Incorporating Home and Community in Senior Housing with Valerie Mutterperl

What role do designers, providers, and policymakers play in making senior living communities more vibrant and supportive for older adult residents? How do these spaces enhance the experience of those living, working, and visiting the residence?

In this month’s episode we chat with Valerie Mutterperl about her experience in senior living design, and the importance of community within senior living. With a growing aging population, and more families seeking senior housing solutions, these conversations are more important than ever.

Episode Guest: Valerie Mutterperl, AIA, LEED AP

Headshot of Valerie Mutterperl


Valerie is an Associate Principal with more than twenty years of experience in senior living and other large-scale projects. Since joining Perkins Eastman, Valerie has been involved in a variety of projects across the spectrum of senior living design, including affordable housing, skilled care, and assisted and independent living, either as stand-alone projects or as part of a life plan community. Drawing on her experience with multifaceted and complex projects, Valerie is able to create  positive design outcomes for clients that meet the highest standards.


Episode Information & Resources

Upcoming Events and Conferences

BuildingEnergy Boston

Online, May 5-7

The BuildingEnergy Boston Conference is an event designed by and for practitioners in the fields of high-performance building and design, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. This year’s virtual format will feature a variety of education sessions and opportunities to earn CEUs. Click here to learn more or to register.

Dylan Martello, Nicole Ceci, Lois Arena, and Lauren Hildebrand from SWA will all be presenting at this year’s virtual conference! Click here to see their session details and schedule.

We Want to Hear From You!

Send your feedback and questions to

About Buildings and Beyond

Buildings and Beyond is a production of Steven Winter Associates. We provide energy, green building, and accessibility consulting services to improve the built environment. For more information, visit


Robb Aldrich | Kelly Westby

Production Team

Heather Breslin | Alex Mirabile | Dylan Martello | Jayd Alvarez

Episode Transcript

Kelly (00:05):

Welcome to buildings and beyond.

Robb (00:08):

The podcast that explores how we can create a more sustainable built environment

Kelly (00:12):

By focusing on efficiency, accessibility, and health.

Robb (00:17):

I’m Robb Aldrich,

Kelly (00:18):

And I’m Kelly Westby.

Robb (00:21):

In this episode, I spoke with Valerie Mutterperl who’s an architect with Perkins Eastman based in New York. And she specializes in senior living facilities, many types of senior living facilities, which we’ll get into a little bit. She explained really well I thought, how she got interested in architecture, architecture in general and senior living in particular.

Valerie (00:44):

I mean, the reason I went into architecture is because I felt how spaces made me feel. I was aware about how spaces made me feel, and I wanted to be able to help shape that experience for other people, whether it was senior living or a school or an office building. And so taking the ideas of natural light or comfort or scale, what’s the scale of a space? Do I feel really small in this space or do I feel, you know, is it the right size for me? Does it make me feel uncomfortable because of the proportions of the room or is the ceiling height, you know, intentionally large because I’m supposed to feel odd by the space and, and wander, or is this just my living room and I want to be comfortable in it. So I think, you know, thinking about those ideas as an architect and thinking about how to translate those ideas into somebody’s home. And I’m not talking about a private family home because we’re talking about senior living communities, talking about buildings that can often be quite big, but they have to function as somebody’s home. So how do you translate those proportions and the scale and the feeling of a home into a building, which is a community.

Robb (02:16):

As you’ll probably be able to tell from my questions, this is not an area where I have a lot of experience or expertise, but Valerie clearly does, she is clearly an expert in this area. And I really appreciated her very thoughtful answers to my somewhat naive questions before we get into it. Here’s a quick announcement from Dylan about NESEA’s upcoming building energy conference.

Speaker 1 (02:42):

Hello everyone. This is Dylan Martello co-producer of buildings and beyond and a passive house consultant here at Steven winter associates. I just wanted to let you all know about my upcoming session on May 7th at the building energy Boston conference. I will be speaking with my colleague, Nicole Ceci about de-carbonizing domestic water heating in multifamily buildings. You can also catch some other great presentations from industry experts, including sessions by Lois Arena and Lauren Hildebrand of SWA. The conference, which is happening virtually from May 5th to May 7th is presented by the Northeast sustainable energy association, or NESEA. NESEA has become a staple for professionals and practitioners in the fields of high performance, building energy efficiency and renewable energy visit That’s N E S E for more info. We hope to see you there.

