Tag Archives: Architectural Engineering

Celebration of the Use of Virtual Reality to Improve Housing for the Elderly and Disabled

University Park, PA.  On Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 10a.m. Penn State’s Department of Architectural Engineering and its Smart Spaces Center for Adaptive Aging in Community celebrated progress made in a coordinated effort to reduce the cost of housing for Pennsylvania’s elderly and disabled residents today and in the future.

The celebration took place at the virtual reality Immersive Construction (ICon) Laboratory. The celebration:

  1. Demonstrated the use of full-scale 3-D virtual models on large display screens for evaluating cost-effective designs to allow for aging in place. The animated model, based on the Blueroof  Technologies housing initiative in McKeesport, PA, is the work of graduate student Sonali Kumar. The virtual reality approach allows for an avatar to enter the wheel-chair accessible cottage and evaluate tasks such as making coffee in a kitchen to appropriately design for residents who desire housing where they can grow old without having to move to a costly institution.
  2. Allowed participants to meet the leaders of Blueroof Technologies in McKeesport, PA using a live video connection.  Blueroof is using prefabricated housing with embedded sensors for improving user interaction with their residence.  The environment can inform a resident when to take medication, monitor for falls (then, call 911 if the resident slips in the shower and does not get up), and provide televised links to medical facilities reducing routine medical care cost.
  3. Show the work of the Computer Integrated Construction Research Program, directed by John Messner, associate professor of architectural engineering,  focusing on the application of advanced computer modeling to improve the design, construction, and operation processes for buildings.
  4. Present the work of architectural engineering students  trained in using 3-D experienced-based design.  Virtual modeling is rapidly becoming an important tool for the construction industry, providing the ability to make changes in health care and other facilities before construction actually takes place.
  5. Provide an opportunity for residents of Addison Court, a State College independent living facility for elderly and disabled individuals, to see what the future will bring and serve as critics who can use their life experiences to aid in the design process.
  6. Highlight the work of  Penn State’s Smart Spaces Center, directed by Richard Behr, who leads an interdisciplinary effort to address the needs of the rapidly increasing number of baby boomer Americans who wish to age successfully in their own homes.
  7. Recognize contributions made by the Raymond A. Bowers Program for Excellence in Design and Construction of the Built Environment, the Smart Spaces Center, the Partnership for Achieving Construction Excellence, and other private and public organizations working with Penn State to improve life for Pennsylvania’s elderly and disabled.
  8. Using a scooter from Amigo Mobility, Blueroof will begin to experiment on how to help residents with mobility disabilities make better use of the technology around them. The Amigo scooter will have an iPad 2 and other remote devices so residents can turn the lights on and off and perform other functions without leaving the chair.
After Florida, Pennsylvania has the highest per capita of elderly of any state in the union. Not all news about health care costs is bad news. Come learn about some of the good news.
Computer Integrated Construction Research Program:
Immersive Construction Lab (ICon Lab):
Smart Spaces Center:
Immersive Construction Lab
306 Engineering Unit C
University Park, PA 16802

Virtual reality cuts costs and increases satisfaction

Put on your 3-D glasses
The following appeared in HME News, the publication for the home medical industry, on July 26, 2011. This year and last, I asked the residents of Addison Court, the low-income apartment for disabled and elderly in State College where I live, to attend a demonstration at the Immersive Construction Lab, described here. One of the participants was Lilian Hutchison, who celebrated her 87th birthday in January. No one can say for sure whether Lilian would have fallen several times in her apartment if this kind of technology were in place. However, the hope is that the future will be kinder to those of us who can benefit from design which residents are able to modify in advance. 

The projectors behind the three, 8-foot screens show a virtual reality world that can improve the environment where home medical equipment HME is used. Professor John I. Messner’s Immersive Construction (ICon) Laboratory at Penn States Architectural Engineering Department is a dark, windowless room where the healthcare facilities being viewed seem so real there is a special world for it: immersion.

