In response to demand from residents and prospects, more and more senior living communities are going “green.” This includes everyday Earth-friendly initiatives like recycling programs, ridesharing, and composting, but in some cases, it is on a much larger scale — like environmentally conscientious design and construction of the entire campus.

These construction techniques are not only good for marketing sound bites, they are actually better for residents too. Many eco-friendly building materials and methods are directly correlated to an improved resident experience thanks to more consistent room temperatures, less indoor noise, and better air quality with fewer toxic chemicals being used in construction and operations.

>> Related: The Environmentally Sustainable CCRC of the Future

Taking “green” building practices to the next level

Many of the nation’s newer senior living communities have been constructed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification requirements, a program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED focuses on energy, space, and water efficiency, as well as reducing waste and using environmentally friendly building materials. One new senior living community in Washington State is going even further to create an ecofriendly campus.

Seattle’s new Aegis Living Lake Union assisted living and memory care community has the services and amenities you might expect from a higher end facility, from 24/7 in-house healthcare services, locally sourced food, and concierge services, to paint and sip events, yoga, and mocktail mixology classes. But Lake Union has taken their environmental consciousness and sustainability to the next level.

The community was designed meet the guidelines set forth by the Living Building Challenge (LBC), considered the world’s most stringent green building standard with its seven performance areas, or “petals,” as they call them:

  • Place
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Health and happiness
  • Materials
  • Equity
  • Beauty

According to the LBC website, so-called “Living Buildings” are:

  • Regenerative, connecting occupants to light, air, food, nature, and community
  • Self-sufficient, remaining within the resource limits of their site
  • Able to create a positive impact on the human and natural systems that interact with them

>> Related: CCRCs Help Seniors Stay Active for a Healthier Life

“Green” features help the environment

Aegis Living Lake Union was designed to be all electric and emission-free with 105 percent of the building’s total energy demand met via a variety of energy reduction measures. To that end, the complex boasts both an onsite solar array and an offsite solar energy farm, which generates 1.7 million kilowatt hours.

The buildings that comprise Lake Union also reduced their overall energy demand by 25 percent relative to comparable buildings through key features like:

  • Triple-pane window glazing
  • Thermal insulation for exterior walls
  • Heat recovery through forced-air ventilation
  • Recirculating heat pump systems
  • LED lighting and sensors to monitor use
  • High-efficiency appliances

Additionally, the complex is water-wise with all non-drinking water (such as for landscape watering) supplied by captured rainwater and treated greywater. This process saves more than 140,000 gallons of water annually.

>> Related: The CCRC of the Future: Community Design

Benefits to senior living residents

While many people take measures to reduce their impact on the environment because it is the right thing to do, there also are several benefits residents of “green,” ecofriendly senior living communities, like Lake Union, can enjoy.

  • Reduced costs: Things like low-flow water faucets and energy-efficient appliances, lighting, heating and cooling systems, and windows can help lower monthly utility bills for the community and thus reduce overall costs for residents. Things like water-wise landscaping and green waste removal also reduce community expenses and maintenance costs.
  • Improved health and wellbeing: According to EPA estimates, indoor air can be up to 10 times more polluted than outdoor air thanks to a cocktail of toxic building materials and poor ventilation. Improving ventilation can dramatically reduce indoor pollutants and reduce associated respiratory issues. Choosing low-VOC paint and more natural building materials also lowers the number of airborne toxins.
  • Increased value: Many people consider “green” buildings to be more valuable because of the cost savings, reduced impact on the environment, and health benefits described above. Additionally, for builders and senior living providers, government incentives help these projects become more financially viable and attractive.

These benefits can be highly attractive to prospective senior living residents — both those who are price conscious as well as those who are environmentally conscious. Communities that are renovating or constructing new buildings or campuses going forward should consider the appeal green building practices can have for seniors as well as for the bottom line.

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