Phoenix Senior Center Built With Residential Feel

Photo by Bill Timmerman Photography
A large, multipurpose gathering space is flanked by a kitchen, activity rooms, computer lab and craft room.

Named for a pioneer of senior services in Phoenix, the $4-million Helen Drake Senior Center, sited in a residential enclave, is the result of a city initiative to provide residents with a safety net of community services, including programs to prevent homelessness.

The 12,766-sq-ft center provides new gathering spaces for a close-knit, multicultural group of Phoenix-area seniors who previously met at a center in an outmoded strip mall.

Designed to achieve LEED certification, the center incorporates a variety of sustainable features, including pervious pavement; a 40-kW solar array; recycled materials; light and temperature sensors; solar light tubes; skylights; dual-pane/low-E glass windows; and a water-harvesting system. The facility also receives shading from more than 108 mature, native trees.

The center was planned in accordance with evidence-based design principles, an academic and research-based approach for the elderly that informed decisions on acoustics, lighting, textures, wayfinding and dimensions.

Long, low roof forms achieve gradual compression of scale, as compared with senior centers characterized by larger 'cafeteria-style' volumes.

Interior spaces are organized around a large, multipurpose gathering space flanked by a serving kitchen, activity rooms, a computer lab and craft room. Acoustical panels reduce reverberant sound, encouraging conversation or quiet contemplation within spaces.

Eliminating superfluous footprint area and minimizing back-of-house space left more funds for programming and resulted in lower costs for maintenance and repair.

Because many seniors in the area are construction industry veterans, they took considerable interest in the project. As such, the site superintendent scheduled milestone visits so they could observe progress on the project.

The center currently is the subject of a study by Arizona State University to evaluate the quality of stormwater once it passes through pervious pavement, the results of which could promote use of the pavement on other city projects.

Key Players

Contractor: Brignall Construction, Phoenix

Owner: City of Phoenix, Phoenix

Lead Design: Holly Street Studio, Phoenix

Structural Engineer: Rudow + Berry, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Civil Engineer: DRW Engineering, Avondale, Ariz.

Landscape Architect: GBtwo, Scottsdale, Ariz.

MEP: ICDS, Guilford, Conn.; Woodward Engineering, Tempe, Ariz.

Submitted by Brignall Construction

Award of Merit, Small Project: Educare Arizona Early Learning Center and Health Clinic