Robb (03:38):

My first question is, do you focus primarily or only on senior housing or is it, is this just one of your areas of expertise?

Valerie (03:50):

So good question. I primarily focus on senior living at Perkins Eastman. I have been fortunate enough to work in many different practice areas throughout my career. However, when I joined Perkins Eastman, that became sort of my specialty focus and it’s a great practice area because it encompasses so many things that people don’t think about. It encompasses master planning often. There can be healthcare components, there can be all sorts of educational components or residential living. So it, it gives one the ability to poke their fingers into lots of different places, always keeps things interesting and exciting. And it’s it’s actually been a practice area that I’ve I’ve had throughout my career, no matter what firm I’ve been with. So it’s really, and it’s changed. So it’s exciting.

Robb (04:51):

Yeah. How did you first get involved or interested in it? Was that accidental?

Valerie (04:58):

Yeah, when you’re a junior right out of grad school, you work on whatever they throw your way. And the first project I worked on actually was a nursing home out in Jersey city, it had a particular mission to serve residents of the blind and it was a religious organization. So they preferenced taking residents in that had visual impairment in one shape or form. And the original project I went with my, my boss at the time because the administrator wanted to redo the beauty shop and that turned into a whole two additions to their existing building because it became evident that to provide the level of care that they were interested in providing that their facility was very outdated. For instance, they had four bedded rooms with residents, no private bathrooms. Those are things that can’t do code wise, nor would you want to do them because of just the wellness of the residents and their mental and physical wellbeing and sort of their sense of, of being in a home rather than being in an institution. So there are many parts of senior living. It’s a continuum of care, which ranges all the way from residential for very independent, you know, 55 plus age restricted communities. I’m sure you see them popping up all over the place near where you live. Through, you know, assisted living where people maybe need some, some help with activities of daily living is what we call them. ADL’s, maybe pill reminders, maybe help getting dressed, but can mostly live independently. Through some of the more clinical settings like nursing care or hospice care end of life care. So it’s a continuum and senior living encompasses the broad range of all these things, which could be separate individual pieces, or they could be co located together.

Robb (07:11):

And the term senior living versus senior housing, is one preferred? Or do you prefer one?

Valerie (07:18):

It’s an interesting question. We have in the senior living practice been talking about, is that the right name for this practice area anymore? Does it need a more modern name in the same way that providers changed from continuing care retirement communities to life plan communities? Do we need a name change? So I don’t know that they are not the same. I don’t know that they’re not synonymous senior housing sounds friendlier to the consumer as well as I think to the children of the potential consumers. So I think that’s an important, important idea and distinction of who our senior living providers marketing too. It’s not just the seniors, but it’s their children too.

Robb (08:17):

Yeah. Okay. Interesting. Okay.

Valerie (08:21):

Right. Nobody wants to put mom and dad in an institution. You know, they want to partner with mom and dad and have them live, not warehouse them, live someplace that they can live life to their fullest, whatever that may be for them.

Robb (08:43):

Yeah. You sent me some background and this is something, this is an area where I haven’t had much experience at all. And if I have, I was probably just in doing blower door tests or consulting about filtration or ventilation, something like that. But you sent me some background material, which I perused and it was really interesting. And really as a designer, I think that the thing that struck me after reading through the material that you sent was just the deliberately trying to make connections or maintain connections of different kinds with the people living in senior housing, or these senior living facilities or whatever people ended up calling them. And just maintaining connections on, on a few different layers. And I think the first one that jumped out to me was, which is kind of obvious, was just connection with the natural world, connection without outdoors, biophilic design. Is that something that your clients ask for specifically, or is that something you usually try to try to push into a project into the design?