When Kaiser-Permanente began constructing a medical building in downtown Washington, D.C., pharmacists traveled 140 miles to State College to see how their workplace would appear. Among their suggestions: a partition so when two patients are served simultaneously, their privacy is insured.

There is substantial growth in constructing healthcare facilities from hospitals to housing for the elderly. Previously, a model of how a building would look required physical materials like wood and nails. By comparison, virtual reality offers interactive models early in the design process. The resulting efficiency and cost savings (making changes to a building before it is built) are creating a boom in the use of virtual reality in the architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) industry. Expectations exceed the ability of the AEC industry to have virtual reality applications ready as quickly as desired.

 

Gala with residents of Addison Court at the Immersive Construction Lab


Sonali Kumar, a graduate research assistant at Penn State, is developing a 3-D model for an independent living facility for elderly and disabled individuals based on the concept of experience-based design. Experience-based design often refers to a body of academic literature, primarily health-care related. Designers are urged to consider the perspective of the individuals who build, maintain, work and reside in the facility, including patients and residents. A common example is the decision of a Philadelphia hospital to build its bathrooms closer to patients beds.

My perspective on Sonali’s effort comes from my status as a disabled resident of a primarily elderly independent living facility. For example, I look at an early version of Sonali’s model showing a bathtub in the bathroom and say, No. There should be a roll-in shower here. I show an early prototype to Travis Barr, co-owner of T & B Medical here in State College. While fixing my scooter, Travis says, “There should not be cabinet doors in the kitchen. Doors are a nuisance for people with disabilities.”

Sonali’s model is based on a Blue Roof Technologies cottage in McKeesport, Pa. Pennsylvania has a larger number of elderly people in its population than any other state except Florida. The need for elderly housing is acute. In McKeesport, where the factory for steel pipes closed down leaving a near-ghost town and an elderly population of more than 20%, Robert Walters, a retired Penn State professor, created Blueroof. The cottages are constructed of pre-fabricated housing and have special sensors inserted in the walls to remind residents when to take their medicine (the walls talk) and to call 911 if a resident falls and does not get up in a timely fashion.

Sonali’s model of a Blue Roof cottage makes use of interaction, the most significant new development in virtual reality. Look at the screen shot Sonali took of the power chair inside the kitchen of her model cottage. For those readers who have not spent their productive hours playing video games, an avatar is a virtual reality representation of an actor functioning in a 3-D environment. The avatar in the Sonali’s kitchen is a power chair. The power chair makes coffee and toast, opening the refrigerator door to get eggs and milk, and scrambles eggs on a stove the avatar has just turned on. Interactivity is key to understanding how practical people in the construction industry have come to use 3-D technology for practical purposes.

Interactivity is arrived at slowly as Sonali experiments with a wide range of software. I suggested that Sonali replace the 3-D power chair with a scooter. In my experience, a scooter is more mobile and less likely to damage walls and take bathroom doors off their hinges. I ask a manufacturer to provide a 3-D scooter file, but for reasons I cannot explain (because I do not understand), the file does not yet open. Sonali explains, “We are in the process of integrating the computer model obtained from Amigo Mobility.” Keep your 3-D glasses on and await future developments.

Joel Solkoff writes about disability issues from a customer perspective. He is an adjunct research assistant at the Department of Architectural Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University.

 

 

John Messner at the Immersive Construction Lab

http://www.engr.psu.edu/ae/faculty/messner/

John I. Messner, Ph.D.

John Messner

Associate Professor of Architectural Engineering
The Pennsylvania State University
104 Engineering Unit A
University Park, PA 16802
United States of America
[email protected]

 

Educational Background:

1994 Ph.D., Architectural Engineering, Construction Management Option,
The Pennsylvania State University

1991 B.A.E., Architectural Engineering, Construction Management Option,
The Pennsylvania State University

 

Construction Industry Experience:

10/96 -12/00: Project Manager/Project Engineer, The Clark Construction Group, Bethesda, MD

5/96 – 9/96: Project Manager for Development, Rebuild, L.L.C., Sterling, VA

9/94 – 5/96: Project Manager, Horseshoe Group Inc., Alexandria, VA

5/90 – 8/90: Architectural Draftsman, Willigerod & MacAvoy Architects, Harrisburg, PA

1/89 – 8/89: Field Engineer, The George Hyman Construction Co., Bethesda, MD

5/88 – 8/88: Architectural Draftsman, Don Klinger, AIA, Millersburg, PA.

