Prototype: Time Tested Senior Living Architecture Strategy for Success

Pi Architecture New Prototype in Developement.jpg

When you hear the word prototype, what comes first to mind? Do you think ‘standard’, ‘pattern’, maybe even ‘model’?  Any one of these synonyms could represent a prototype.  In architecture, what really is a prototype design?  Pi Architects discusses with various architects and clients to better understand the benefits and drawbacks from use and design of a prototype.

Prototypes bring the basic shell of a building, interiors bring in the culture. 

Immediately a prototype leads us to believe design will have time savings which will translate to cost savings passed on to clients.  Although there is truth to this assumption, it’s best to break down into the weeds a bit for real expectations.


  • From a Developer’s point of view:  Having the known quantity site requirements makes it easier to determine cost to go out and easily validate a site. 

  • From an Operator’s prospective:  A prototype helps define a brand and allow energy to be spent on innovation and details to the operation flow eliminating pressure on the creative site.

  • From an Architect’s view:  The time saver on production is appealing internally, and the prototype has an added benefit to create a powerful sales tool with real data. 


Architects are cautious to show to much detail in the conceptual phase as it can constrain creativity. As architects, once you draw a line and show it to someone, you have created an impression. By doing so, it may be difficult to change or customize because it may be different from a client’s first impression.

Clients can get comfortable with design and miss opportunity to work in new market trends.  Good news, with a foundation laid out, you may have opportunity to work it in before end of design documents phase.

Careful consideration to site selection is critical as modeling can have hardships when building layout shifts with site restraints.

Key points to remember

A prototype is not ‘Construction Documents’. Prototypes are a template, NOT an end-all. Each site will vary; however, a prototype gives the building blocks already thought through to dive into the fine details. It’s more like a strong skeleton that can move and bend to the specific needs.

The real efficiencies come from the basic organization of the layouts, which allow time for creative innovation to shine through with each new build. Prototypes allow collaboration  across senior living industry providers  to take everything learned and boost design innovation.