Valerie (09:50):

I don’t, I can’t recall a client being that specific. There’s a handful that actually know the term biophilia. But it’s a term that we often introduce to take clients beyond the baseline of what you were just talking about, the blower door test and sustainability, you know, most clients today are savvy enough to be able to talk about LEED certification and other sustainable practices in terms of the basis of design, solar orientation, energy consumption, and things like that. I think biophilia is kind of the next step though, when you’re talking qualitatively about the spaces. I mean, not, not just the thermal comfort of the space, because we’ve built a good building that’s well-insulated and can be naturally ventilated and cooled and heated enough in the winter. But talking about a space that has a certain orientation to a view that’s important bringing natural light. And so that there’s wonder, you know, by being able to see a deer walking outside, or maybe you’re in an urban environment and seeing the traffic going by, or the kids going to school or you’re across from a school and you can see them out at lunchtime playing. I think being, being able to bring that environment indoors is also really important for people to understand the time of day and those cues that you get from light from dark. So it seems like it should be a no brainer and inherent in design, just in terms of creating a space and a place that has a connection to your surroundings. But I think it’s important also to have those conversations with clients and make that a priority on the design list so that spaces can benefit from the outside. And, and there’s evidence that, that residents who have that connection are happier and healthier. I mean, I think that goes for all of us in our homes, right. The room that I like to be in the most is the one that’s brightest during the day.

Robb (12:14):

Yep. Yeah. I have my coffee every morning in front of a glass sliding glass door. I can watch the birds at the bird feeder. Are there different strategies within senior living facilities for this than other types of buildings you think, or is it just a lot of it is similar as far as the biophilia?

Valerie (12:38):

I think it’s similar. I think that there are maybe some considerations or ameliorating factors to take into consideration such as for instance, if a senior is often seated, you know, what is the sill height for that person so that they can get a good view out your view out of a window standing is very different than your view seated. I think also in terms of which way that view is looking and sun glare, potential sun glare versus shade, creating an overhang, creating the architecture so that you don’t get that glare. And it becomes a place where a person can sit by a window and, and be outside and have that connection to nature is also really important. It’s better for the building. It’s better for the person, but I think in addition, looking for opportunities, not just within the building, but for people to go out and engage with nature and have those experiences is equally important, having a garden or having, having a space where they can sit outside, which maybe had a generous overhang or a pergola or something like that, so that you can not just visually see things from inside, but be outdoors.

Robb (14:08):

Yup. And maybe it goes right along with it, like connection to the community. Something that seems obvious. But when I was going through the material that you sent, I thought of my, my uncle who lives in, I think you would call it independent living facility. So it’s an apartment. It’s not assisted living. It’s not nursing, but there’s common meals and such, but that facility is it’s, it’s very much separate, you know, it’s, it’s back on its own plot of land set back from the road, not part of a town or village or anything it’s, it’s feels very, it feels pretty secluded to me. And I think there’s a sidewalk, there are some paths where he could walk a quarter to a Dunkin Donuts or something, but I mean, that’s, that’s where the land was. There are probably advantages actually to being somewhat set back from a busy road. But as a designer, what do you think about in trying to kind of maintain not seclusion, but more integration with the community.

Valerie (15:15):