Academic Experience:

1/01 – Current: Assistant Professor, Department of Architectural Engineering, Construction Engineering and Management Option, Penn State University.

1/94 – 5/94: Course Instructor, International Construction Engineering and Management Course, Penn State University.

5/91 – 8/94: Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Architectural Engineering, Penn State University.

8/90 – 5/91: Undergraduate Teaching Intern, Department of Architectural Engineering, Penn State University.

 

Richard Behr at Smart Spaces

Dr. Richard A. Behr, P.E.

 

Dr. Richard Behr

Charles and Elinor Matts Professor of Architectural Engineering
Department of
Architectural Engineering
The Pennsylvania State University

http://www.engr.psu.edu/ae/faculty/behr/index.asp

 


Education

B.S. in Civil Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, 1974
M.S. in Civil Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, 1975
Ph. D. in Civil Engineering, Texas Tech University, 1982

Joel Solkoff, adjunct research assistant Penn State Dept of Architectural Engineering

JOEL SOLKOFF

120 E. Beaver Ave, Apt 107, State College, PA 16801

Phone 814-272-0130, cell 215-518-7847

From 2008 to 2017, Adjunct Research Assistant, Department of Architectural Engineering,  Penn State, University Park, PA

From 2003 to 2008, I have been a journalist and as well as graduate student at Penn State’s Rehabilitation Counseling Program:

As a journalist, write for HME News and Voices of Central Pennsylvania on such subjects as: Medicare reductions for durable medical equipment, including oxygen and power chairs, and on voting procedures and strategy to make sure individuals who are aged and disabled register and vote.

Wrote a paper on encouraging students who are blind and otherwise visually impaired to pursue careers in science and education. As a universal design enthusiast, I have completed two courses at the Engineering Department developing photo-journalism-style essays, defining design problems and recommending solutions.

I have been increasing my knowledge of Medicare as a way of paying for assistive technology.

The Voice of America said, “Solkoff believes that if enough old and disabled people vote, it could help ensure that candidates favorable to the Social Security and Medicare benefits they depend on will be elected, both locally and nationally.”

From 2001 to 2003, I have worked for:

  • Amaryllis Theatre/VSA Arts of Pennsylvania, on grant proposals and disability access.
  • SchlumbergerSema, Moorestown, NJ, documenting point-of-sale terminals using smart cards.
  • Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County Community College, teaching basic and intermediate courses on how to write English clearly and correctly (as adjunct professor of English).

From 1990 to 2001, Senior Technical Writer both in California’s Silicon Valley and in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park.

At the Silicon Valley:

  • For IP Unity, produced documentation for engineers writing Internet telephony applications to help them make it possible, for example, for company regional offices to simultaneously link conference calls with Power Point presentations located on their laptops.
  • At Resonant Commerce, developed data warehouse mining documentation.
  • At Star Vox, provided voice over IP documentation on installing hardware and software.
  • At KLA-Tencor, worked with designers to document wafer analysis software, writing documentation where none existed before, working closely with software quality assurance team.
  • At Cabeltron/ZeitNet, worked on beta version of a reference manual for small digital telephony switch.  Completed console commands section (e.g. show configuration, modify port configuration). Wrote command parameter and descriptions, worked on TCP/IP and other protocols after talking to engineers and testing each of the 22 commands.
  • At Genentech Pharmaceuticals, worked on an Interleaf 6 Relationship Data Base Management system (Oracle-based) to end documentation logjam.

