24,131 Square Feet
LCM is designing a new building facility for a Residential Center and School that caters to the needs of children and youth who are deaf-blind. For many decades, the Center has helped students with a wide range of physical and mental disabilities reach their maximum level of independence. The education, therapy, and support services provided by its residential and educational components combined, enrich students’ development, and help prepare them for life’s experiences.
LCM was approached to assess the existing decades-old facility and conduct programming studies to determine the future spatial needs of the Center. Through comparative analysis between potential design solutions, including renovating the existing facility, building an addition to it, or demolishing the existing structure and constructing a new facility altogether, the last one was chosen by the client as the best way forward.
The new, two-story 24,131-square-feet structure, designed to achieve LEED Silver Certification, has spaces including classrooms designed for different age groups, residential dormitories, a multipurpose gathering space, a sensory room, and a vocational room to teach basic life skills. Staff support spaces include offices, conference rooms, teacher workrooms, and a staff lounge. A café, kitchen, and a nurse suite support the residential component of the program. The café is a double-height lively hub, with ample natural light and a two-way exchange of sights, sounds, and smells with the mini-café upstairs that also contains a teaching kitchen. The mini-café is fenced by a combination of wooden slats and storefront glass wall in place of traditional railings to eliminate potential falling hazards.
The design features inconspicuous details based on the Principles of Universal Design, taking into consideration a wide range of special needs. Flush transitions are prioritized in the flooring, playground equipment is wheelchair accessible. Multi-sensory cues are generated by manipulating environmental factors beyond the visual elements, such as temperature, acoustics, and textures. Use of texture walls and other non-visual signage provide a sense of orientation to visually challenged students within the spaces. The choice of furniture, equipment, and finishes play a vital role in the process.
A major design challenge was ensuring the existing structure remains fully functional on site until a smooth transition is facilitated into the new building. LCM’s experience in inclusive design enriches the project development process as we identify solutions that support the Center’s focus on inclusivity and dignified independent living.