Yeah. That’s a big topic with a lot of layers to peel back. I mean, look, honestly, the ideal scenario is when you have a client and they’re looking for a piece of property that they would engage us early enough, that we could really delve into some of that, but oftentimes your clients come to you with an idea or a parcel of land that they’ve purchased. I think traditionally many of these senior living communities have been located where there’s a lot of, a lot of space to build in general. Right. and so, so, and people can spread out and the cost of building is, is less than in an urban dense environment. But I think also that comes with advantages and disadvantages. The discussion there is about creating community in this, in this place that you’re building. Right. So how do you create a community amongst the residents that are all going to move in to the independent living community? And oftentimes that’s through commons, which has social functions, wellness functions, you know, aquatics or a gym or a multipurpose room or auditorium, where there can be educational programs for them to engage with. And the residents usually band together and create their own sorts of gardening clubs and all sorts of things. And that, that really comes out of the people that are living there and what their interests are. But there are a lot of providers, depending on their location that have also looked to extend their reach into the greater surrounding community, rather than having their independent living community kind of be an Island of themselves. So creating a place where residents can come in from the outside community and engage in those services or creating partnerships, for instance, with community centers or gyms or things like that, where their residents can go and take advantage of those things too. And that’s great for providers because number one, it broadens their reach. It offers them an opportunity for brand recognition for maybe some seniors that are living at home that are thinking about maybe making a move at some point. So I think, you know, there, there’s, there’s lots of opportunities there for different synergies. The urban community, I think, is something a little bit different because it offers seniors an opportunity to live in an urban environment where they can really just get out, right? There’s retail right there, there’s arts, there’s entertainment. But as a designer, both as an architect that thinks about individual buildings, but also the larger urban fabric, I think it’s incumbent upon us as designers and policy makers, that if people are going to be in these urban centers or potentially age in place in their apartments, to create communities that are friendlier for seniors in terms of transportation network, or, you know, safe walking paths that are level that can be navigated by a wheelchair. And that really benefits everybody, right? It benefits not just seniors, but potentially other people with disabilities, young families with baby carriages. So thinking about our urban environment and how that can be transformed to create more opportunities for seniors to live there in their existing community, or maybe it’s a new community for them rather than going and moving to a whole other community. I think it talks to choice. People need choice in where they’re going to live and where they want to age.

Robb (19:26):

That’s a great point. Yeah. I mean, it’s all, it’s all connected.

Valerie (19:31):

Yeah I mean, what did 2020 show us? You know, it showed, showed us when we were all in quarantine, how much, how much we needed to be connected. You know, we had to be clever as a society in terms of creating connections over the past year in terms of zoom and all sorts of other technologies. But I think it also highlighted how isolating it can be for people living by themselves how, how much they need to be with other people. And, and most Americans I’d say almost, you know, 75% of them don’t think about going to a community like this because to them staying in their home is a sign of independence. But during COVID, I think it made people reassess that independence, because if they were part of a community, a senior living community, they might’ve had easier access to services. Not had to worry about grocery shopping because they, you know, would have been on campus dining and things like that. So although I think telemedicine and telehealth, it was a real COVID was a real boon for that. I think it sort of highlighted how difficult it could be and how isolating it is to live by themselves

Robb (20:57):

In your practice, were there some key where there’s some surprises or key takeaways from COVID as to how you’ll do things, you may do things differently moving forward?

Valerie (21:07):

Yeah. I think that there was a lot of focus around dining in particular communal events, even within senior living communities, there was a sense of isolation of residents needing to be within their own apartments or their own rooms, depending how, you know, how big their space was and think communal activity and dining became a thing of the past for a while as it did for all of us, nobody went to a restaurant for the longest time. So in terms of laying out dining spaces, how to decrease density, all these things have real implications for providers in terms of staffing. The less dense it is, the more seating you need, things like that. And I don’t know if that will really be here to stay. But certainly this whole idea of, of room service, I think became a greater, a greater push an idea. And it made us think about, and, and packaged delivery. I mean, we all started ordering from Amazon and other places and not going to stores. So I think this whole idea of delivering services and products to people’s apartment front door made us think about, does there need to be some sort of extra vestibule that can become a repository for a tray for packages, so to provide for contactless delivery also thinking about access to the outdoors, right. Do you have grounds to walk on if you’re not leaving your apartment, do you have a balcony that you can go out on and is it a meaningful balcony or does it need to be something like a Juliet balcony that you can, you know, open big doors and have that sense of being outside?

Robb (23:17):

Yeah. Another topic was connection to family. And again, in the background material that you sent me, there were some examples of multi-generational housing. Is that something you’re seeing a fair bit of as a, I guess, a deliberate alternative to senior living? I hadn’t considered that.

Valerie (23:42):

I would say I have seen it as a prevalent living option. I think it’s something we talk about a lot. I think it’s something that we see as a trend that adult children think about with with their families, with their parents, you know, is there a space for mom and dad, is that space in the house? Is it a small house? You know, one of these accessory dwelling units that I can place on my property. I think there are more examples of co-housing not, which are not necessarily intergenerational, but co-housing models where residents that are like-minded can coalesce around a community and share and responsibilities, be it cooking or gardening or maintenance or something of that sort. The intergenerational idea, I think has stronger legs and more practical, real life examples of communities that maybe located in places that are near a school near a daycare where seniors can be tutors for the kids, or, you know, there’s, there’s some opportunity for interaction on that level as opposed to the family level.

