Allocating capital for furnishings and interior fixtures is an important decision — one that facility operators don’t take lightly. The equipment that creates the right look and feel to attract residents not only must project the right image and aesthetic, it also must be affordable. Therefore, optimizing purchases should be a priority among senior living facilities, design specialists emphasize.
Getting maximum return for the amount invested is the goal and there are various ways to achieve that end, whether it’s acquiring high-quality items at a discounted price, shaving per-unit costs by buying in bulk or by purchasing durable materials that pay off in the long term. It depends on the facility’s needs, priorities and opportunities.
The main difference between a “cheap price” and “good value” is that “cheap deals are exactly what they seem — too good to be true,” says Jennifer Michalski, assistant manager of national accounts for C/S Eldercare Interiors.
“Good value comes from long-lasting products that can stand the test of time both physically and visually and that can be easily maintained in case something happens. Price can be a driver in the decision-making process, but quality and durability will weigh heavily on the final decision. Most facilities and designers will pay a little bit more for a product that will stand the test of time.”
As a maker of privacy curtains and wall and door protection products, C/S’s products are designed to provide the proper balance between aesthetic appeal and product durability, Michalski says.
“Gone are the days of ‘function over form,’” she says. “Although most facilities will agree that durability is the most important factor when choosing an architectural product, residents want to feel at ease with the help of calming designs.”
When purchasing new furnishings and fixtures, facility managers should always keep the well-being of residents in mind, Michalski says.
“Human beings are naturally inclined to invest their emotions in their surroundings, so it is important to make residents feel at home in a comfortable and reassuring environment,” she says.
Ridley Kinsey, director of healthcare retail markets for Patcraft flooring says while some customers are looking for the lowest price, “lowest price does not necessarily equal lowest cost.” Instead, he maintains that customers should base decisions “total cost of ownership” or “lifecycle cost,” which gives a return on investment over time.
Cooltree is one example of a vendor striving to be in tune with the senior living market’s specific dynamics, so much so it focuses exclusively on that customer base. Kimberly Calimeri, inside sales coordinator, says the maker of case goods and chairs adheres to a value-conscious philosophy in its sales approach.
“We offer the most we can give per dollar,” she says. “It all comes down to construction, materials and hardware we use.”
The company stands for “quality, warranty and innovation” in its product lines, Calimeri says, pointing to a standard 10-year warranty to back up the quality of materials, construction and durability. For case goods, high-pressure laminate is a higher caliber material than thermally infused laminate, resisting nicks, scratches and dents. Five-piece construction is designed to put less stress on drawer dowels to keep them from coming loose. Chairs have steel frames with wood grain finishes and have antimicrobial properties to reduce pathogen transmission.
“These are all key features that customers appreciate and what brings the best value to each purchase,” Calimeri says.
Saving the earth and saving money aren’t mutually exclusive, says Lucas Hamilton, manager of building science applications for CertainTeed Ceilings. Energy efficiency and sustainability — with a growing focus on product transparency — have been key demands from customers, he says.
“Over the past decade, green building certification programs have motivated building product companies to become better environmental stewards by making their material content and manufacturing processes more sustainable and transparent,” Hamilton says. “Documents such as Environmental Product Declarations and Health Product Declarations are important to the industry because they provide access to manufacturer information that is uniform and simplified, informing facility managers about the products they select and their impact on human and environmental health.”
Ceilings and walls are critical components of room design and at the forefront of environmental breakthroughs, notes Hamilton, whose company recently introduced its Ecophon Advantage line of fiberglass applications. The intent is to provide an environment of “pleasing” acoustics as well as optimal indoor air quality, he says.
“The overarching goal of an assisted living facility is to provide a pleasant, healing environment for residents, maximizing their comfort,” he says. “Facility managers should look for products that have been third-party tested and certified as low emitting, VOC-compliant, and that are easily cleanable and resistant to mold and mildew growth.”
Room acoustics are an element that may not be given much attention, but how a room sounds actually affects residents’ health and quality of life — a key consideration in room design, Hamilton says.
“It’s no leap of faith to say, if given the choice, residents at senior living facilities would prefer a quiet environment rather than a noisy space,” he says.