Seniors are the fastest-growing age demographic in the country, according to Statistics Canada.
In 2016, they represented 17 per cent of the population. That figure is expected to increase to 24 per cent by 2036.
With that increase will come the need to build more facilities to help house them. Additionally, there is a need for those facilities to meet green building standards and wellness certifications.
Matthews Design Group in West Kelowna works with builders, developers and owners to incorporate wellness and healthy design aspects in their buildings.
“To make sure that the decisions being made are also going through the process of review for human health impacts,” says Trish Matthews, CEO.
One of the projects Matthews consulted on, currently under construction in Nelson, B.C., recently received WELL Pre-certification, a globally recognized green building initiative.
Matthews adds there are 10 concept areas considered for certification, ranging from the indoor physical environment to mind and community.
Factors such as calm lighting at sundown, to assist people that have issues with dementia who might start to get active, and brighter lighting during the day to help those with eyesight issues, she explains.
Other considerations include using materials that are less or non-toxic (eg: upholstery and carpets), as well as thermal comfort, air quality, nutrition, and acoustical levels.
“It’s a comprehensive view of the interior of the space, but it’s managed by what’s happening in the core of the building such as HVAC, lighting, electrical (etc.),” says Matthews.
Equally, if not more important, are mental health considerations and support for residents. Matthews says that includes creating spaces so that people aren’t isolated in their own building.
“Loneliness is a leading factor in depression in some of these places,” says Matthews. “We need to put natural wayfinding in place that occurs where they will find people to build their own communities.”
She adds gathering and activity areas are also important, not only for residents but also employees.
“What can we put in place that people want to join and be a part of? What are some things we can do to encourage friendships, communication and activities amongst people that are in the space?”
Matthews says while WELL certification has been around for about 10 years, it is fairly new to Canada.
In 2022, TD Centre in Toronto became the largest office complex in the country to achieve WELL Core Certification.
“It’s about looking at buildings where people live and work on a holistic level,” she says. “When you walk into a space, what’s going to impact you?”
Matthews is currently working on several other similar projects, including a development in West Kelowna.