost.  Further frustrations have been experienced in dealing with building departments having a shortage of qualified building inspectors to conduct timely onsite building inspections when the contractor schedules them.  This all led Florida to pass legislation allowing for developers to use private, third-party plan review and building inspection services.   Florida Statute 553.791 passed in 2019, allowing developers to hire a qualified independent provider to review their plans in place of the traditional route of submitting them into the local building department.  It also permits the developers to hire independent providers for building inspections instead of relying on the often overburdened local building department officials. 

In addition to...

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COVID-19 Impacts on The Construction Industry

The COVID-19 pandemic has the spotlight of construction industry news across the county right now. Rightfully so, as it has been extremely disruptive to developers, contractors, and suppliers alike. While there is great debate on how to address the spread of the disease, all of us in the AEC industry are trying to determine what we should be paying attention to. For those involved in a large construction project presently, no matter what role, it is suggested to think about a few things:

Safety Measures - By now, most of us are familiar with the term "Social Distancing" and the importance of handwashing, but there is more than that. OSHA has devoted a separate webpage for the standards from 29 CFR that apply to this outbreak and reminded us that this is a recordable event. Do not count on anyone to provide these measurements for you or your associates;...

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Active Adult Senior Communities

As I talk with both senior living and multi-family developers, there is a big focus and many questions relating to “active adult” or “age-restricted’ apartments.  It makes sense for many reasons, but the average age of entry stands out the most.  Today the average age at which a person moves into traditional senior housing is 85, with an average length of stay just over six years.

The move-in age for active adult communities is in the low to mid-70's.  The oldest members of the baby boomer generation, those born in 1946, are just now turning 74.  This creates a true opportunity to capture a younger senior demographic ten years earlier than traditional senior living facilities.

Boomers considering active adult communities prefer renting over owning to provide them with economic and logistical flexibility.  They are attracted by a sense of community and are healthy enough to not need traditional care-based senior housing.  At...

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A Developer’s Contractor

Last week I was sitting in a presentation with an experienced developer for a project we will be starting soon.  This same developer is currently building a facility in Columbus, Ohio, with an institutional contractor, which is not going well.

Over and over, he said, "how much of a pleasure it is to be working with a developer's contractor." We are one, but sometimes I forget what it means.  In this case, the client's architects and engineers completed the drawings and added all kinds of things that were nice, but didn't add value to the project or its future residents.  With our experience in senior living, we are able to control cost by weeding out what was not required, and we have the technical expertise to communicate effectively with the design professionals with minimal involvement from the client.  But there are other things we do, such as keeping up a...

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What Should Senior Living Construction Really Cost?

After years of attending the NIC and ASHA conferences, I feel a need to shout out about the construction costs that one of our competitors supply to them for senior living.  Frankly, I don’t know how anyone could make the numbers work for a project with the costs that they promote.  First of all, construction costs per square foot are probably the wrong numbers to be considering when developing proformas.  Cost per unit or cost per bed is what matters because revenue is based on cost per unit and cost per bed.  Cost per square foot can be an extreme variable depending on space usage.  As you can imagine, as an individual room increases in size, the cost per added square foot isn’t much.  So larger units cost less than smaller units on a cost per square foot basis, but the incremental cost per unit is not that much different. ...

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Rising Development Costs

There was a recent article in Senior Housing News that discussed the rising development costs in senior housing being to the tune of a 6.4% increase last year according to a report created by CBRE.  During the same period, which was 2019, the average number of units per project decreased to 106 from 128. 

As you can imagine, two primary drivers of this were a robust construction market and the increasing labor expenses.  This isn’t necessarily new as the article also confirmed that overall U.S. construction activity has mostly increased over the last ten years, which thanks to the laws of supply and demand drive up material costs regularly. 

It was interesting to note that site acquisition expenses represented 10.1% of development costs and that the average site area decreased 15% as demand for good sites increased significantly in metropolitan areas. 

So this trend is not just about senior housing exclusively as the...

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Mid-Market Musing

I learned early in my career how little I know.  Though we have built more senior living than anyone I know and have been exposed to very successful senior living developers and operators, they all operate differently.  Someone recently said to me, “An expert is someone who knows more and more about less and less until eventually, he knows everything about nothing.” But I don’t think that is the case in my situation.  It’s just that there are a lot of ways to be successful if you know what your Hedgehog Concept is, as Jim Collins would say.

Mid-market became a newer thing a couple of years ago.  They often say what is old is new, and this might be one of those situations.  We, in conjunction with a number of clients, are working on several mid-market concepts.  They hearken back to the eighties when this industry was starting, and people’s...

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The Stepping Stone for Baby Boomers

The “Silver Tsunami” of Baby Boomers is not knocking on the door of assisted living communities just yet and still has several years to go before they are.  So how are senior living developers going to entice these folks to leave their homes?

A recent article in Senior Housing News noted that in a survey of 120 senior housing professionals, 87% of them responded that they are currently pursuing active adult apartment projects.  They see the need for a stepping stone so to speak; getting seniors to leave their homes that are nowhere near ready to move into an Independent Living community much less an Assisted Living community.  Seniors in this segment are still looking for active, vibrant lives and are not ready to see what the future looks like by living in communities where they would see just that. 

If seniors can stay in place longer in these communities with the...

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Exoskeletons in Construction

When you hear the word exoskeleton you probably start thinking of something out of a sci-fi movie like Alien or Avatar, but they are starting to make a presence in construction. Exoskeletons or exosuits are a wearable technology typically made from metal and other fabrics that attach to the body. They are aimed to help lessen the strain on workers' body allowing them to work quickly and safely while reducing injuries. With the potential to reduce required muscle force by as much as 60%, it’s easy to see what kind of an impact this technology could have on workers by easing the physical demands that come with the job. Currently, there are two (2) main types powered and mechanical (passive), and over five (5) main categories for these power suits: power gloves, arm/shoulder support, back support, standing/crouching support. As this technology continues to evolve it will be interesting to see...

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