At Research Triangle Park:

  • At IBM’s Netfinity Server Group, wrote procedures for installing network operating systems in servers. Migrated BookMaster documents to FrameMaker with SGML. Produced Technical Updates concerning modifications to servers about to be released.
  • At ABB Metering Systems, managed research, production of detailed engineering drawings, and dissemination of a technical manual for circuit boards purchased after a meter is already installed, giving that meter the ability to communicate with the utility office by modem and cellular communication. Coordinated high-level design review of project software to troubleshoot problems with two-way conversations between a meter at a customer’s residence and the company’s central office.  One goal was to have the meter to tell the electric company to shut off the electricity if the customer’s residence is on fire.
  • At Glaxo-Wellcome, worked with Visual Basic designers in a commercial IT group, producing documentation for a custom-designed Oracle-based software program used to keep track of conventions, budgets, and contracts.  Audience was not sophisticated with computers and the software itself did not yet have its code frozen.  Writing about software in a continual state of change requires considerable organizational ability.
  • At MCI, wrote manual for call center. Used extensive screen captures of the center’s GUIs.
  • At Nortel Networks(Northern Telecom), my work included:
    • Writing descriptions of new telecommunications software
    • Preparing documentation for SGML compatibility
    • Coordinating with software engineers, working with product developers, and supervising other documentation work on such telephony products and issues as ACD, the OSI model, X.25, ISDN, SS7, systems integration, LANs, fiber optics including SONET, and high bandwidth, low-delay, multiplexed packet switching.

From 1969 to 1990, worked as speechwriter, public affairs consultant, report writer, grant writer, journalist, and author in Washington, D.C. and New York City. My experience included:

  • Senior speechwriter and public affairs professional managing a variety of Communications Department projects and activities at the U.S. Postal Service, receiving commendation from the assistant postmaster general in charge of technology for my exhaustive work on postal automation, including bar coding and optical scanning.
  • Speechwriter for Ted Brophy, CEO of GTE, and other corporate officials, as well as doing public relations and grant proposal writing.
  • Report writer at the Congressional General Accounting Office (as it was then called) and Congress’s Office of Technology Assessment.
  • Special assistant to the Under Secretary of Labor, a Presidential-appointee position requiring Senate confirmation and a complete security clearance. Wrote speeches and developed and implemented public affairs policy for the Department’s second most powerful official. Other speech writing for public officials included work for both Democratic and Republican Chairs of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
  • Reporter for The New York Times, The New Republic, Newsday and The Village Voice.
  • Newsletter editor, MLAP Monthly Report (a publication of the Migrant Legal Action Program.
  • Editor/Researcher for Scanlan’s Monthly, a New York-based general-interest magazine:

Previous professional affiliations: Authors Guild, National Press Club, Society of Professional Journalists, and Washington Speechwriters Roundtable.  Recipient of a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism.

Publications: I am the author of the following 3 books:

  • Learning to Live Again; My Triumph Over Cancer, published by Holt, Rinehart & Winston
  • The Politics of Food, published by Sierra Club Books and distributed by Random House
  • Handbook for Commissioners, Housing and Redevelopment Officials, published by the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials

I have published dozens of articles in my own name for such publications as The New York Times, The New Republic, The International Herald Tribune, and Information Week (http://www.informationweek.com/534/34uwfw.htm) and have contributed to the Time-Life Books series

Education: BA, Columbia College, Columbia University,  graduate work at The Pennsylvania State University’s  Department of Rehabilitation Counseling.

http://www.joelsolkoff.wikispaces.net/

Special 3-D Construction Session to Reduce Health Care Costs and Improve Quality, PARF Conference

University Park, PA – On Thursday, September 22, at 9:30 a.m. Penn State’s Department of Architectural Engineering  hosted a session entitled “Using Virtual Reality to Construct/Remodel Health Care Facilities & Independent Housing” in the Alumni Suite at the Nittany Lion Inn. [Listen to the entire session at the end of this posting.]

