2011 Healthcare Environment Awards

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The entries for Contract magazine's 2011 Healthcare Environment Awards were a clear indication that industry practitioners are more heavily focusing on evidence-based design and patient comfort.

Recognizing excellence in healthcare facility design, the annual awards program—co-sponsored by Contract, The Center for Health Design, and Healthcare Design.11—identified seven standout projects in the categories of Acute Care, Ambulatory Care, Long-Term Care/Assisted Living, and Student proposals.


Three winners and four honorable mentions were selected by a jury of architecture and design industry professionals: Rosalyn Cama, FASID, president and principal, CAMA, Inc.; Bobbie Fisch, CID, LEED AP, principal, Tom Eliot Fisch; Randy Guillot, AIA, principal, Cannon Design; and Sue Firestone, founder and chair, sfa design. The judges evaluated the entries on visuals, response to the program statement, partnership between designer and client, and client feedback. "Healthcare is one of the most hotly discussed areas of design today. It is ripe for a multidisciplinary approach," says Guillot. "The designer's role in this process is to be an active participant, if true success is to be achieved. Any design prioritizing process over humanity will fail."


The judges are excited to see what future competitions will bring to the table, as the continuing recession forces more designers to rethink accepted cultures and work around cost limitations. According to Guillot, true success in healthcare design will involve the participation of design professionals from the start, rather than a dressing of the space after the fact. "Challenge your clients to think like this and your potential for true innovation will be there," he says.


A luncheon ceremony with Contract Editor in Chief John Czarnecki on November 15 at the Healthcare Design.11 conference in Nashville will recognize the winners.  Stacy Straczynski



Winning Project: Butaro Hospital, Burera District, Rwanda
Designer: MASS Design Group

Summary: Among all of the award entries, with binder after binder of projects built primarily in the United States, the jurors were stunned to see this project by MASS Design Group. But they were
immediately impressed by the design quality, as well as the scope and execution from programming to construction. The building design clearly enhances delivery of healthcare in this area of Rwanda (see the complete project coverage of Butaro Hospital, page 56). "The completion of a district hospital is an ambitious undertaking in any community, in any country," Fisch says. "It is even more worthy of praise in Rwanda because of the simple, beautiful solution crafted by local workers with local materials. The simplicity and honesty of this project on every level resonated with the all of the judges."


While designing and building in this part of rural Rwanda does not afford the luxury of advanced technology and construction materials and practices that one would have in other parts of the world, Butaro Hospital draws on sound evidence-based design principles. "This project represents evidence-based design in its purest form with a tangible and immediate effect on the users," Guillot says. "The spaces are beautiful and community-focused while promoting a
spirit and environment of well-being that is unique to this part of the world. It is a true balance of regionalism with great design principles."  John Czarnecki


Honorable Mention: University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital, Minneapolis
Designer: Tsoi/Kobus & Associates

Summary: Tasked with creating an environment catered to children, Tsoi/Kobus approached a Parent Advisory Board for input. The result is a six-story building that integrates the hospital's previous 96 in-patient units and pediatric programming. The 231,500-square-foot facility also includes a sedation/observation unit, dialysis unit, pediatric emergency department, surgical suite, as well as a family resource center, gift shop, and underground parking. Colored glazing sets a lighthearted tone on the exterior. Inside, child-friendly design takes the shape of habitat themes—playful graphics depicting "animal storytellers." Different for each floor, they're introduced on elevator lobby walls and then carried out through the rest of the level's surfaces and fixtures. The judges appreciate how "the judicious use of color, pattern, and form create an overall balanced feeling of tranquility and order." Rooms accommodate family and sleepover guests, while two family lounges were added to each floor—one for quiet contemplation, the other for entertainment. Amplatz also addresses efficiency through a decentralized floor plan, arranging patient rooms into six clusters of 24 units, with each cluster having a dedicated team station and medication areas. This plan reduces nurses' walking distances, enabling timely staff response.  Stacy Straczynski


Ambulatory Care Facility

Honorable Mention: Whittier Clinic, Hennepin County Medical Center, Minneapolis
Designer: HGA Architects and Engineers