Robb (25:22):

So if it’s not deliberate multi-generational or inter-generational housing, allowing better connection to families. So when families come visit their parents or grandparents, that it’s fun that it’s easy. I don’t know a playground for the grandkids or something?

Valerie (25:40):

Absolutely. I mean, we talk about that often on all of our projects, you know, it could be something like I have one project where we included a wii and mostly it was for the residents as part of their fitness room, but certainly something that you could do with the grandkids when they come over as a fun thing to do, we have other projects that particular project did not have a lot of walkable grounds on the piece of property that it was located on. But we have other projects where there are very gracious amounts of gardens and grounds and there’s playground equipment, or oftentimes there could be a pickle ball court or a tennis court for the residents. So there are opportunities for kids, adult, kids, and the residents to engage at that level. I think creating spaces that are not just in and grandpa’s apartment for instance, are really, really important. Nobody, nobody goes to visit grandma and grandpa and sits in their bedroom. For instance, if they have, you know, a studio apartment, you, you know, you go to their house and you have to have space for private and for, and for public entertaining in a way.

Robb (27:06):

Yeah. Yeah. And friends too, I guess. Yeah. Friends, family, just being a nice place to visit is certainly very much part of the design process.

Valerie (27:17):

And I think that all of these communal spaces, it’s really an extension of your house, right. Or your apartment. It’s the, it’s the whole idea of I’m a single person, or maybe I still have my partner in life and we’re downsizing from a larger space, but it’s not just a transaction. That’s physical necessarily. It’s a transaction that involves thoughtful engagement with a community, right, there there’s dining spaces, there’s living spaces, there’s media spaces. There could be a painter’s studio. There could be there’s often wellness spaces, which could be individualized personal spaces, like a spa, or it could be a pool or a fitness room, but it could also be doctor’s offices where doctors come in. So, you know, it’s like an extension of a larger community, but also an extension of your house and all the different types of spaces that you might have in your house.

Robb (28:27):

Yeah. It’s a different way of thinking. Cool. So one thing that you mentioned to me when we first spoke, which was an element of diversity and all different kinds of diversity, and the one that I think kind of caught me the most was income diversity or difference in wealth because a lot of the senior housing or senior living, a lot of these facilities are pretty pricey. And so, so what can you do? Actually, two questions kind of, are your clients interested in, in reaching a wide range of income or wealth? People are living on savings probably largely. And how can you address it? How can you be more inclusive in design of facilities?

Valerie (29:25):

Yeah, that’s a really tough one that I think we were struggling with a bit. It’s not just the designer that can answer that one. It’s sort of the providers and also the policy, quite frankly, I think as designers, part of what we can do to affect that is look at the types of spaces that we’re designing. The cheapest space to build is repetitive space. So is it modular design or if it’s not modular design, is there a way of having a, a building block that’s a bad analogy, but having a building block that, you know, if you repeated a number of times, there’s an economy of scale to how you build it, or the types of, of finishes and other materials that you’re using. Because if the cost of construction comes down, then the overall project costs comes down and potentially you can create a more affordable product. So I think it’s really difficult. It’s one that our firm is, is grappling with as are many other firms to create, to, to look at and create an affordable product. But I think we also see that there’s a need and many providers see that there’s a need for this middle market affordable market, because not everybody can pay for the luxury community and live in that because of a certain income level.

Robb (31:08):

Yeah, yeah. Or mixed, is it possible to design mixed? I don’t know, mixed income without segregating people of different income levels or different wealth.

