Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
St. Mary’s new facility – innovative health care/unique design
Jan. 24, 2011

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

WINSTED, MN – The completion of the roof on the new St. Mary’s memory loss care facility in Winsted last week capped off what is close to midpoint in the construction of the estimated $3.2 million building project.

The 13,000-square-foot structure is scheduled to be completed by late June by Nor-Son of Baxter.

The facility has been designed to offer innovative health care for individuals dealing with memory loss issues. The structure itself is also notable being modeled after prototypes developed for places with extremely cold climates like Alaska and Canada, according to Nor-Son architect Jesse Hopkins.

“As a design builder (Nor-Son) we customized design details and constructed a hybrid, and definitely a high performance, thermal envelope suitable for use in central Minnesota,” Hopkins said.

Besides the building being extremely energy-efficient, the main priority of the Nor-Son design team is to stay focused on making the care facility, both inside and out, look and feel like home to the residents who will be living there – an operational concept still new to memory loss care.

“It’s designed like a duplex, for family-style living,” Nor-Son project manager Chad Kinate said. “Not an institution-type setting, and that is what is really unique about this.”

An entry foyer gives visitors access to both sides of the building.

There are eight bedrooms on each side of the memory care facility, a total of 16. Four of the bedrooms are larger, with the option of sharing the room with another person.

Each side of the facility has its own kitchen and living area. The staff will share a laundry room.

“There are special things in this house that cater specifically to people with memory loss issues, but we also try to give them freedom,” Kinate said. “I think our client would describe it as the goal to make people’s lives simpler and safer.”

Some examples Kinate gave were having faucets marked hot and cold, and having kitchen cabinets with attractive shelving without doors, or the doors with glass inserts making it easy to see where everything is.

Instead of light dimmers, which can be complicated, lighting levels have been increased to accommodate aging eyes, and more lights with a few more switches to adjust the amount of light.

“One of the things I think is really significant and different than in many places is we really tried to create a building that lets a lot of sunshine and natural light in,” Kinate said.

Every bedroom has at least one window that is 9 feet wide and 6 feet tall.

“Natural light is healing and good for people with memory loss conditions, and it is just good for people in general,” Kinate said.

The outside of the memory loss care facility is being built and landscaped to fit in with the neighborhood.

“From the beginning, it was conceptualized as being called the ‘garden house,’” Kinate said. “We want it to be beautiful, but on the lower side of maintenance, like anybody would want. We want it to be part of the experience of coming home.”

To keep the residential feel to the outside of the building, the parking area is located away from the front entrance.

Outdoor lighting has been chosen, but is still being adjusted.

“The higher the lights are, the farther out the light spreads. We are trying to find a nice balance that meets the code minimum requirements, but make sure it’s minimized, which eliminates light pollution. We don’t want the light to cross the property line,” Kinate said.

Super energy-efficient construction

The memory loss care facility is a building that is built for much colder climates.

The overall insulation values for roof, walls, and floor exceed the state energy code by more than 50 percent, according to Hopkins.

“I don’t know of anyone else in our area or anyone close by who’s built anything as energy-efficient as this is, and I have talked with representatives who are selling the building products,” Kinate said.

Insulation that would normally be inside the cavity of the stud wall is moved to the outside of the structure – a continuous exterior insulation uninterrupted by studs. It’s fastened to the building with furring strips, almost like a belt or suspender, according to Kinate.

A stud, whether it’s a wood stud or a metal stud, has a very limited ability to insulate, so the heat or cooling is able to transfer through the stud to the outside, or vice versa, because it acts as a conduit, Kinate explained.

“We are creating an igloo is what we are doing, and it’s so much more energy-efficient than doing it the most common way, which is just insulating between the studs,” Kinate said.

The foundation is also insulated with form work made out of rigid insulation filled in with concrete.

“We were constantly testing our ideas against two yardsticks,” Hopkins said, “high quality residential character and the needs of our elders. It’s not that energy efficiency was an afterthought, just what we like to consider part of sound planning. When you work to improve the quality of life of others, stewardship comes naturally, and the end result will be a more comfortable environment for residents.”

Other benefits for residents include temperature control in each bedroom, a high-efficiency system with variable volume air flow which keeps the air fresh, and acoustical products to absorb noises, providing a more peaceful environment.

Currently, construction is on schedule for the new memory loss care facility. When the project is closer to completion, a tour is planned.

There are some concerns for spring construction with melting snow, but the Nor-Son team made it a priority last fall to complete the driveway and parking area, hoping it will make a difference this spring in keeping the project on course.

The Nor-Son team is proud of its work, and accident-free project to-date. It has worked to create the best environment for memory loss issues and has learned from the experience.

“We just feel, as the design builder, we are so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to be involved in this . . . it’s so much more satisfying to be involved in this type of project instead of other forms of construction because you are really truly helping to be a part of making people’s lives better,” Kinate said.

“It’s not supposed to be a penalty to age and need some assistance. You have to make changes and give something up, but you are not supposed to feel sad. It’s just the next chapter in your life.”

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