Wei Wu, Ph.D., LEED AP BD+C, Department of Construction Management, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA 30458. Email: email@example.com, Tel: (912) 478-0542
The story went back to fall 2011. I received an email from a local state patrol officer inquiring that if I and my students would be able to help design a house that he and his wife had dreamed about for retiring. That was the second year when we had a dedicated BIM course developed in the Construction Management program at Georgia Southern, and students were eager to see how they could apply the skills in real world scenarios. So we had a group of 5 students that volunteered in this project, and met with the couple face to face in order to understand the special needs and intentions catering to the theme of a retiring home. Somehow we introduced BIM to the couple, and showcased the capacity of BIM in terms of instant prototyping, parametric design, visualization, rendering, walkthrough and so on, using some student coursework. The couple were thrilled and immediately requested if we could do the same for their house. Because they found it so much easier to convey their “dream house” idea to us compared with the stack of paper they had all kinds of notes and illustrations of floor plans on. Students were able to come up with some rough layout of spaces as the couple was literally uttering their thoughts and demands spontaneously. We also demonstrated the possibility to “drop” the designed house into Google Earth™, so technically they could see it in the context of the neighborhood they chose.
Unfortunately, this project was never completed. The husband passed away in spring 2012 after courageous battling with cancer. But the project inspired the students to think about the possible social impacts of an emerging technology such as BIM. We began to realize that there might be a huge market demand on housing design, redesign or remodeling tailored to the needs of the retiring senior population in this country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the elderly population will more than double between now and the year 2050, to 80 million. That means roughly one out of five adults in the U.S. will be over the age of 65 . A recent research report published by AARP indicated that nearly 90 percent of people over age 65 want to stay in their home for as long as possible, and 80 percent believe their current residence is where they will always live. However, for older adults to age in place, their physical and service environment must be accommodating .
In summer 2012, we started to formulate a research project centering on the investigation of how feasible & beneficial will it be to implement BIM in aging-in-place projects. My research assistant, Emily Handziuk, a senior in the Interior Design program, was on board with her expertise in universal design. Our research goal was set as to explore the possible leverage of BIM in streamlining the delivery of aging-in-place projects. To achieve this goal, we created a roadmap as illustrated in Fig. 1. Currently we are still at the Stage 1: Proof-of- Concept, during which we are conducting multiple surveys to assess and compare perceptions on BIM utilization in aging-in-place projects from a wide variety of stakeholders including senior citizens, industry practitioners, code officials, students and professors, and to name a few. With the results of Stage 1, we will be able to identify essential issues such as challenges and deficiencies in current aging-in-place practice, opportunities and barriers for BIM engagement in order to facilitate the paradigm shift, desired BIM capacities as well as the incentives and critical resources needed to be in place to expedite the transition.
Fig. 1. Design for Aging: Use of BIM in Aging-in-Place Project Research Roadmap.
In Stage 2: Prototype, we intend to create a prototype that holistically integrates aging-in-place criteria using carefully selected BIM applications. The prototype will take advantage of common or specialized functionalities of BIM, including linkage with GIS information, parametric modeling, material specification, performance simulation, visualization and navigation, documentation generation, code compliance checking and so on, to deliver the accurate, realistic and optimized representation of an aging-in-place project (Fig. 2).
Fig. 2. Function Matrix of Intended Aging-in-Place Prototype.
In Stage 3 and Stage 4, we would like to invite public feedback and comments for prototype validation and improvement, and share research findings to contribute to the body of literature.
We believe this is a valuable project to a wide variety of stakeholders, especially the senior citizens and the aging-in-place practitioners community. We look forward to and sincerely appreciate your sharing of thoughts and comments. You are also cordially invited to participate in one of our Stage 1: Proof of Concept surveys targeting the professional community by following this link: https://georgiasouthern.us2.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_5BzHH63MKo7kwlv. Your opinions are invaluable to our research.
This research is internally funded by Georgia Southern University. There is no 3rd-party or commercial organizations involved as sponsors for this research.
 American Society of Interior Designers, Design for Aging in Place Toolkit, Washington, D.C., 2012.
 American Association of Retired Persons, Aging in Place: A State Survey of Livability Policies and Practices, Washington, D.C., 2011.
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