Valerie (31:31):

I think there are communities that have, can have different levels of, of product where some of the higher end product can offset more affordable product. I’m thinking of a community right now. That’s looking to build these very luxurious apartments as a way of offsetting, not necessarily more affordable apartments, but services, affordable services that they push out into the greater community. That’s one way. So it’s not necessarily, it could be about providing a variety of housing types in one location, but it could also be about having a housing type that allows you to push services into the community so that people can, you know, get visiting nurse kinds of services and other things like that, or running an adult daycare program for people, you know, seniors that potentially are living at home with their adult children who need to go to work, but they need a place for their, for their mom or dad or whoever it is to be during the day.

Robb (32:52):

That’s cool. Yeah. More community connection. That’s pretty neat.

Valerie (32:56):


Robb (33:00):

I think the last kind of connectivity piece or question I had on my list was workforce connections. And this is something that I had never thought of before, but, you know, for the people that work at these at these communities I’m sure it varies all over the place, but you know medical, medical staff and cleaning and food service and, and administration. If it’s not just a nine to five, you know, I got to go in and clock in eight hours or whatever for the people that work there. If there are more amenities for people at work, like, you know, a daycare I think you mentioned, to make the employees part of the community also. That seems like something as a designer might be something a designer kind of can affect, but also maybe kind of challenging depending on the client or the facility.

Valerie (34:09):

So I recently listened to a podcast that had a few thoughts in there that stuck with me as a designer. And one of them was about organizational change and organizations being able to take, take the leap and be innovative that it’s not just necessarily creating opportunity within architecture and design, but it’s your client and your partner that has to be willing to take that leap as well. So we talk a lot about with our clients, for instance, employees, spaces, staff spaces, you know, when we’re laying out a building and we spoke about biophilia and access to natural light, right? Clearly all of the living spaces get natural light, clearly all of the public amenities spaces, the lobby and the, you know, the dining room and the living room all get access to light. And it’s oftentimes those back of house spaces, which unfortunately employee space falls into, oftentimes that kind of gets shoved in the corners of the building that maybe are less attractive and don’t have access to those spaces. So I think, you know, as designers being thoughtful about those spaces and where employees get to spend their time and giving them also access to light, which is really important for every organization, I would say, but oftentimes some of our clients that may have unionized workforces, it’s really important to them to keep their employees. I mean, it’s important to keep every employee happy, but there may be other ameliorating factors that need to be taken into consideration to keep employee satisfaction. I think at a base level, everybody, you know, wants to get compensated well, be that in salary or benefits or, you know, giving them access to meals. I know there’s a lot of financial companies that when we actually were in the office would bring lunch through because it kept their employees happy and it also kept them working through their lunch hour instead of going out and getting something to eat. So I think those are, are considerations that can be made. And, and certainly if you have a provider that is willing to think about providing space within their, within their community, within their facility, for things like daycare, or maybe, maybe it’s even an education room that they can bring in service in those things all contribute to a happy employee, an employee that feels like they’re valued an employee that feels like they can, you know, that there’s room for growth and within their organization. So

Robb (36:58):

Does it get into other aspects of design that kind of integrate employees into the community? So it’s not just like a staff resident divide? I don’t know if that’s something you think about,

Valerie (37:14):

Some of that I think is, is about the organization and how, how they want to provide services. I mean, certainly within a nursing home setting, for instance, a traditional nursing home setting, I should say, we oftentimes look to put care at the center, or not of the center, but integrate it into where residents are spending time during the day in an activity space or a living space. Because you don’t want residents in their rooms all day. That that goes back to what we were talking about earlier in terms of isolation. And you want residents to have a social experience, not just a living experience. So I think that’s one way, but there, but there are other other providers that are interested in creating small house models, which oftentimes are more expensive to staff and can potentially take more space. Although we have looked at adapting that idea into more urban environments, which would put the caregiver at the center of just what, it sounds like a small house. So a smaller grouping of residents that live together in a house like setting, right? So you have a cluster of rooms around a dining space and a living space and maybe an activity space, but that caregiver is not just a caregiver. That caregiver is also helping with meal preparation with the residents potentially is helping with you know, housekeeping and maintenance. That’s a different model that some providers have adapted and that creates different kind of design challenges or design opportunities I should say.

