For architects in general, there is perhaps no greater feeling of success than having the opportunity to give back to one’s community. For New Jersey architects in particular–where there exists a significant affordable housing crisis–there is no better time than the present to help design and create special needs housing–be it for seniors, the ambulatory challenged, those with psychiatric or developmental disabilities, people with AIDS and even hospice care.

While every special needs facility requires unique design elements and amenities to properly service the needs of its inhabitants, architects should take into account the following four fundamental elements: psychological, social, maintenance and economic design factors.

The first thing to consider when designing special needs housing is the psychological element, or creating a space that is appealing, interesting and provides residents with an enjoyable quality of life. Architects must design space that is motivating and positive to make sure that the home is still where a person with special needs feels comfortable and at ease. For example, windows, interesting angles and textures can be used to help create spaces that stimulate and encourage residents and do not take away from the functionality of the space.

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