People with intellectual and/or development disorders (IDDs) often have difficulty with communication, social interaction, and executive function skills. As a result, they may benefit from specially designed environments that help support their needs.
The layout of a space can help promote communication and interaction, while also providing visual cues and support systems that can help with executive function skills. For example, hallways and doorways that are well-marked and easy to navigate, or an open floor plan that forgoes hallways all together. Rooms should be designed for specific activities, such as quiet spaces for reading or places for group activities. Careful planning of the physical environment can help people with IDDs to feel more comfortable and supported in their surroundings.
Mike’s House | A New Home for Individuals with IDD
Hope House is an organization in Texas that cares for people with IDDs, providing them a place to live and the care they need to thrive in their lives. The organization began in 1976 when land was donated to build the first Hope House.
Many years have passed since then, so it’s no surprise that the initial building was due for an update. François Lévy took on the project. Lévy is a long-time Vectorworks user and is local to Texas. His design expertise and 20-year history as an architect in Texas served this project well.
According to David Gould, Hope House executive director, Lévy’s design solution was a breath of fresh air. Gould commented on how the open floor plan is amazing for the residents because it’s easy for them to navigate from room to room.
Lévy took extra care to account for the sun with this project. He wanted there to be a lot of natural light but wanted to avoid the blistering heat of the Texas sun as much as possible. He used the Heliodon tool in Vectorworks to simulate the path of the sun over the building, so he knew which areas needed more or less shade.
Lévy also designed for a future rain collection system on the property, adding to the house’s sustainability factor. According to the study he completed in Vectorworks, the property can store 5,600 gallons of non-potable water, usable for irrigation purposes.
Q&A with Francois Levy, Architect of Mike’s House
What was your overall design vision for Mike’s House?
Lévy: This duplex serves eight adult residents with significant physical and/or mental developmental disabilities, under 24-hour care by the organization’s caregivers. Hope House’s philosophy is to provide residents as much connection to the natural world as possible. Moreover, this home’s limited construction capital and operational budget both suggested a compact and efficient use of space, coupled with sustainable design strategies to minimize energy costs. Visual and circulation connections to the outdoors permitted smaller indoor spaces.
What sustainable solutions are present in the project and how do they contribute to the welfare of residents?
Lévy: There was a strong design emphasis on maximizing passive sustainable design strategies for a variety of reasons. The staff needs to focus on the residents and would be distracted by complex active systems. Passive sustainable strategies also tend to require far less maintenance. Some of those passive strategies include:
- Careful placement of windows to maximize views while avoiding excessive solar heat gain, designed using solar animations
- The roof was designed to minimize self-shading of future photovoltaics
- Twin solar chimneys provide passive cooling using the stack effect
- Planning for future rainwater harvesting for irrigation and to support gardening activities
- Robust insulation
- Tall spaces for warm air stratification
- Materials were selected to be simple and durable
Vectorworks’ BIM features supported maximizing volume and views while minimizing construction costs, keeping conditioned space to functional minimum. Built-in and custom BIM tools were used to design the solar chimneys and PV array, maximize natural ventilation, and fine-tune roof overhangs.
How do you approach designing a home that serves such a vital purpose for its residents?
Lévy: I think it’s easy, as an architect, to let your ego be too involved when proposing design solutions. There’s a time and a place for it, but when you’re working with a client, their needs are most important. So I like to tell myself to put my ego in the backseat and deeply listen to what the client is looking for. I think of myself as the conduit for what the client is trying to accomplish.
Check Out Lévy's Webinar - Small-Scale Residential Projects
Levy advocates for the design and BIM capabilities of Vectorworks software. Click the button below for a free webinar where Levy discusses his application of BIM to small-scale residential projects.