Affordable Seniors’ Housing Ideas Design Competition

The goal of this competition is to showcase ideas and/or concepts of innovative seniors’ housing design at the ASHRA Seniors’ Housing Needs Conference in May 2009 in Halifax. This design competition will follow the guidelines of the RAIC and is a non-endorsed design competition of open ideas.


The Atlantic Seniors’ Housing Research Alliance (ASHRA) was formed through funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The purpose of the project is to answer two primary questions:


• What will the housing needs of aging Atlantic Canadians be over the next 20 years?

• What housing options need to be developed to meet these needs?


This collaborative research project involves over 75 organizations and five universities from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island. From 2005 to 2009, the research will determine the housing needs and choices, both existing and emerging, for our aging population. Policy recommendations will then be developed to help satisfy these needs in the future. Since its inception in December 2004, the ASHRA membership of government, community, and academic partners has more than tripled from its original 37 to approximately 120 members strong.


We are looking for design ideas/concepts that embrace the following best practices and think about what can be added beyond these. The question we are asking the competitors is, “If this is what current ‘best practice’ looks like, what would ‘best practice’ look like 20 years from now?” Will we change? Will our housing needs be different? In what ways will our housing have to exceed current ‘best practices’?


The designed environment should support the desires of people to age in the familiar neighbourhoods in which they have spent their lives. We need to find ways to nurture people’s sense of being part a larger “community” with a sense of shared identity and mutual support. Future senior housing should be able to flex between assisted living and independent living to avoid unnecessary relocation.


Senior housing need not create elderly enclaves. Future senior living environments should serve as living communities where people of all ages have a place – where the young can learn from the experience and wisdom of elders, and elders can enjoy the vitality and exuberance of the young.


It will be increasingly challenging to offer social services for elders using only formal service providers. In the spirit of community, people of diverse ages can support one another both socially and pragmatically. For example housebound elders can trade with single parents – exchanging child care for grocery shopping, or home-cooked meals can be traded for instructions on how to use e-mail.


Environments should be created to be accessible for all users – including those who are challenged with mobility, dexterity, or sensory/cognitive processing. The designs must incorporate the following minimum criteria: one bedroom, one bathroom and one exterior door, all wheelchair-accessible and all located on the main floor. It is suggested that the more detailed criteria of the Rowntree Lifetime Homes and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC’s) Four Principles of Flex Housing be used as a guide.


Environments need to be created with recognition of energy-conscious design and consideration of sustainable products and processes. Designs should be based on the principles of affordable housing.


To encourage innovative ideas rather than formulaic solutions, the architectural program will be relatively open providing general direction rather than room titles and square footages. Solutions will be encouraged to represent “housing plus services.”


Elders to be accommodated could range from independent living residents to those needing some limited form of assistance. Units that flex in response to changing needs are encouraged.


“Housing plus Services” will be open to each team’s interpretation of the needs of the site an
d the community. 15% –  25% of the area of the site should be allocated for use by the residents of the site and the neighbourhood. Each team will provide a rationale for their proposed mix of services and spaces.


Any potential entrant must advise the competition information officer by e-mail at by 12 noon AST on March 2, 2009 of their intent to submit an entry. Failure to do so will result in the rejection of your entry. Questions will be accepted until March 15, 2009 at All entries for the competition are to be postmarked no later than 12:00 noon AST on Tuesday,

March 31, 2009 and sent to:


ASHRA Project Office

Mount Saint Vincent University

166 Bedford Highway

Halifax, Nova Scotia

B3M 2J6


Judging of all entries will take place in April 2009, and winners will be announced May 1, 2009.


There are three prizes as follows:

• 1st place $5,000

• 2nd place $3,000

• best student entry $2,000


All winning entries will be presented at the Atlantic Seniors’ Housing Needs Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia from May 27-29, 2009. Information on the winning designs will be published in the Conference Proceedings and widely viewed by local and national media.


This design competition will be judged by a panel led by Victor Regnier, FAIA, B.S. Engineering, B.Arch. (Kansas State University), M.Arch. (University of Southern California). Professor Regnier holds a joint professorship with the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, the only joint appointment of this nature in the US. From 1992 until December 1995, he served as the interim Dean of the School of Architecture. He has published six books and research monographs, as well as nearly 60 articles and book chapters dealing with various aspects of housing for the elderly, including a most recent book entitled Design for Assisted Living: Guidelines for Housing the Mentally and Physically Frail. As a researcher, he has directed 20 research projects dealing with the social and behavioural impact of the environment on older people, children and the homeless. His design findings have been presented at over 160 professional and scientific conferences, as well as more than 60 university symposia.


For more information on ASHRA, please visit For more information about the 2009 conference, please visit