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Taking it to the next level

By Andis Robeznieks, Modern Healthcare
September 26, 2011

Healthcare facility designers continue to further develop the concept of a “healing environment,” which includes the use of natural light, views of nature, strategic use of color and the elimination of noise, but the experts who judged the 88 entries in the 26th annual Modern Healthcare Design Awards say new hospitals will have to go way beyond that to stand out.

“I think this year's entries say that's just the baseline,” says Henry Chao, a principal and project designer with the architectural firm HOK, who served as a contest judge for the second consecutive year. “So the question becomes ‘What's next?' Are these entries the last generation of the current way of thinking, or the first generation of the next way of thinking?”

Another judge, Richard Galling, president and chief operating officer of Brookfield, Wis.-based Hammes Company, agrees and also notes how most of the entries were following the principles of the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, better known as LEED.

“Hospitality? Everyone gets that, it's not unique right now,” says Galling, a healthcare architect. “The same with LEED design and environmental sensitivity; it would be unique not to address LEED and be environmentally sensitive.”

Mark Lorenz, who served as a judge and is an associate administrator at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., says he is impressed with how the entries cater to patient and family needs and had an emphasis on efficient staff work flow “built into the design from the beginning.”

“I was impressed by how far the design community has come in the last several years,” Lorenz says. “The design community is listening to and responding to the demands of patients, families and administrators.”

Children's hospitals and cancer treatment centers have been long recognized as being the leaders in the deinstitutionalizing of healthcare facilities (Feb. 25, 2008, p. 52), and this year's competition showed that these two building types continue to push the melding of hospitals and hospitality. Of the 12 projects given awards by the judges, five are children's hospitals and three are oncology facilities—including the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Brooklyn (N.Y.) Infusion Center, which was one of two facilities recognized with the contest's highest honor, the Award of Excellence.

Covering only 7,745 square feet, the Brooklyn Infusion Center was dwarfed by the other Award of Excellence winner, Miami Valley Hospital Heart and Orthopedic Centers, a 485,000-square-foot facility in Dayton, Ohio, which won praise for its open spaces, environmentally friendly and economical construction, and a layout designed to maximize staff efficiency.

Two Honorable Mentions, the next highest award, were given, both to pediatric facilities: the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital in Minneapolis, a 231,500-square-foot facility that opened in March; and Seattle Children's Bellevue (Wash.) Clinic and Surgery Center, an 80,000-square-foot pediatric ambulatory surgical facility completed in July 2010.

While talking about the University of Minnesota project, Galling questions why such excellence has to be confined to pediatric institutions. “I often wonder when I go into a children's hospital why can't we have that type of design in an adult hospital?” he asks. “If I had to spend a particularly long time in a hospital, I'd prefer to do it in a children's hospital.”

Eight projects were recognized with Citation awards: Children's Hospital Los Angeles Marion and John E. Anderson Pavilion; Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Yawkey Center for Cancer Care, Boston; Health First Viera (Fla.) Hospital; Hennepin County Medical Center, Whittier Clinic, Minneapolis; MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital Patient Care Tower, Puyallup, Wash.; Nemours Children's Hospital, Orlando, Fla.; Penn State Hershey (Pa.), Cancer Institute; and Phoenix Children's Hospital Thomas Campus.

The 88 entries were evaluated on design excellence, functional utility, flexibility and response to patients and family by a panel of judges comprising five healthcare architects/designers and three healthcare executives.

Modern Healthcare can be found on the web at www.modernhealthcare.com.