Sustainable Adult Day Care Facility


Working with the East Alabama Services for the Elderly (EASE) organization, the facility was intended to compliment their offices in the historic Summers-Stowe-Powell House in Opelika, AL.  Built primarily 1870-1900 with some later additions, it’s wraparound porch, tall windows with transoms, and high ceilings make for sensible design in the hot & humid climate, by cooling the building’s perimeter, and allowing cross-ventilation and natural convection to remove hot air up and away from occupants.

Seasonal sunshades on the new building’s wood trellis additionally protect the south-facing windows with almost full shade from April through October, while reflecting light into the transom windows above to indirectly light the cathedral ceiling of the main space.  The shades then can be removed to allow some passive solar gain through winter.

The plan is organized for clear passive observation of clients, which are elderly who are usually able to function fairly independently, though might also include mild Alzheimer’s and/or dementia patients.  A secure outdoor porch and indoor retreat room are included, as well as a commercial kitchen for serving lunch.  This plan is fully code compliant and handicapped accessible.

An array of 10 solar panels centered on the south roof can provide some of the electrical supply for the building. Its traditional details, welcoming porches, and cozy scale should contribute to making a familiar and hospitable environment for the elderly, while its minimized energy needs will provide an efficient building well into the future.

I presented this project 2006-07 at the Silver Anniversary Alabama Gerontological Conference, the University of Oklahoma, and Savannah College of Art and Design.  I was awarded a paid graduate research assistantship at Auburn and received all A’s in my coursework.

All renderings, elevations, plan, photograph, and text copyright Stephen M. Long

I developed this prototype in the Design-Build Masters Program, an extension of the Rural Studio at Auburn University.  Its design was drawn from historic vernacular architecture of the Southeast US, adapting their traditional climatic-adaptive strategies for natural light and

ventilation, and coupling them with contemporary sustainability science to maximize the building’s efficiency.  It is estimated students and volunteers could construct it for $100,000, and over time it should have substantially reduced operating costs.