The Orange County, Calif., community that is served by St. Joseph Hospital is quite different from when the healthcare provider’s first building was built in the 1920s, when it served migrant workers who tended the nearby orange groves. Today NBBJ’s first—and largest—phase of a long-range 30-year master plan reflects the ever-growing complexity of need in the community. A 248,000-square-foot, four-level glass and concrete building houses an expansive main entrance and lobby, 150 patient rooms, 14 operating suites, and substantial support and plant functions.

For the NBBJ team, one of the challenges was finding an “empty chair”—an open site in the hospital complex. “The functions of the old building need to be decanted into a new structure, and this is a complex chess game,” says Christian Carlson, design principal on the project. “Getting the demolition and construction timing right is key.”

The first phase takes its inspiration from the straightforward benevolence of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, the order of nuns that founded the hospital. Tracing their roots back to 17th century France, these Jesuits sisters were tasked to be active missionaries helping those in need.

While on one level the glass curtain wall that wraps most of the structure stands in contrast to the white stucco of the original Mission-style buildings, the design team managed to link the two eras. After meeting his client, the contemporary sisters of St. Joseph, Carlson was so awed by the visionary and worldly attitude of these women that he felt the most meaningful way to bridge old and new was to recall the founding sisters by reproducing their handwritten words on the building. Digitally reproduced, these texts are fritted into the glass curtain wall—and throughout the interior—with ceramic inlays that depict hospital founder Mother Bernard’s handwritten words, including “I pray that you may find light, joy & consolation.”

Overall, the patient center is state of the art: Patients have private rooms, to reduce the transmission of infection, and each room has adjacent areas for families and friends to visit with loved ones. Every patient room has a window which brings nature inside—a key tenet of contemporary healing philosophy. Public spaces likewise promote wellness; a healing garden offers a place for respite, while an elegant scalloped-milk-glass–enclosed main waiting area is filled with natural light.

The hospital does not have LEED certification, but it is fundamentally a green building. As hospitals account for 8 percent of the nation’s energy-use, NBBJ sought to reduce energy consumption. The firm chose energy-efficient Solarban 80 windows, Lutron lighting controls with special sensors, and an energy efficient PVC roofing system. Other green measures include dark sky–compliant exterior lighting, a recycled aluminum curtain wall, low-emitting flooring, and a materials recycling program during construction.

By embracing modern green standards and the latest medical technologies, the hospital is continuing to help the community in a way that espouses the founding sisters’ core values of dignity, service, excellence, and justice.

Project: St. Joseph Hospital Patient Care Center
Location Orange, Calif.
Client St. Joseph Health System
Architect NBBJ
General Contractor McCarthy Building Companies
Engineers KPFF Consulting Engineers; Syska Hennessy Group
Landscape Site Workshop Landscape Architects
Electrical Briggs Electric
Plumbing Pan Pacific Plumbing
Finishes Berger Brothers
HVAC Control Air
Metals The Herrick Co.
Size 248,000 square feet

John Pangrazio, Partner-in-Charge, NBBJ
John Pangrazio, Partner-in-Charge, NBBJ
Christian Carlson, Design Principal, NBBJ
Christian Carlson, Design Principal, NBBJ
Nancy Lim, Project Architect, NBBJ
Nancy Lim, Project Architect, NBBJ

The Spec List


Acoustical ceilings

Woodworks perforated metal ceiling panel in White Maple with a clear finish

Luminous SkyCeiling in Skies and Blossoms
Sky Factory

Vertical Transport

Geared passenger elevators
Otis Elevator


Tribeca broadloom carpet with Lifespan polyurethane backing

Manhattan carpet with Lifespan polyurethane backing

Royal Mosa ceramic tile
United Tile

Glass tile
Ann Sacks


Noraplan Mega rubber sheet flooring in Arctic Ice and Toffee

Vinyl composition tile
Mannington Essentials

Jura Stone in beige and gray
Oregon Tile & Marble

Honed limestone

Portugese limestone in coffee and light


Patient room cabinets


Metal doors

Wood doors
VT Industries


Roofing membrane

Sierra Aluminum

Solarban 80 insulated glass units in clear

Sealed spandrel glass units in #453068 green
Northwest Industries

Angelus Block

Alphaton clay tile façade in natural red

Metal wall system in Silver Gray

Precast concrete pavers
American Hydrotech

Waterproofing membrane
American Hydrotech


19XR Refrigerant Type 134A chiller
Carrier Corp.

VT1 Model Line cooling tower
Baltimore Air Coil

Model 4300, split coupled, vertical in-line centrifugal pumps

Air handlers
Energy Lab

Building control system

CB/LE 200-6006150#ST steam boilers
Cleaver Brooks


Patient room lighting

In-grade uplights

Asymmetric wall washer fixtures
Insight Lighting

RIVA RV360 luminaire

9898MH pole top luminaire

Lighting controls


Interior paint

Interior paint

4 BurkeBase rubber wall base in 209 Gray-Beige


Laminate for millwork and walls

Reception desk and nurses station solid surfacing

Hi-Macs solid surfacing
LG Surfaces

Acryclic panels

Composite Metal Panels
Reno Bond & Alum Plate

Vinyl wallcovering
LBI Boyd

Vinyl wallcovering

Vinyl wallcovering

Block Party upholstery fabric

Almost Natural upholstery in 924 Tyrian
Paul Brayton Designs

C220 upholstery fabric