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June 23, 2011

Swedish Issaquah aligns design with patient needs

  • The hospital’s efficient layout is built to shorten waiting times, reduce space requirements, and cut travel distances for patients and staff.


    Swedish Hospital will open the first phase of its new 550,000-square-foot medical campus in Issaquah next month. It will be the first new hospital in King County in 25 years.

    Phase I includes the medical office building, housing primary and specialty care clinics, and the Swedish Cancer Center. The initial phase will also include an emergency room, pharmacy, laboratory and imaging center. A five-story atrium called the Commons will provide food services and eight retail stores.

    The hospital and all of its inpatient services is set to open in the fall, three months ahead of schedule.

    According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers, hospitals spend more on energy per square foot than any other commercial building type. In this project, the design team met the energy-efficiency challenges while recognizing the unique opportunity to design a cohesive campus from the ground up, creating a consumer-friendly facility fitting with the community values.

    By advancing design principles that capitalize on shared spaces for medical staff and patients, breaking down traditional barriers and including central tenets of patient-centered care, the facility creates a new paradigm for community health care.

    Designing shared spaces

    Image by Studio 216 [enlarge]
    The design team used computer simulation models to help create an efficient building envelope.

    The planning process included a series of design meetings to gather ideas for how to achieve the project’s aggressive sustainable and energy-efficiency goals early in the design process. The design team used computer simulation models to assist in creating an efficient building envelope, setting insulation requirements for walls and ceilings, and selecting high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment and lighting systems to maximize energy performance.

    Throughout the design review and construction process, the project team worked to integrate the medical campus into the fabric of Issaquah and relied on community input for the project.

    Health care was once divided into silos. Radiology, surgery and other services treated patients separately. But more and more, multidisciplinary testing and treatment centers provide comprehensive analyses of patients that best diagnose and treat what are often complex problems within service lines.

    To accommodate this, the building was organized around a five-story atrium. A single set of elevators allows outpatients and visitors to easily navigate the space and find their way to both the medical clinics and hospital services. The atrium utilizes an accessible courtyard from the “living room space” facing it. Fifty-four patient rooms also overlook the courtyard and have access to increased natural light and fresh air flow.

    These shared spaces minimize travel distance for patients and staff, help placate patient anxiety by allowing for shorter waiting times, and reduce facility space requirements by maximizing the efficiency of the available area.

    In this way, architectural design can support a model of care that supports patient and staff needs. By creating spaces aligned with this model of care, health care staff skills and abilities are maximized and patients benefit from a more cohesive navigation of care.

    The physical features of a treatment center attuned to the needs of both patients and caregivers can contribute significantly to speeding the recovery process.


    Photo courtesy of CollinsWoerman [enlarge]
    The first phase will have a five-story atrium with food services and eight retail stores.

    One challenge associated with any new building development is the addition of impervious area to the environment created by the addition of paved roads and concrete, which modify the soil surface and decrease water reabsorption into the ground. Keeping this in mind, the building’s footprint was consolidated by stacking “floor plates” within height limitations, thereby reducing the overall building footprint and associated impervious space.

    High-performance glazing, heat-resistant exterior walls (beyond Washington State Energy Code requirements), and external shading were employed on both the medical office building and the hospital to reduce loads and energy consumption of the HVAC systems.

    Community design standards dictated the minimal use of galvanized steel and copper on the exterior of the buildings in order to protect the local aquifer from heavy metal runoff. A large green roof provides additional stormwater holding capacity. All other roofs are light-colored, reducing heat absorption by roofing material and increasing energy efficiency within the buildings.

    A non-institutional feel

    The project focused on the notion of a central, unifying and orienting public space that acts as interface between the medical building and the hospital.

    Joining these two buildings with the Commons reduced the exterior envelope without significantly compromising daylighting or views. Where possible, lighting power density was reduced and occupancy sensors were used to reduce the building lighting demand, further reducing energy consumption.

    The hospital is oriented to get full sun on three sides and a daylight basement — a benefit for staff and patients, as recent research has shown that the human body best recovers from illness in environments that include an abundance of natural lighting.

    Finally, the addition of retail space brings a non-institutional feel to the complex, and an education center is intended to support both hospital- and community-based programs. All of these elements improve the patient healing environment.

    It is our hope that by collaborating with the community and health care professionals we’ve created a facility that not only exceeds sustainability standards so keenly needed in modern buildings, but we’ve also created a space that enables healing for the patients it serves.

    Phil Giuntoli, the leader of CollinsWoerman’s health care sector, has nearly 40 years of experience with programming, designing and managing complex medical projects.

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