The session is part of the Pennsylvania Association of Rehabilitation Facilities’ (PARF) annual conference which defines the agenda for the Commonwealth’s disability community. PARF is a statewide organization of facilities serving individuals with physical, mental, social and/or emotional disabilities.  This year, for the first time since PARF was established in 1969, the organization has reached out to Penn State’s Architectural Engineering Department for its expertise in virtual technology. Gene Bianco, PARF’s CEO and President explains, “I was impressed by the ability of 3-D and 4-D technology to help our membership cut costs while increasing quality.” [3-D provides images that appear life-life in three dimensions; 4-D adds time as a dimension, and so, when building a home for the elderly, provides the viewer with the ability to see the construction of the building during intervals, for example, of 3, 6, and 12 months.]

Panelists

Panelists for the virtual reality session include architectural engineering professors Richard Behr and John Messner. Behr, as director of the Smart Spaces Center for adaptive aging in the community, has been called one of the country’s early prophets of the concept of “aging in place” as a way of preserving individual dignity and saving the considerable costs involved in institutionalization in assistive living facilities.

Messner, who as director of the Computer Integrated Construction (CIC) Research Program, has been using virtual reality to involve end users in the design to create hospitals, health care facilities, and housing for the elderly and disabled.

Panelist Sonali Kumar, a graduate research assistant to Messner,  demonstrated two aspects of virtual reality directly related to the members of the audience who have signed up for this session. The first aspect is the work she has done in creating an animated 3-D model of a residence designed for an elderly family whose members may have a disability or may develop one over the course of the aging process.

The second aspect Kumar demonstrated is experience-based design, a generic description of a body of academic literature that focuses on the importance of consulting with users in the design process. There are a number of users and end users affected by the way health care and facilities for the aging are designed. They include, for example, residents of the facility, health care providers, maintenance personnel, and people involved with the construction. Kumar’s final model will reflect observations from elderly residents of Addison Court, a State College residence for the elderly, planned critiques from a member of the deaf community, and comments from the mobility disabled community. Kumar changed the model to reflect changes from a wheel chair-based observer who suggested replacing an additional bathtub with a roll-in shower.

The fifth and final panelist Joseph Fagnani provided the prospective of a likely resident of an independent living facility for the aged. Fagnani is an Altoona, Pa based visual disabilities advocate who has been legally blind since childhood. Fagnani has the understanding and skill to provide design suggestions to a model intended to visualize how construction takes place even though he is blind. One of Fagnani suggestions is that controls for the stove use voice synthesis to inform residents when burners are turned on and whether the heat is low, medium, or high.

Audience participation

The following  organizations were represented by audience members who signed up for the session:

Transitional Services, based in the Pittsburgh area,  provides up to 240 units of permanent housing in addition to temporary housing and services for individuals with mental disabilities leaving state mental facilities. The organization has $7.5 million in operating expenses and serves 390 individuals. http://www.transitionalservices.org/index.php

Clearfield-Jefferson Mental Health/Mental Retardation Program. With an annual budget of $4 million from federal and state sources, this organization provides a wide range of mental health services including housing. Participant Susan Hartzfeld, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) Director points out that her organization’s name will soon change to reflect legal and other requirements that the “r word is an inappropriate and insensitive designation.” http://www.cljmhmr.com/

JEVS Human Services, based in the Philadelphia area,  serves more than 20,000 individuals each year. According to participant and JEVS Director Jill Rogers, the organization plans new housing construction for the up to 25 elderly and disabled residents and is looking forward to learning how virtual reality “can be a useful tool.” http://www.jevshumanservices.org/

Spectrum Community Services, based in Berks and Carbon counties, was originally founded in 1979 by a group of parents who were looking for living arrangements for their grown children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In addition to a variety of housing options, SCS also provides support services. http://www.spectrumcommunityservices.org/

Allied Services, serving the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area, provides rehabilitation medicine, senior care, home health care, and vocational and residential services. The organization, which serves nearly 5,000 people a day, is the largest employer in northeastern Pennsylvania. http://www.allied-services.org/

+++

Special thanks to Joseph Fagnani for not only participating, but for recording the session and making it available. http://www.altoonamirror.com/page/content.detail/id/530388/Blind-man-looks-past-disability-to-help-others.html Of course, thanks to BCC without whom this would not be here.

