How façade design can lead to healthier, more comfortable hospitals

Published: August 14, 2019

ProMedica building, HKS Architects, Kawneer, curtain walls

Recognizing the health benefits of ample daylighting, HKS incorporated two four-season courtyards and curtain wall systems. Sunshades and terracotta-colored baguettes provide shading.

Today’s healthcare projects combine an abundance of natural light without compromising security, accessibility, and efficiency. AIA partner Kawneer explores how architects achieved this balance at facilities in Washington and Ohio.

For a long time, hospitals elicited visions of dark corridors and sterile walls. But like many building types, focus has shifted to designs that reap the health and safety benefits of more daylighting and an open environment.

Façade elements play a crucial role in how those changes are playing out, with integration of more windows and doors, curtain walls, and shading systems to bring in more natural light while still managing the unique challenges of healthcare.

Considerations for façades in creating a healthy and productive environment include:

  • Daylighting: The health effects of exposure to natural lighting are long proven. Architects can combine entrances, windows, curtain walls, overhead glazing, and light shelves to allow light to infiltrate farther into the building and blur the line between indoors and out.
  • Air quality: Along with mechanicals, windows can provide controllable ventilation to improve indoor air quality, which increases comfort.
  • Accessibility: Ensuring accessibility in entry systems includes adequate, clear openings; elimination of obstructions; properly positioned operators; and power assistance.
  • Protection and security: Protecting what’s inside requires thoughtful specification of façade elements. This includes natural surveillance and line of sight that can increase the ability of officials to properly monitor entrances, exits, and parking lots, security hardware, and impact resistance against manmade and natural threats.
  • Energy efficiency and thermal performance: At the same time, today’s healthcare buildings also need to deliver optimum energy performance without compromising aesthetics. Tools for improving efficiencies in the façade include solar shades, which reduce solar heat gain and shade interiors; shades and shadecloths to reduce solar heat gain when needed and/or link into building controls for actuations and automation; light shelves that reflect sunlight deeper into the interior of a building; solar shades with PV; energy-efficient glass that combines coatings and insulation to boost U-values and R-values; and thermal breaks in window, door, and curtain wall framing to improve U-values, prevent energy loss, and help avoid condensation.

Indoor-outdoor connections in Ohio

The health benefits of the natural environment were top of mind for architects at HKS when designing the new ProMedica Health and Wellness Center outside Toledo, Ohio, a 230,000-square-foot, three-story building that includes physician offices, diagnostic testing, and wellness education. The architects wanted to build a high-performing façade that contributed to occupant comfort, allowing for more daylight and views of the outdoors.

The Center features two four-season courtyards that continue the landscape from the exterior to the interior, thereby keeping staff and visitors connected to the outdoors year-round. Inside, the building’s 23 interconnected, standard clinic modules increase connectivity while enabling staff to reach patients more quickly.

An sweeping atrium at the center of the ProMedica building helps flood the interior core with natural light.

The client used curtain wall systems to increase natural daylight and enhance thermal performance. Kawneer's 1600UT System2 curtain wall was structural silicone glazed vertically and captured horizontally, providing a contemporary, high-tech look. The Kawneer curtain wall with custom 3" horizontals handles the weight of the large lites of glass.

Designers also specified custom-engineered outriggers and vertical support plates modified from Kawneer’s Versoleil SunShade; baguettes with a terracotta-like painted finish help with sun shading while adding a unique element and texture to the building.

Healing gardens in Washington

ZGF Architects had similar goals in mind when designing St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor, Washington.

“The natural beauty of the wooded forests surrounding the hospital, and the connection between nature and a patient’s journey from sickness back to health, became key themes in development of the design,” said Allyn Stellmacher, design partner at ZGF. “Concepts such as exploration, silent reflection, moments of pause, and visual connectivity between interior and exterior landscapes emerged as strong design fundamentals. These desired experiences were then translated into a set of design strategies that were applied to interior-exterior relationships.”

The L-shaped building revolves around the landscape and a central healing garden, with additional view gardens tucked around the building perimeter providing glimpses of nature from every possible angle. A two-story public lobby and window wall provide direct views of the healing garden.

A two-story window wall visually connects the St. Anthony's lobby to a healing garden while bringing in ample daylight.

Kawneer’s 2250 IG (Inside Glazed) Curtain Wall and 1600 Wall System2 Curtain Wall allow daylight to reach areas of the hospital that would traditionally be interior or windowless. Additionally, the waiting rooms and emergency department feature full-height glazed panels to provide unobstructed views of the surroundings.

The exterior materials chosen blend the Kawneer curtain wall systems with the landscape through use of contrasting textures of natural stone, wood, concrete, and structural steel columns.

For increased thermal performance, the hospital also features Kawneer’s PG 123 IsoWeb Framing system, a ribbon window and multi-lite punched opening system with preglaze capability. Kawneer’s 350 Medium Stile Entrances and 360 Insulclad Thermal Entrances provide the extra strength needed for a high-volume location as well as the thermal capacity for the wide temperature swings of the Pacific Northwest climate.

With the healthcare sector expected to grow as the U.S. population ages, creative solutions that combine elegant aesthetics with energy efficiency, safety, and occupant comfort will need to continue be top of mind.

To see more façade solutions that keep up with today’s healthcare design trends, visit Kawneer’s Healthcare Solutions portal.

AIA does not sponsor or endorse any enterprise, whether public or private, operated for profit. Further, no AIA officer, director, committee member, or employee, or any of its component organizations in his or her official capacity, is permitted to approve, sponsor, endorse, or do anything that may be deemed or construed to be an approval, sponsorship, or endorsement of any material of construction or any method or manner of handling, using, distributing, or dealing in any material or product.

Image credits

ProMedica building, HKS Architects, Kawneer, curtain walls

Perzel Photography Group

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