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January 21, 2021

New tower makes campus more inviting, improves patient experience, saves energy

  • Patient rooms are organized into “neighborhoods” with care team spaces at the center for efficiency.



    Hospitals support life at its most fragile moments and bear witness to some of the most consequential events in the lives of the community. Yet they are also the underlying foundation of many significant medical and environmental community health measures. This triple-charge of responsibility — the compassionate, the fiscal and the environmental — informed the vision for Project FutureCare at Overlake Medical Center. By elevating patient care, improving the care business and being conscious of the world we all share, the new patient tower establishes high benchmarks in all three realms.

    Construction recently completed at Overlake’s campus in Bellevue, with a five-story, 240,000-square-foot expansion that will see its first patients in early February. The project aligns Overlake’s physical identity with the high quality of care the organization is known to provide — and embodies its mission of “compassionate care for every life we touch.” As the cornerstone piece of a multi-phased campaign that will ultimately transform the patient and family experience on the Eastside, the bed tower modernizes operations, improves the care environment, and is planned for long-term flexibility and resilience.


    Image courtesy NBBJ [enlarge]
    To support healing and create a hospitality-like environment, the new tower’s interiors feature ample daylight and warm wood finishes that modernize the patient experience.

    Like many hospitals, Overlake’s campus was developed in pieces over time, by adding to what already existed when growth was necessary. Consequently, navigation became difficult for guests. To reduce confusion, this tower uses its site placement, daylight, views and landscaping to orient patients, visitors and caregivers, while providing simplified access and circulation. The new tower is positioned to give Overlake an increased presence on the street, while opening up the center of campus for landscaping and a gracious patient arrival experience. A streamlined pedestrian thoroughfare at the front will create a prominent public zone that offers views to landscaped courtyards and link the north and south areas of the campus.


    The tower — which will be the new home for the childbirth center, 114 standardized private patient rooms, a lab and an inpatient pharmacy — modernizes the patient experience through a series of notable design elements. Single-occupancy patient rooms are larger, with en-suite bathrooms to create a more comfortable, private and safe environment. Expanded rooms feature space to accommodate families and visitors, as well as expansive windows that offer daylight and views. Patient rooms are organized into “neighborhoods” with care team spaces at the center to facilitate efficiency, improve visibility for increased patient safety and allow clinicians to spend more time with patients.

    The interior design took cues from Bellevue’s reputation as a “city within a park” — its urban environment surrounded by nature. Along with ample daylight, warm wood finishes are used strategically to create a hospitality-like environment.


    The new tower provides a resilient facility that can serve the community’s current and future needs. Spaces on every floor can adapt to meet evolving service lines. For example, patient units can adjust to different diagnostic needs by changing out equipment, not walls. Some support spaces have the ability to transition from one use to another, such as a rehab gym for orthopedics, or a stress-test room for cardiology.

    Furthermore, the new tower connects to the existing South Tower. Patient types are consolidated on the same floor in both buildings so staff can easily move between the two. Should further space be needed in the future, the tower can expand vertically by three additional stories with minimal disruption or reconfiguration. Moreover, to help ensure the tower is fully operational during emergencies without locking down the entire site, the campus features distinct zones, with a dedicated emergency department on one side of the tower and a regular non-emergency entrance on the other side.


    Health care facilities are some of the most energy-intensive buildings in the world due to their complexity and need to provide uninterrupted care every day of the year. As a result, they use on average much more energy than most other building types. Overlake’s new patient tower makes great progress towards reducing that norm. The tower will consume 68% less energy than the average project of this type in the U.S., making it one of the most energy-efficient health care projects in the country at the time of its design. Key features include a high-performance building envelope, heat recovery systems and automatic temperature adjustments.


    Overlake Medical Center’s, FutureCare serves as a benchmark for hospitals in the Pacific Northwest and indeed the country, with a focus on providing an inviting campus, an improved patient experience, future flexibility and an energy-saving design. It illustrates how wellness, performance and design can come together to improve the wellbeing of patients, their families and staff. By investing in the health of the community through a modern and uplifting tower, Bellevue embraces a new chapter of healing.

    Janet Dugan, a principal in NBBJ’s Seattle office, designs environments that support and enable wellness to empower patients, energize care teams and enhance the financial health of the modern medical center. Jeremiah Powers is a principal in NBBJ’s Seattle office who manages complex health care projects and ensures big-picture client objectives are upheld throughout the process of design and construction.

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