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Designing buildings for an uncertain future

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Gold Award: Shirley Ryan AbilityLab

Silver Award: Children's Pavilion at Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU

Bronze Award: Indian River Medical Center Scully-Welsh Cancer Center

Environmentally Friendly Award: Meridian Center for Health

All submissions for Modern Healthcare's 2017 Design Awards
Winners of Modern Healthcare's 32nd annual Design Awards are at the forefront of two major industry trends: building flexible spaces that can withstand dramatic changes to the healthcare delivery model and re-connecting patients and their providers to nature in environmentally friendly facilities.

Of the four awards this year, two went to projects that not only incorporated nature into the building's design but also extended the facilities into the outdoors to benefit patients, providers and the greater community—bronze medal-winning Indian River Medical Center Scully-Welsh Cancer Center in Vero Beach, Fla., designed by Array Architects, and the Meridian Center for Health in Seattle, designed by NBBJ, winner of the environmentally friendly award.

All four facilities—including gold medal winner Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago, designed by HDR and Gensler in association with CWa and EGG Office; and silver medal winner Children's Pavilion at Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU, designed by HKS—were built in flexible spaces to accommodate evidence-based care and a future where new approaches have yet to be discovered.

Much of the flexibility comes from buildings' infrastructure, said NBBJ Senior Associate Brian Uyesugi, who served as the lead designer on the Meridian Center for Health. It requires designers and clients to have the foresight to build spaces that will serve as a med-surg room today and an ICU room tomorrow, added design award judge Mary Frazier, principal at New York City-based integrated firm EwingCole.


“You weren't seeing major acute-care facilities that actually won those awards,” said judge Todd Robinson, of Nashville architecture firm ESa. “I think that spoke to the times.”

Newly built cutting-edge specialty facilities require maximum functionality, even as the spaces are transformed to fit into the ever-changing models of care.

“As healthcare policy and reimbursement continue to put a lot of stress on healthcare organizations, organizations are trying to build for the future and aren't sure what that future holds,” said judge Cecilia DeLoach Lynn, director of sector performance and recognition at Practice Greenhealth.

Designers and providers have very little quantitative data of a building's impact on evidence-based care delivery models, although researchers are beginning to track outcomes, said Abigail Clary, HDR principal-in-charge of the AbilityLab, formerly known as the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

An uncertain future also requires facilities that will contribute to environment pollution and devastation as little as possible while improving a health system's return on investment. Design trends such as solar panels, bioswales, downsized HVAC ducts and maximum use of natural light will become standard in the healthcare facilities of the future.

In the meantime, health systems are looking to these trends to boost sustainability while getting patient feedback to improve functionality.

“They're paying more and more attention to who their population is and how the building is situated in the fabric of the community and including the stakeholders, rather than reacting to their needs,” DeLoach Lynn said. “Designers and architects are trying to get a better understanding of their patient population and what's going to work best for them.”

Amanda Eisenberg is a freelance writer based in Montvale, N.J.


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