Although extra care facilities are now a part of everyday life, demand for services and facilities is ever-changing. When designing a project for a community of older people, the key to innovation lies within strong resident relations.

Zoe Anastasi, regional engagement community manager, discusses how community engagement was the driving force behind the redevelopment of Nottingham’s award-winning leading extra-care facility, Winwood Heights.

“Completed in summer 2019, the £13m Winwood Heights scheme included the renovation of 180 independent living apartments and the demolition of old garages and a community centre. This work made way for a state-of-the-art extra care centre, comprising of 44 extra care apartments, a sky lounge, a beauty salon and an extensive shared lounge.

“Our carefully considered approach to resident engagement and involvement lay at the heart of this project and was key to the improvement and innovation of the development.

Connecting with the community

“Like many extra-care developments, community engagement played a huge role in the Winwood Heights project. Working alongside Nottingham City Homes, we adopted an innovative approach to engagement by encouraging residents to be involved at every stage, from design and build, to completion.

“This was integral to the scheme, meaning we could address any concerns at the root of the problem. Where possible, we took this feedback on board and tailored the design to meet their needs. Communicating with residents regularly allowed us to take onboard resident suggestions, many of which ended up in the final build. For example, we received a request for the redevelopment of a path that links two nearby roads. It wasn’t part of the original plan, but we incorporated it into the build as it provided added benefits to residents and the wider community.

“By ensuring that all of our supply chain partners and residents worked together throughout the planning, preconstruction and construction phases, the scheme was delivered within budget and on time – while also receiving a score of 45 on the Considerate Constructor Scheme.

Designing and building with older people in mind

“The most significant elements of the project was the new build extra care facility between the two existing blocks and the refurbishment of the ageing facades of the towers themselves. Throughout the design process, involving the architect, customer and ourselves, the brief evolved to maximise the full potential of the site.

“Winwood Heights takes social housing for the over 55s to the next level and sets a new benchmark for older people’s living. We considered the appearance of the building and the way it integrated into its surroundings. The design for all three elements of the project had to provide a dynamic and modern external aesthetic while blending in with the natural environment of the parkland setting. This meant keeping the mature trees and hedgerows that were already growing around the site and planting additional vegetation to enhance its ecological value.

“The development also included a new EWI (external wall insulation) system, to improve the look of the two existing tower blocks on the site. As well as looking great, the EWI boosted both buildings’ thermal performance to create warmer and more comfortable living conditions for residents.

“The EWI is render that is applied directly to the outer insulation of the building but gives the appearance of cladding panels. This system is not only in keeping with the surrounding environment but is made of a non-combustible material which mitigates the risk of potential fire spread.

“All of these considerations helped us to create a design best suited to the residents of Winwood heights and contributed greatly to the success of the scheme.

The importance of engagement

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“Our community engagement didn’t stop at the redevelopment process. We also arranged charitable events for residents – such as raising money for the British Lung Foundation - and worked with the wider community to help ensure a lasting legacy.

“Through close collaboration with Nottingham City Council, we helped find employment for local people and supported the school engagement project, Budding Brunels, by offering careers advice and work experience to 25 students. Local apprentices were also engaged through the supply chain, with over 330 weeks’ experience provided.

“To further give back to the community, the use of local labour was also key within the development, with 79% of labour coming from within 40 miles of the site, and 45% within 10 miles. As part of our commitment to investing in local communities, 88% of the work was delivered through SMEs and 40% of goods were sourced from within 10 miles of the development.

“Our involvement with external shareholders throughout the build highlights the importance of social value on the success of our schemes and shows the positive impact that community engagement can have on the design and build of a project. Since the completion of the project, the development has picked up the RICS Social Impact East Midlands – Residential award.”

For more information on how we support the people and businesses in our communities, read more about our 2030 Sustainability Strategy: Now or Never.