[powerpress]

Saving Medicare billions: Trying too hard can get in the way

Memorial Note: November 13, 2011, Jack Seidner aged 93, my neighbor and friend at Addison Court, State College. PA, died while talking to his son who had called from Israel. He died at Centre Crest, an assistive care facility in Bellefonte, PA, 11 miles from Addison Court.
Jack was a veteran of World War II and was a monthly calendar boy on the Jewish War Veterans calendar last year  He will be buried beside his wife in Harrisburg at a private funeral.

 

Jack was a wonderful man. He was basically an intellectual although he hid it as much as possible. When I wrote a story about home medical oxygen, oxygen which he received to stay alive, he refused to be photographed saying, “I have been studied enough.”
His sense of humor was ever-present, sometimes to the point of reciting bawdy limericks to the residents of Addison Court. I will miss him. He died at Centre Crest. The article below, originally published in HME News on September 27, 2011, is dedicated to his memory. In these days of turmoil at Penn State University, the need to care for the real needs of this community should be apparent.+++
Saving Medicare billions: 
Trying too hard can get in the way 
The money saved as a consequence of concentrating on what is right will astonish the body politic
“I have saved up enough pills to kill myself,” a neighbor told me, “if I ever have to go to Centre Crest.”

I live in an independent housing apartment building in downtown State College, Pa. The nearly 100 residents of Addison Court are disabled or elderly. Most of us are poor–the more affluent are on Social Security or Social Security Disability and Medicare.

At least once a week, the ambulance stops by my window and a resident goes off to the hospital. The lucky return. The not-so-lucky move on to Centre Crest, the default public nursing home about 11 miles away, where assisted living means expensive round-the-clock care, diaper changes, attachment to machines that keep the biological aspects of life going, medical personnel who make sure medications are taken correctly, and a world view that echoes Dante’s inscription over Hell: “Abandon hope, ye who enter here.”

Last year, Pennsylvania’s Department of Aging estimated it costs Medicare $40,000 extra each year for a resident to move from an independent living to an assistive living facility. The loss of dignity to the individual is incalculable.

The French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre observed that when one tries especially hard to listen, often the trying gets in the way of hearing. Medicare is trying too hard to do the wrong thing. Medicare‘s purpose is not to save money, but to provide health care in a way that concentrates on improving the quality of life. Recent evidence on the brain’s adaptive capacity provides hope that not only can individuals resume physical capacity from the devastation of a variety of afflictions that affect us at Addison Court, but also we can regain our talents to improve this society, not simply take from it.

“The Brain that Changes Itself, Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science,” by Columbia University’s Norman Doidge, M.D., points to the brain’s ability to recover from strokes and other disorders with rehabilitation and concern.

“Traditional rehabilitation,” Doidge writes, “typically ended after a few weeks when a patient stopped improving, or ‘plateaued.’ And doctors lost the motivation to continue.  But…these learning plateaus were temporary…Though there was no apparent progress in the consolidation stage, biological changes were happening internally, as new skills became more automatic and refined.”

The Obama administration’s penny-wise-and-pound-foolish cutbacks on availability to durable medical equipment, rehabilitation services, and home health care are forcing residents of independent living facilities into the Centre Crests of this country. For example, the narrow focus is apparent in Medicare‘s frequent citations of the Congressional Budget Office’s competitive bidding estimates of relatively insignificant savings for Medicare Part B ignoring the astronomical costs that will result to Part A when disabled individuals like me can no longer pick up the phone and call my local medical equipment provider. Instead, I must wait for a competitive bidding winner (several have unsavory reputations and some are based out-of-state) to provide a battery. Delays could easily force me into Centre Crest as a result of falls, problems getting to the bathroom, etc. Delays would rob me of the ability to work as an adviser on virtual reality models for construction of future aging in place housing–construction which will result in significant Medicare savings.

