Insights to Senior Care Construction

July 11th, 2022

Constructing Homes for Quality & Active Senior Living

As senior housing communities and care facilities continue to evolve and expand around the country and within our communities, we have been honored to be part of several of these projects. These facilities are special in many ways. While we are a commercial general contractor building senior living facilities, we are also developing and creating homes for the communities we serve. And to make it even more personal, many of these spaces will be home for our own loved ones or even some of us one day – and that’s exactly how we approach building these projects.

Residential care communities are being designed with comfort, convenience, enjoyment, and safety in mind. There is a stronger focus and demand for not only the transitional health care of residents, but also their spiritual well-being, active lifestyles, and engaging social experiences. The design of skilled nursing facilities typically includes the full continuum of senior care with areas designed for independent living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing, and rehabilitation therapy. But it’s some of the amenities that are becoming essential. Beautiful chapels and all the active adult amenities like salons, warm water pools, exercise gyms, pickle ball courts, wood working rooms, social gathering areas, and even cafes bring a sense of community to seniors as they transition in their care and living needs.



Building Renovations at Existing Senior Care Facilities

There is one important topic that lends for considerable discussion amongst CEO’s, administrators and directors, architectural firms, and contractors: construction. More specifically, renovations of existing residential care communities are the most difficult construction projects in health care, and the one we find leadership teams worry about the most.

Constructability in an active senior living facility can present difficult challenges to work around for a renovation project, and too often this piece of the puzzle is downplayed in the initial planning stages. Proper planning plays a significant role in how the final renovation comes together. Most renovations will deal with items like fire suppression, dust collection & ventilation, proper accessibility for resident care, food service, changes or upgrades to mechanical, electrical, plumbing services and the list goes on. Care providers need to know that their contractor has their best interest in mind to address all aspects of their senior housing project…not just price and schedule. Bringing your contractor in at the onset of these discussions can give that third dimension to the design and planning process.



Often renovations for senior living facilities take place in common spaces, so when you’re having discussions with potential general contractors for your senior living renovation, important questions to ask include: what is their plan for noise reduction and insulation to keep your environment as comfortable as possible for your residents and staff during construction? How can they help accommodate for residents to use other common spaces? What safe paths will be created for residents and staff to get through construction areas to other parts of the building safely? Other items that require extra review and planning in a residential care renovation include temporary wall partitions, hot work permits, ventilation, Job Hazard Assessments (JHA’s), electric tools versus gas powered, HEPA filtration and negative pressure.

Scheduling is also very important for any construction project but is even more critical in a senior care community that residents call home. For example, if a multiuse kitchen is being renovated, it’s extremely important that another kitchen needs to fill the requirements of the kitchen being remodeled. This puts extra strain on your staff, residents, and equipment that needs to be planned for.

Another scheduling example is planning for relocation of residents if their current living quarters are being remodeled. Relocation within a memory care unit is much more sensitive since it’s important for memory care residents to keep as much routine as possible. Well scheduled construction should minimize your down time and is very important in both instances.


Things for Senior Living Ownership Groups to be Prepared for with New Construction

A greenfield site or new construction for planned senior living communities has its own set of challenges. But not having to be concerned about someone’s loved one, your resident, living down the hall from your construction project certainly eases the stress. The expanded scope of work will create a lengthy and often challenging schedule, so here is a good list of items for your ownership group to be aware of and prepared for when planning for design and construction of your new senior living facility.


  • Weekly meetings and, at times, multiple meetings a week when necessary. These are essential for communication and are a must for the success of your senior living community project.
  • Make efficient and educated decisions. Waiting on owner decisions can slow or even stop the design process.
  • Be prepared for your weekly meetings. Have questions ready for the design team and have any answers required from previous meetings prepared.
  • Bring ideas or pictures of what you envision. This is very helpful for the design team to see the vision ownership wants to go with, especially if you have a strong idea already in mind.
  • Know your approximate budget. This is one of many factors that dictate the design.
  • Have an idea of what the building’s needs are. This includes things like approximate number of residents, number of kitchens, common spaces, chapel, activity areas, pool, pickleball court, hair salon, etc. All of these will help guide the design team to your final skilled nursing facility design.
  • Be prepared for the process. Design and construction of a large-scale project such as an assisted living facility can take over two years. Let the process happen and be prepared.


Once the design and preliminary budget are agreed upon, your project moves into full architectural design. This includes civil, structural, electrical, and mechanical engineering. As a general contractor, we work with all the engineering professionals and our design team (or your architect) to coordinate these drawings through weekly design progress meetings. This is done to make sure all aspects of your project work together and that nothing gets missed.



How to Control Construction Costs for Long-term Care Facilities

Most health care administrators and directors that have undertaken a substantial project will tell you that controlling costs during construction can be very difficult, especially when your main battle is being waged over the volatile landscape of state and federal funding. Certainly, during these times of material and labor increase and supply chain issues, construction contingencies are a must. It’s important that these leaders also understand that in many cases, contractors also struggle with this. If your contractor is worth their salt, being concerned about these issues should mean more communication about this subject and less surprises through change orders. This communication is a vital part of cost control; issues will arise, but the consequences and potential options need to be addressed immediately for the best results.


Time is Money

Believe it or not, most contractors feel the same way administrators and directors do when it comes to project timing. The difference often is that changes to design on the front end are not always considered good reasons to push end dates. However, since labor is in extremely high demand and material timelines can be lengthy, ANY change can be detrimental to a schedule, especially with contractors that use it properly and rely on them to help guide project work, day to day and month to month. Ultimately, the bottom line is “Time is Money,” but everyone from ownership to design to construction need to be on the same page...or schedule.


Since our inception in 1956, it is Marcus Construction’s mission to build successful projects for organizations across the United States and Canada. As a leader in commercial and agricultural construction, Marcus has 65+ years of experience working with organizations in whatever way makes their project most successful. Specifically for senior care facilities, we offer experienced construction management, a clear focus and control of all phases of your construction project.


Marcus Construction has worked hard to build our reputation as a transparent and trusted construction partner. You will find that while we are quite capable of large, complex construction projects, we are also easily accessible and have a great reputation for customer service and relationships. Here’s what clients and architects have to say about our team:


“We worked with Marcus on a redevelopment of existing space that was in the heart of Minnesota’s sixth largest skilled nursing facility that serves up to 246 senior residents and up to 500+ visitors and staff daily. Marcus guided a staged project that enabled the community to remain as fluid as possible throughout the project and able to continue operations with minimal disruption and absolutely no incident. Managing that level of construction detail and public interaction required a level of experience and excellence we could only find with Marcus.”



“Marcus’s team embodies a strong work ethic – they are focused on providing solutions collaboratively and their ability to think on their feet and work with a diverse team is commended. They are team players that put the owner and the end user above all else and will always do the right thing.”

-POPE Architects


“Marcus joined the long-term care facility project with a can-do attitude. Their team members helped pursue the means and methods needed to limit downtime in critical areas of the facility, including food service.”

-Engan Associates

Insights to Senior Care Construction

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