Micro-Housing for an Aging Population

Responding to the demands of an increasingly older population for options to accommodate aging in place, The University of Texas at Arlington’s College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs (CAPPA) is leading a cross-disciplinary research project to design and build micro-housing that can be embedded with technology that allows older people to live safely and independently at home.

The CAPPA team is partnering with UTA’s Multi-Interprofessional Center for Health Informatics (MICHI), global architecture firm HKS and the nonprofit research group CADRE (Center for Advanced Design, Research and Evaluation) on the project. CADRE’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of communities by fostering innovation and excellence in design and conducting meaningful research and evaluation that is openly shared with the world.

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Brad Bell, director of UTA’s School of Architecture; CAPPA Dean Maria Martinez-Cosio and Gabriela Mustata Wilson, MICHI co-director and a kinesiology professor

“This fall, we’ll establish the framework of the research scope and the partnership,” said Brad Bell, director of UTA’s School of Architecture. “We are charged with developing Agile Dwelling Units (ADUs) that can be adapted to answer housing needs, with an emphasis on aging in place.”

Over the semester, the team will ask questions, decide if there is a market for micro-dwellings that engage in sustainable practices, identify best practices and explore policy issues around the location of these units in both urban and rural areas.

CADRE will identify human factors that should guide the design of the ADUs and the selection of health informatics technology. The latter would be used to inform occupants of their health metrics to better support their health maintenance. The micro-dwellings, which will each be 200 to 500 square feet in size, will be built by UTA’s Community Design Build Lab.

“We hope to instill appropriate resources and evidence-based choices into the design, leading to positive outcomes in living,” said CADRE President Tom Harvey. “We seek to create better accommodations and communities for our resource-limited aging society members through this project.”

Gabriela Mustata Wilson, MICHI codirector and a kinesiology professor, said the ADU residents will be able to provide caregivers and health care professionals with vital data and information that will lead to better decisions.

“We are excited about bringing the discipline of health informatics into this research project,” Wilson said. “Aging and how to do it so as not to stress the health care system is a vitally important topic. It is one that we hope this project helps answer.”

The researchers will test initial prototypes in the spring of 2022, after which they will determine best practices for the ADUs.

“That’s when we’ll bring on industry partners, so we can showcase something people can see,” Bell said. “We have to determine whether these are standalone living spaces or inserted into an existing house.”

Maria Martinez-Cosio, interim dean of CAPPA, said the project could provide an answer to aging in place where people could live independently.

“We want the growing aging population to have the opportunity to live healthy and feel supported in living independent lives,” Martinez-Cosio said. “We believe the partnership provides this opportunity.”

HKS will collaborate as partners in research, design, and, most importantly, implementation in practice through the firm’s industry and community networks.

“We are excited about this coalition that will create research-integrated design solutions that can be implemented, at scale, in the communities that need them and have meaningful and measurable impact” said Upali Nanda, HKS director of research.

Current core CADRE-UTA Coalition members include Nanda; Bell; Martinez-Cosio; Wilson; Tom Harvey and Aletta Van der Walt, both of CADRE.

HKS experts include Southern Ellis, health care, Eric B, HKS LINE (Laboratory for Intensive Exploration); Deborah Wingler, health research; and Grant Warner, senior living practice. The project also boasts a diverse and talented team of research scholars that is supported through this coalition.

For more information, contact [email protected] and Brad Bell at [email protected].

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