Few things are as daunting for children—and their parents—as going to the hospital to receive medical care. For the Phoenix Children’s Hospital’s (PCH) new 11-story patient tower, designers at the Dallas-based architectural firm HKS offer young patients and their families welcoming distractions through color and movement.
The serene building exterior comes to life at sunset with purple LED lighting that recalls the Arizona desert’s night-blooming cactus flower. Inside, a three-story lobby stirs the imagination with lights in the floor and a wall of “water” created by textured surfaces and flowing, patterned light. Projected colored-light flowers dance on the wall, while fanciful animal sculptures in each elevator lobby and vibrant accents stimulate the senses.
“When you pull up to the front entry, it’s almost magical,” says Bob Martineck, AIA, principal and project manager at HKS. “The children are fascinated by their surroundings as soon as they step into the lobby, which helps alleviate their fear and worry.”
The original proposed hospital master plan called for low buildings spread over the campus, which would have created inefficiencies in patient flow, resource utilization, staff operations, and vehicular traffic. Consolidating services into one 770,000-square-foot tower whose $538 million price tag also included a new plant and parking lots, streamlined these processes while also providing an iconic beacon for PCH and beautiful views to the surrounding mountains and valley.
The facility is oriented on the east–west axis for efficient circulation and daylight harvesting. High-performance glazing and static exterior shades capitalize on the sun’s angles and reduce direct sunlight glare. A two-story opening between the tower’s base and the seven floors of patient beds above creates room for an accessible 5,200-square-foot roof garden that provides a calming outdoor space for families, patients, and staff.
From the outset, Dave Cottle, vice president of planning design and construction for PCH, wanted the project to be sensitive to its environment. Cottle obtained up-front approval from the PCH board for any sustainable measures for the new tower that provided payback within five years. The premium for the hospital’s investment in green measures cost $3.2 million. Using the Green Guide for Health Care as a benchmark, PCH devised its own sustainable strategies including the use of local, low-maintenance materials, low-VOC and recycled products, and flexible design to accommodate planned growth.
Significant energy savings came from the lighting strategy and a state-of-the-art central plant. Houston-based mechanical and electrical consulting firm ccrd pooled resources from its Dallas and Phoenix offices and worked with HKS on modeling software that included all final space finishes, colors, and fixtures to meticulously render lighting levels and avoid overlighting. A combination of daylight, fluorescent, and LED lighting, along with daylight and occupancy sensors, reduced lighting power usage to 0.88 watts per square foot, an approximate 25 percent reduction under the City of Phoenix building energy code that returns approximately $100,000 per year in energy savings.
The team decommissioned a former central plant in stages to maintain continuous hospital operation. Year-round simultaneous heating and cooling are critical in a healthcare environment, and this continuous cycle inspired the team to implement a heat-pump-chiller energy-recovery system. The heat pump recaptures heat normally rejected to the atmosphere during the cooling process and injects it into the water’s heating system for space heating and domestic water. Through the use of the heat-pump compressor, water temperatures of up to 150 degrees are possible. The innovative chiller is sized to run full time, and 94-percent-efficient natural-gas boilers and chillers provide additional backup conditioning when needed. As a result, while the Energy Information Administration’s Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) estimates that a new hospital consumes 225 to 250 kBtu per square foot, PCH operates at 175 kBtu per square foot.
“Compared to a similar-sized conventional facility, the lighting and heat-recovery strategies produce actual annual operational savings of $650,000 in electricity, and heat recovery saves an additional $200,000 in natural gas,” says ccrd principal in charge, president, and CEO Rick Rome. “As an added benefit, this strategy saves nearly 5.5 million gallons in makeup water for the systems each year.”
The PCH tower opened in stages and was fully open by June 2011. Cottle had an independent audit performed to verify the savings and says that the automated system’s real-time data can easily be continuously checked. As a nonprofit, PCH could not take advantage of local utility rebates for solar panels and it didn’t meet the five-year federal payback criteria. Although this precluded them from the current project, the building was designed to easily accommodate solar panels in the future.
ECO-STRUCTURE contributing editor KJ Fields writes about sustainability and design from Portland, Ore.