Background. With both organizations tracing their roots back to the early 1900s, Masonic Village and Warfel Construction have a longstanding relationship based on many successful past projects. As Masonic Village continues to grow, they have looked for new and different ways to differentiate their community and better serve their residents. In early 2016, Masonic Village began testing a pilot program on campus, testing home automation features such as light switches, thermostats and motion sensors controlled by a mobile device. The Smart Cottage was the next step in this pilot program, integrating K4Community capability into the home’s infrastructure. A design-build project in partnership with RLPS Architects, the Smart Cottage involved significant team collaboration, extensive constructability reviews, and creativity to evaluate an exciting new technology.
Smart Home Features. Utilizing technology provided by K4Connect, the K4Box supplies open architecture software, providing for subsequent devices and apps that could be developed in future. Among its home automation features are automated blinds, lights, faucets and thermostat. Social connectivity features include access to all forms of social media, family and friend connections, and the community portal. Most significantly for residents and their current or future caregivers, the K4Box supports home health features, which include fitness trackers and sensors to monitor everything from how often residents open the refrigerator door to how often they get out of bed. Oven sensors make sure that the unit is not turned on and left running, and flood sensors can make sure no one left the water on. Refrigerator sensors can notify a caregiver if the unit is not opened for more than 24 hours, indicating that a resident might be ill. iPad stations in the home are hubs for this collection of data, allowing the residents to review the information at a glance, as well as access greater community information, such as dining menus and the community’s newsletter and events calendar. Residents control who has access to this health-monitoring information, which could prove invaluable for the health and security staff to provide safety in the future.
Value Management. Our team performed “rolling” value management exercises at every budget update and between budget updates. This provided the client and community stakeholders with the lowest responsible price point for the project, and allowed the client to communicate funding needs to community members with the greatest accuracy. As the design team and owner prepared for selections of finishes that would be available, our team evaluated price points for each upgrade and recommended values that would allow Masonic Village to efficiently, yet cost-effectively, offer a variety of customizations for this cottage.
Safety. With 150-200 people working within the cottage development site each day, maintaining a safe and controlled job site was of top importance. In addition to Warfel’s proactive safety staff and standard safety program (including weekly Toolbox Talks to ensure worker safety), Warfel’s safety team conducted monthly site visits to audit the project and assure that all workers were performing their work in a satisfactorily safe manner. Warfel’s stringent safety program exceeds OSHA standards in some measures, and Warfel safety staff and project management team ensured that subcontractors understood requirements to working on site. Warfel’s stringent Subcontractor Risk Management Program (SRMP) required additional daily, weekly, or monthly additional safety check ins to assure that any contractors with a weaker safety record had appropriate controls in place to maintain a safe work environment. Subcontractors who did not meet Warfel’s safety regulations were warned and cited by Warfel management accordingly.
Quality Control. As a standard practice at Warfel, a team member was assigned to photo document all of the work done at the Smart Cottage to ensure that our guarantee of high-quality work was met by every subcontractor. All photos were uploaded into Warfel’s project management software. Subcontractors, the design team, and the owner were granted shared access to Warfel’s project management software, which expedited corrections, notifications of completed work, and any necessary follow up.
Virtual Design Modeler. Warfel’s proprietary Virtual Design Modeler (VDM) created photo-like renderings of each room inside the Smart Cottage. VDM technology allowed the future Smart Cottage owners to select different options or upgrades, visualizing how the finished room would appear. VDM also tracked the corresponding price impact of each upgrade and how it related to the total cost of the unit. Upon completion of their interaction with VDM, the future residents were shown renderings of what every room in their home would look like, and the project team received a generated list of changes to incorporate from the “base” cottage model. This list was shared with all trades, and served as a clear checklist to ensure that the residents received their requested customizations. As the first project to “test” Warfel’s VDM, the Masonic Village project has lead to internal improvements, allowing for faster adaptations and improved renderings for future projects.
Schedule Considerations. As part of a major development project, the Smart Cottage was given a unique turnover date, allowing the future owners to move in as soon as their new home was completed. However, the extensive customizations selected using our VDM throughout the project added a considerable amount of work to each cottage. To make sure that the Smart Cottage turnover date was met (along with all of the turnover dates throughout the development), the Warfel project team and our trade partners worked extended hours, occasionally working up to 18-hour days if dictated by the schedule. Not a single turnover date was missed.
Community Impact. The Masonic Village at Elizabethtown’s Smart Cottage is designed to extend independence, allowing residents to stay in their home for as long as possible. The Smart Home prototype has been so successful that Masonic is currently building similar homes at their Sewickley, Pennsylvania campus. Homes in need of work on other campuses will also be receiving upgrades to more closely represent the Smart Home model. Masonic Village’s approach to better serving seniors through the use of technology and age-in-place design, while still novel, has already been recognized at industry conferences across the country.