Collaboration is Key for Senior Design Team

Throughout their five years of undergraduate work, Drexel Engineering students work on projects as teams, learning valuable collaboration and communication skills that will give them a leg up in the professional world. For one group of civil, architectural and environmental engineering (CAEE) students, teamwork was critical to making their senior design project their most ambitious undertaking yet.

The team — Sara Kakhia, Shane Thompson, Jyrteanna Teo and Katherine Comisac — partnered with Main Line Health to pitch the healthcare provider a concept for its new senior living facility in Wynnewood. The task was sizeable, but the team found strength in working together.

A rendering of the dining hall in the new senior center, with access to an outdoor courtyard

“Our group has realized how critical communication and trust is when working in a design team,” Comisac said. “Part of the reason we have been able to be so ambitious with our scope of work is because we trust each other and know we’re all hard workers.”

The team thought of everything. Taking the architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and sustainability needs into account, they created a mixed-use retail and residential senior home with 71 living units, a restaurant and an on-site pharmacy.

“This design addresses increased demand for senior living in the area and is meant to encourage a sense of community and increase the wellness of residents,” Comisac said.

There are common areas on every floor of the building to increase socialization, with lighting in varying color temperatures to compliment the residents’ circadian rhythm. A gym, pool and dining hall offer places to relax and mingle, along with an art studio and salon.

As for sustainability, the site is in a non-forested area, meaning that no trees need to be cleared before building. There will also be a green roof installed, which both absorbs excess stormwater and collects it for use in the bathrooms. The group is also trying to attain a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Engineering Design) Gold certification for the senior living facility to emphasize the group’s efforts towards sustainability.

Collaboration was key to getting this project off the ground. The architectural design began as a team effort, with the group agreeing on the exterior design and discussing sustainability efforts. Once that was settled, each member played on their strengths – Kakhia dealt with structural and daylighting design, Thompson handled plumbing and stormwater design, Teo was on electrical and lighting design (and also spearheaded the LEED certification), and Comisac created the mechanical design and 3D modeling. The work reflects what the students have learned on co-op and will be pursuing post-graduation.

“We push each other to do our best,” Comisac said, “but are also understanding that each of us has a lot on our plate. Coordination between design disciplines is also really important, so having good communication has been key to us working well as a group.”