Robb (39:09):

Yeah, man. So that leads into, I guess, a question and you’ve, which we’ve touched on before now, but all of these elements of a little higher quality, more connected senior living, how much of the demand comes from clients versus how much of it are you bringing to the table and I’m sure it ranges all over the map. I mean, do you see a shift with clients who are maybe more and more thinking in the direction of biophilia or quality spaces for workforce or any of the things that we’ve been talking about? Or is it you just trying to wedge in as much as much quality as you can within, within their scope, within their desire?

Valerie (40:11):

I think it’s I think there’s a wide range and a lot of, a lot of factors, you know, sometimes you get a client that’s really forward-thinking and, and as a designer, I mean, it’s always a partnership between, between the architect and the rest of the design team because, you know, MEP and sustainability and lighting, all of those things are, are equally as important as, as the architect. It takes all of us to do it. So I think it’s really a partnership between your client and your design team and you push each other and propel each other forward. I think there’s also projects that, that start and the, the client has a specific idea of what they want. And there’s an opportunity that the design team sees and you have the ability to, to push that, that client or that organization forward. And they end up in a place that they hadn’t intended. I mean, the reason I went into architecture is because I felt how spaces made me feel. I was aware about how spaces made me feel, and I wanted to be able to help shape that experience for other people, whether it was senior living or a school or an office building. And so taking the ideas of natural light or comfort or scale, what’s the scale of a space? Do I feel really small in this space or do I feel, you know, is it the right size for me, is the ceiling height? Does it make me feel uncomfortable because of the proportions of the room or is the ceiling height, you know, intentionally large because I’m supposed to feel odd by the space and wonder, or is this just my living room and I want to be comfortable in it. So I think, you know, thinking about those ideas as an architect and thinking about how, how to translate those ideas into somebody’s home. And I’m not talking about a private family home, because we’re talking about senior living communities talking about buildings that can often be quite big, but they have to functions as somebody’s home. So how do you translate those proportions and the scale and the feeling of a home into a building, which is a community. So, you know, I think, I think there are projects that come along that you have to push those ideas and sort of infiltrate them throughout whatever the other project goals may be.

Robb (43:20):

Gotcha. Yeah. You obviously have given a lot of thought to this.

Valerie (43:27):

I’ve had a lot of time to practice.

Robb (43:33):

If we were to talk again in five or 10 years, what do you think, or what do you hope we’d be talking about? What kind of changes do you foresee or would like to see?

Valerie (43:45):

Wow, I don’t think I was prepared for that question. It’s a good question though. What would I hope to see in five to 10 years? I think I earnestly hope that there is a greater focus and I’m not just saying this because I’m talking with Steven Winter on buildings as consumers of the environment. So a focus on creating, not just healthier buildings, cause I think we’ve gotten more savvy about that, but creating buildings that are, are good stewards of the environment, it’s definitely something that I think is more on the minds of more people. You see it more in the news, not just in industry news, but you know, regular consumer news. So I think, I think that would be important. And I, and I do hope that in five or 10 years that we can have a better conversation about the middle market and the affordable market and see what kinds of inroads we, we may be able to make on that front.

Robb (45:09):

Yeah. Well, we will check in with you in five to 10 years and see how we see how we’ve done. Thanks again to Valerie. I really enjoyed our conversation really interesting to me for folks looking to dig a little deeper into this topic. Valerie sent quite a few links to good resources, many on Perkins Eastman’s website. These links are in our show notes, go to That’s S W I N T E Buildings and beyond is produced by Steven winter associates. We are working to make buildings better, healthier, more accessible, resilient, sustainable efficient. If you do this kind of stuff, maybe check out our careers page. That’s on I counted 18 openings today when I took a look ranging from summer internships to senior positions and most, if not all of our offices, New York city, Connecticut, DC, and Boston. Thanks to the podcast team here. Kelly Westby, Dylan Martello, Jayd Alvarez, Heather Breslin, Alex Mirabile and I’m Robb Aldrich. Thank you very much.

The owner of this website has made a commitment to accessibility and inclusion, please report any problems that you encounter using the contact form on this website. This site uses the WP ADA Compliance Check plugin to enhance accessibility.