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.