Modernising aged care environments through strategic investments (Brightwater Care Group’s refurbishment project)

Published December 20th, 2021

Text by Kathleen Kusinski, MKDC and Sarah Haslam, Polish & Punch. Photographs by Boz Sayers, Osprey Photography.

It may come as a surprise to know that refurbishments across a multiple aged care facility portfolio can be successfully achieved within a $10 million budget allocation. Bear in mind that this is the usual spend for a single major refurb. Between October 2018 and July 2021, MKDC Design Consultants achieved exactly that. The Brightwater Care Group, Perth’s most trusted aged care and disability support provider, had a vision to improve living and working environments for residents and staff across 20 sites over three years. Primarily, they wanted to enhance resident, staff and community wellbeing with warm, welcoming environments, creating the kind of reassuring comfort you’d feel in a family home. Within that, the integrity of its brand, vision and values were to be embodied in accordance with their Design Guidelines, an internal benchmark of standards. Aside from improving the overall experience for first time visitors, current residents and their families, it would ultimately assist the business in a competitive marketplace.

Getting the most from a refurb investment

To ensure that the investment achieved as many objectives as possible, house common areas were refurbished, offering the greatest benefits for residents and staff. These areas included corridors, dining and lounge rooms, clubhouses, garden activation with loose furniture and full internal lighting upgrades (including controls). The scope was clear, focused and rarely deviated.

The total investment for refurbs across the 20 sites was $10.29M, the total floor area being 13,330 square metres, equalling $775 per square metre.

Planning, resourcing and implementation

It was recognised early that engaging an experienced aged care refurbishment builder would benefit both the process and project outcomes. MKDC then appointed a team of consultants, contractors and a head  contractor to undertake the project. Forward planning and other benefits were made possible with the head contractor running two sites concurrently for the duration of the three-year program.

Initially, MKDC conducted high-level property inspections, workshops and collaborative interstate visits with Brightwater’s steering committee members. After establishing the Design Guidelines, they were tested via a ‘quick wins’ rollout on priority sites, followed by a major refurbishment of one wing at Brightwater’s Onslow Gardens home in Subiaco. This helped to establish the cost benefit and pilot the Design Guidelines.
Working with the same team enabled MKDC and Brightwater’s staff to develop strong working relationships where communication was supported, and a sense of ownership instilled. Collaborative communication  as, by far, the most critical component for the duration of the project.


Outcomes that withstand the test of time

With clear objectives for residents, staff and business longevity, the results achieved across all 20 sites surpassed expectations for the allocated budget.

Lifestyle and wellbeing
Residents experience improved life quality with new living areas and entertainment features, while decoration and styling combined with objects of interest impart a naturally homely feel. The nooks activated at the end of each corridor allow for quiet conversation or simply sitting, giving people freedom to choose social interaction to the degree they wish on any given day. Visiting friends and family enjoy a renewed arrival  journey, with revitalised corridors, new entry tables and wall finishes, artworks, hand-wash joinery, and new improved lighting.

Business protection
Overall improvements to the facilities enabled Brightwater Care  Group’s refurbishment program to achieve triple bottom line sustainability objectives. Testing and adherence to the Design Guidelines has delivered a consistent aesthetic, distinctive brand identifiers and unified  styling across the 20 sites. After the refurbishment was finished, Brightwater applied for Higher Accommodation Supplements for many of their sites—all of which were successful.

Improved service through client-centric models
Community engagement and compassionate service form the heart of great aged care. Upgrades to common areas, courtyards and gardens combined with staff routine changes have activated and improved new  service models. With the removal of iCare stations and the provision of tablets, staff can now work in a way that’s easier to connect with residents without nurse stations obstructing the living environment.

Benchmarking standards for brighter futures in aged care

The overall improvement of the atmosphere, engagement, safety and aesthetics across the facilities offer ongoing interest to all who live and work at Brightwater. This project has set the desired new standards  Brightwater envisioned for living and working environments across the whole portfolio.


Article retrieved from LASA Magazine: