Senior Living Site Plan Analysis: the BIG picture

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Senior Living Site Plan

With today’s competitive market, it is important to dig deep into the BIG picture of a site before investing too much time and energy. In this Insights topic, we hope to share some key tips from our experience in senior living architecture to help save you time, money and avoid being blinded by broker appeal.

Finding a viable senior living site to develop in today’s market is not an easy task. We hear those in the industry share of the difficulty to find a site that stands up to the basic tests of right location, right price and right zoning. However, the BIG picture includes so much more. Consider the following additional BIG picture questions building type basics for senior living:

Market Feasibility Study

One of the first things to consider is if the market feasibility study supports the number of units and rents you will need to charge for the project to pencil out.


Understanding the site restraints allow you to meet the density in units and common spaces required for a successful project. Will the site have the flexibility you need for specific programs you wish to incorporate to meet your market’s demand? How challenging is the topography? Does there appear to be heritage trees that can hinder the development and/or add costs? These are all questions that contribute to added costs with additional site work and/or reduced land use.


City/PUD requirements: How does zoning look? Do you have a sense of the local city politics to change zoning if needed? In some cities and/or municipalities, zoning is not clearly defined where to categorize senior housing resulting in various requirements such as added parking. With the right zoning assignment, these risks can be minimized. Setbacks and fire control access: What are the local utilities and fire access requirements? We suggest a careful review of local access requirements as they can dramatically alter the use and build on a site.

Time and Budget

Construction costs in the area: Time is money, so it is important to consider what does the contractor and subcontractor availability look like. It’s a good idea to talk with a contractor who works in the local market to gather a general cost and timing estimate.

Employee Accessibility

Take a moment to understand the labor market. How accessible is the site to employees for the operator to attract and build a team? Today’s labor market is tight in senior living. A critical part of the project is setting up the operations team of skilled nurses and assistants for success.


How well does the site lend itself to drive-by visibility and market appeal? Are there main access roads an architect can leverage with attractive design? Is the entrance to the site visible from main roadways?

After careful study and answers of these questions, the BIG picture of the true value of the site comes to light and you have a clear direction on whether the site is a “go” or “no go”. Over many years, Pi Architects has been dedicated to senior living design. Answering these Big Picture questions early saves senior living communities significant time, money and energy better spent elsewhere.

For Pi Architects, a senior living facility design is more than just about a site, it’s about a home to many who will live and thrive together.

Pi Architects