Medicare is discouraging the necessary alliance between rehabilitation therapists and medical suppliers. This alliance will help restore the ability of my fellow residents to function and contribute to society.

“Individuals with disabilities remain one of our nation’s greatest untapped resources,” said Rep Jim Langevin, D-R.I., the only quadriplegic in Congress. To release the untapped resources of the elderly and disabled, Medicare must stop thinking about saving money and start thinking about improving health. The money saved as a consequence of concentrating on what is right will astonish the body politic. Providers of durable medical equipment require the support of consumers like me. Providers and rehabilitation therapists have been slow to recognize that in unity there is strength. Together they must spread the word that when an individual becomes old or disabled, science is rapidly increasing the ability to regain talent and good health.
Joel Solkoff is the author of “Learning to Live Again, My Triumph over Cancer” and is adjunct research assistant at Penn State’s Department of Architectural Engineering.

Aging Baby Boomers Like Me Need Housing: Think of this as an eccentric table of contents

Naturally, I begin with myself. The primary theme of my website is based on a scholarly body of literature known as experienced-based design which for the layperson, such as myself, means that I should have a role in the design of the world I live in.
1. For an attempt at a coherent presentation of me: see http://www.joelsolkoff.com/posts/about-me/ and if you want to read my resume, click on the hotlink where my name appears.
2. My focus. Specifically, I am focusing on two separate worlds (or perhaps world views would be more correct); namely:
  • Reality: the design of housing for elderly and disabled individuals such as myself
  • Virtual reality: the tool that makes it possible, economical, and more efficient to create a 3-D model that can be used as a template for the massive construction effort required to house the elderly population here in Rust Belt, PA, and as we age; we “baby boomers” who constitute the largest generation in our country and indeed the world’s history. Stay tuned for more on this demographic reality and its impact.
3. Location.
McKeesport, PA is the unlikely location for a presentation of how the reality of technology currently being constructed should serve as a model for the future. The overriding example presented here is a non-profit corporation Blueroof Technologies founded 10 years ago, where I spent three days and two nights in December as the first invited guest at the Blueroof Experimental Cottage shown here with Blueroof’s founders on the front porch (a front porch identified by elderly residents as being significant to their sense of well-being):
 blueroof founders
Next is a photograph of next door in decaying McKeesport. Notice that the road and sidewalk are rotting, and the door and everything else about the building has been demolished, but the wheelchair-accessible curb cut is brand new. (Stay tuned for more on McKeesport‘s curb cuts to nowhere.)
The principal characters in this encomium to Blueroof’s founders are Dr. Robert Walters, (left) a former engineering professor at the local campus of Penn State, and John Bertoty, a retired principal of the local high school.
A lengthy profile of John Bertotoy (scan the words; look at the pictures) is available: http://www.joelsolkoff.com/blueroof-reality/john-bertoty-at-blueroof/
My under construction profile of John’s cofounder reads: “Robert Walters is the kind of engineer who collects more data than he knows what to do with, but wants more.” Bob currently is collecting data on the number of times the residents of a non-experimental Blueroof residence open their refrigerator doors.
Assume your 86-year-old mother is living alone in an apartment (which is basically what a Blueroof Cottage is). If she has not opened her refrigerator door for three days, that indicates something is wrong. The wired cottage alerts you in a timely fashion and you are able to get there before three days, whatever default Bob contrives. Instead of arriving at Mom’s residence to find her passed out on the floor, requiring an ambulance and who-knows-what, you are able to get over there and help your mother out.
This is a device Bob contrived to measure activities of daily living (ADL) and signal alarms and phone calls for help. The wireless BlueNode System (motion detectors and other sensors not shown, nor the refrigerator):
University Park, PA. is a two and a half drive east and north from McKeesport. Here the Penn State Department of Architectural Engineering (AE) is home of the Smart Spaces Center for Independent Living, an interdisciplinary group which has the capability to help Bob Walters process the data he obtains and find useful applications.
