Technology Design Considerations for Assisted Living

February 9, 2021
An elderly woman in a wheelchair using a laptop.

Roughly 20 years ago, the senior living industry slowly began to alter their mindset regarding patient care, focusing on the needs of the residents rather than the institution itself. That shift could not have been more timely as more than 70M baby boomers will soon reach the age in which most move into senior living communities.

This shift in thinking not only influences the care received, but in how it is delivered. In today’s modern assisted living facilities, this means state-of-the-art technology. Before you build, consider these three design points to ensure you provide residents with the technology they desire, but in a manner that is most efficient and cost-effective for you:

Location, Location, Location

Identify and designate your technology rooms early. Many times, the server rooms and associated closets are the last rooms to be identified. This often results in important equipment being mounted in a housekeeping closet over a sink.

· Main-distribution frame (MDF) and intermediate distribution frame (IDF) closet locations are extremely important. CAT6 cabling has length limitations, so closets need to be dispersed throughout the facility to account for cabling distance. On multi-floor facilities, best practices call for IDFs directly stacked above and below each other. This simplifies pulling while also lowering the cost for floor-to-floor riser cables and fiber optic runs.

· Technology closets need to be secure and temperature controlled. The equipment requires pulling cool air into the chassis to cool the internal components so as to inhibit overheating. A dedicated thermostat is preferred to help with this process.

Topology Theology

What is the correct topology for an assisted living facility? Old school home runs from the living units to a centralized IDF that feeds back to the MDF? Or, smaller in-wall technology enclosures in each living unit that feeds to a centralized IDF? There’s an argument for both, as you’ll see below, but regardless, it is vital to discuss topology design sooner rather than later.

· Homerun designs require longer runs and extensive cable management systems, which, in turn, necessitates more racks and larger IDFs. These designs require little to no access to the resident living spaces.

· Distributed in-resident designs allow for shorter runs, distributed cable management, but may require occasional access to the living unit. These designs would decrease the amount of overhead cabling in passage ways and lower rack space requirements, allowing for smaller IDFs and ultimately, freeing valuable real estate for other uses.

Systems Integration

With advancements in technology, how the different systems within a senior living facility communicate is rapidly changing. Just a few years ago, the majority of technology systems were independent, isolated systems. Today, almost all of the systems are integrated in one way or another. Computers, telephones, TVs, video surveillance, access control devices, life safety devices and even overhead paging all communicate through IP technology. When you add smart devices and building automation, reliance on a fast, secure, dependable data network is greater than it’s ever been.

Choosing the right network design is one of the most important steps in guaranteeing a successful technology deployment. Just like any other aspect of technology, there are multiple designs and deployments when it comes to the data network. The key is making certain you select the right design for your environment.

Working with qualified subject matter experts is paramount, whether you’re selecting the location for your MDF or discussing topology design. Our team at VP Engineering possess just the expertise you need. Contact us today to see how we can help design your senior living facility for the future.


About VP Engineering

VP Engineering is a top Charlotte-based MEP design firm offering engineering expertise in senior living, multi-family, hospitality, and retail/commercial markets worldwide. With experience in a wide range of building types, our MEP engineering services help keep projects on budget and achieve your goals. Learn more at