Summary: Located in a culturally diverse neighborhood, the two-story Whittier Clinic sits on an adapted industrial brownfield that now includes a public plaza and community gardens. HGA designed a modern glass, brick, and metal building to fit the context of the neighborhood's structures, and added a branding twist through a programmable exterior lighting system that displays the hospital's four logo colors in the evenings. These colors continue inside on a two-story focal wall in the lobby and are repeated throughout the facility for aesthetics and wayfinding. "It's a vibrant neighborhood addition that uses contemporary materials with traditional notions. It is as inviting as it is inspiring," the judges say. Clinical spaces are based around a central teaming area where physicians and nurses can efficiently work together and have visual access to all patient rooms in that module. Flexibility is addressed by favoring freestanding and modular furniture, and through shell spaces designed to adapt as the hospital expands. With abundant daylighting, low-flow fixtures, low-VOC finishes, rain gardens, and FSC-certified materials, Whittier earned LEED Silver certification.  Stacy Straczynski


Long-Term Care/Assisted Living

Winning Project: Willson Hospice House, Albany, Georgia
Designer: Perkins+Will

Summary: Featured in Contract (April 2011), this 31,000-square-foot project wowed judges with its authenticity. "The attention to detail shows respect for users and the seamless meshing of architecture and interiors truly blurs the lines" between healthcare, hospitality, and residential, they say. All the traditional hospice functions are implemented into this luxury retreat lodge–type setting, courtesy of Perkins+Will. Designed to shelter the terminally ill in their final days of life, the complex features three house structures with rustic stone walls and wood beams that frame and enhance views to the outdoors; the interiors' earthy tones and extensive use of wood additionally bring the outdoors in. Each of the 18 private rooms (six per house) boast a window-seat bed in addition to the sleep bed, and millwork that not only lends a warm residential feel but also neatly tucks away and conceals medical equipment. All rooms are grouped around a central family living space for dining and interaction. A chapel, sunroom, music room, and children's playroom are onsite. While the project is pending LEED Silver certification, it already lays claim to being the only healthcare facility to obtain a Certified Silver Audubon International Signature Sanctuary designation.  Stacy Straczynski


Honorable Mention: The Leonard Florence Center for Living, Chelsea, Massachusetts
Designer: DiMella Schaffer

Summary: About 100 elderly persons call this 10-unit building home. The residentially inspired center is the country's first multi-story facility that exemplifies Dr. William Thomas's Green House model, which calls for a cultural shift toward community and interaction in nursing homes. Each of the 10 "households" are five-stories tall and approximately 7,000 square feet in area, and contain 10 private apartments, a common living room with fireplace, den, and dining space for up to 16. A chapel, salon/spa, kosher deli, and cafe with garden terraces encourage socializing. To not detract for the center's homey feel, Schaffer discretely integrated into the plan medicine rooms,
nurses' stations, and other service areas. Judges note, "They have tried and succeeded in creating an environment that feels more like a home."  Stacy Straczynski



Winner: Prototype Critical Access Hospital
Designer: Lindsey Wagener, Clemson University (now at LS3P)

Honorable Mention: The Daylight Imperative
Designer: Eva Behringer, Clemson University (now at Cannon Design)

Clemson University's architecture and health program demonstrated its strength with two of its students garnering the two awards in the student category. Lindsey Wagener won top honors and Eva Behringer earned honorable mention. The students entered their masters' thesis projects, which both offer a comprehensive analysis on the importance of daylighting in a wellness setting.

Wagener's "Prototype Critical Access Hospital" is an "ambitious proposal that captured our imagination," judges say, citing its multilayer design that seeks to visually connect with its surrounding landscape while providing a state-of-the-art facility for the underserved residents of rural Edgefield, South Carolina. The Cor-Ten AZP steel and glass exterior is integrated into
the site's sloped landscape via a similarly tilted roof, making the building stand out "as a beacon of public interaction," Wagener details. The 50,000- to 58,000-square-foot hospital houses up to 25 inpatient beds, emergency care, surgery, imaging, rehabilitation, and a pharmacy/lab. The site is meant to be a "health park," and has plenty of trees.


"Research into solid healthcare planning principles is seen throughout'The Daylight Imperative,'" according to the judges. "The scale of spaces and the use of courtyards creates a very organic composition" that calls on designers to create healthier hospitals by means of daylighting strategies, along with other proven sustainable building typologies. Behringer's case study replaces the Perkins+Will-designed three-story Montgomery Hospital in Norristown, Pennsylvania, with a 146-bed community hospital. The overall footprint is divided into smaller
pavilions that create pockets of green space, maximize exterior views, and allow sun penetration from multiple angles. The central courtyard is fully accessible, and a main circulation spine connects all pavilions.bHaving graduated this year, both are currently employed by notable design firms.  Stacy Straczynski