One place where Bob’s data are applied is in the AE Department’s Immersive Construction (ICon) Lab and now is the time to put on your 3-D glasses:
The principals at University Park are:
Dr. Richard Behr, Director of the Smart Spaces Center for Independent Living and professor of architectural engineering.
Dr. John Messner, director of the Computer Integrated Construction (CIC) Research  Program (which includes custodianship of the virtual reality lab) and professor of architectural engineering.
[No, I do not know why John and Sonali’s photos came out larger than Rich’s and my wonderful IT guru is asleep. Who wouldn’t be at this hour?]
Sonali Kumar, graduate assistant to John M. and the 3-D modeller who turned me into a virtual reality avatar.
Now more on each:
Dr. Richard Behr has been the prime visionary on all of this. As Director of the multidisciplinary Smart Spaces Center, Rich has been a prime mover in the effort to foster aging in place long before it because a recognized goal. He has focused on retrofitting existing residences so the elderly could continue to live in their traditional homes and in supporting the development of Blueroof and the use of virtual technology in Dr. Messner’s CIC Program.
“These technologies,” Dr. Behr writes, “are often grouped into three broad categories based on their function and value: those which
(1) address safety at the environmental level,
(2) secure health and wellness at the individual level, and
(3) enable social connectedness at the community level .”
Dr. John Messner uses virtual technology to design health care facilities. Shown here are pharmacists from the Washington, D.C. area viewing a Kaiser Permanente health care facility not yet constructed. The pharmacists drove from DC to State College (quite a schlep, try it sometime) to view their future workplace and make important design changes before building began.
Sonali Kumar built this 3-D model of me as an avatar getting ready to take a shower:
avatar in shower
Sonali is completing her doctoral work on experienced-based design, which this is. As I keyboard this posting, I frequently glance at her award-winning poster entitled “Experience-Based Design  Review of Healthcare Facilities Using An Interactive Prototyping System.” Shown here is one of the experienced-based design consultants Sonali used to research the effectiveness of an interactive prototyping system, Lilian Hutchison, my 87-year old neighbor:
4. Baby Boom Demographics
One out of every four Americans is a part of the Baby Boom generation which the U.S Census Department defines as those 76 million Americans born between 1946, the year after World War II ended, and 1964 when prodigious use of birth control and other factors caused the annual birth rate to fall below 4 million.
The first baby boomers have already begun to retire despite the fact that most jobs in the United States are held by baby boomers. When the members of my generation give up their jobs a whole slew of disaster scenarios appear—whether you go to the U.S. Census Bureau’s excellent website or consult Google’s index and find this expression of impending disaster:
5. Who is the primary audience for this information? Why it is the Ford Foundation, based in New York City which has demonstrated a tradition of providing funding for significantly innovative projects that improve the lives of indigent, elderly, and disabled individuals throughout the world (and the world includes the United States).
“Completed in 1968 by the firm of Roche-Dinkeloo, the Ford Foundation Building was the first large-scale architectural building in the country to devote a substantial portion of its space to horticultural pursuits. Its well-known atrium was designed with the notion of having urban greenspace accessible to all, and is an example of the application in architecture of environmental psychology.” –Wikipedia (of course)
How do I know of the Ford Foundation’s excellence when it comes to recognizing innovative excellence. In 1981, I worked for then Ford President, the distinguished  Franklin Thomas who also chaired a major Rockefeller Foundation (also good guys) report South Africa: Time Running Out, The Report of the Study Commission on U.S. Policy Toward Southern Africa. http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/35145/jennifer-seymour-whitaker/south-africa-time-running-out. I wrote chapter 13.
Ford has a tradition of distinguished leadership exemplified by McGeorge Bundy, who left Lyndon Johnson’s White House to become Ford’s President.
Today, the President of Ford is Luis Antonio Ubiñas. His official biography notes: “Prior to joining the Ford Foundation, Luis was a director at McKinsey & Company, leading the firm’s media practice on the West Coast. He served technology, telecommunications and media companies, working with them to develop and implement strategies and improve operations. Much of his work focused on the opportunities and challenges represented by the growth of Internet and wireless technologies.”