The new University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Dentistry is part of the Stage II development of the University of Texas Health Science Center Research Park Complex (RPC) located on the South Campus of the Texas Medical Center. The 485,000-square-foot project consisting of three major programs – neurosciences, behavioral and biomedical sciences, and dental research and education — create a hub of cutting-edge research, education and clinical services.
Stage I included the Behavioral and Biomedical Sciences Building, a 153,000-square-foot facility that brings together faculty and students working in the behavioral and psychiatric sciences, health informatics, dental research and stem cell research, which opened in 2010. Other buildings in Phase II include the Denton A. Cooley, M.D. and Ralph C. Cooley, D.D.S. University Life Center and a new central plant.
Organized around a central courtyard, the five-building Research Park Complex (RPC) was designed as an integrated campus for research, clinical care and teaching. Though conceived as separate buildings for various teaching and research disciplines, the complex is intended to appear and operate as a single entity serving as the gateway to the new research campus. A series of connectors link the buildings together with a consistent palette of glass and brick materials to lend continuity without compromising the identity of each.
UT Health School of Dentistry Design Approach
Designed to support the institution’s goals of achieving excellence in education, patient care and research, — the six-story, 296,500 square foot School of Dentistry includes dental clinics, simulation and pre-clinical labs, clinical support labs, a clinical research lab, classrooms, learning resource center, student center, and administrative space. The building stacking divides the building into three zones: patient and public areas on the lower floors, followed by student areas, then faculty and staff areas.
With a focus on flexibility the building organizes the majority of the patient care areas on the first two floors with a connecting two-story lobby and waiting area. Open plan clinics allow for expansion or contraction of the individual clinics and a 20% expansion in class size for both Dental Medicine and Dental Hygiene and an increase in the number of patients. State-of-the-art operatories and simulation labs can accommodate 100 dental medicine and dental hygiene students.
Large enough to accommodate the expanded program, the space incorporates new technology, electronic patient records, cameras, microscopes and more specialized equipment. At the same time they are more efficient, planned to give the doctors, students and patients more room.
Patient care areas include a Diagnostic Center with a radiography suite, a special patient clinic, a fourth year/ dental hygiene clinic and specialty clinics for Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry, undergraduate and graduate clinics for Endodontics, Prosthodontics and Periodontics and a Faculty Practice Clinic.
The third floor accommodates the clinical, simulation and pre-clinical labs that support both the clinics and education components, the Student Center and Central Sterilization. The preclinical/multipurpose spaces include 100+ seat classrooms and lab benches with state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment.
The simulation lab incorporates custom designed stations with state of the art simulation and audiovisual equipment. With new technology, students will use simulation mannequins and virtual patients to learn about and prepare for treating different and complex dental conditions. Students also can observe various procedures through video cameras and other multi-media.
The fourth floor houses fully equipped distance learning classrooms and offices for Academic Affairs, Student and Alumni Affairs and Research and the Learning Commons. Student interaction spaces in corridors allow for alternate learning spaces.
The fifth and sixth floors include the remaining departmental and administrative offices, the Diagnostic Science Lab and the Houston Center for Biomaterials and Biomimetics.
The facility houses some of the industry’s most advanced equipment and education technology, allowing for the highest quality in patient care, research and education and assisting the University in reaching their goal of graduating the best trained dental professionals in the world.
The exterior forms and materials – a mid-rise modernist building in brick and glass — reinforce the sense of campus extending the architectural vocabulary of the other facilities in the Research Park Complex and setting the stage for future development. The interior palette brings the clean contemporary design inside. In the patient reception areas and clinics the neutral backdrop and soft colors and materials of the furnishings create a quiet soothing environment. A brighter color palette enlivens the classroom and labs for the students. Throughout the facility color and architectural elements are used to improve wayfinding for the patients.
--The new multipurpose laboratory will serve as both a preclinical laboratory and a high-tech classroom for presentations.
--The endodontic clinic is the first in the country to have endodontic microscopes in both student and graduate clinics, all with video cameras to enable faculty to monitor patient treatment.
--The School of Dentistry has more than 300 total dental operatories in its clinics and has been designed to add up to 24 additional operatories.
--The school has one of the few school-based clinical settings specifically designed for patients with special needs. The Fondren Foundation Special Patient Clinic provides care for patients with medical, physical and other special needs that impact their dental care.
Sustainable Design Elements
In keeping with the University’s sustainability policy, the building incorporates many sustainable and energy efficiency strategies. The building maximizes a north/south exposure and incorporates high performance glazing and shading devices to take advantage of daylighting and minimize heat gain and glare. The integration of energy efficiency light fixtures, daylight sensors in the dental clinics, daylight occupancy sensors in offices and photocell sensors on exterior lighting helps to reduce lighting loads. Mechanical strategies to reduce energy use include outside air pretreatment units, variable air volume hoods, variable air volume controls on all zones and floor heating water temperature reset pumps for better temperature control. A building envelope that minimizes moisture mitigation, windows that maximize daylighting and the use of durable and low emitting interior materials promote a healthy interior environment. A bioswale filled with vegetation and decorative rock helps to handle stormwater run-off, increases infiltration and groundwater discharge and creates a focal point as it meanders across the northern courtyard.
The Denton A. Cooley, M.D. and Ralph C. Cooley, D.D.S. University Life Center
Adjacent to the new building is UTHealth’s first conference center, The Denton A. Cooley, M.D. and Ralph C. Cooley, D.D.S. University Life Center. The Cooley Center, a 14,000-square-foot conference center, provides classroom and conference space for UTHealth schools and activities. The flexible conference space, the largest space on the new campus, is dividable into six rooms – capable of accommodating dining, seminar, group, large group seating.
Among the generous donors, Denton A. Cooley, M.D., surgeon-in-chief, founder and president emeritus of the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, made a gift to the university in memory of his father, a 1908 alumnus of the dental school.
Long envisioned as the integrating, public space of the campus, the design of the central courtyard was enhanced when overall cost savings achieved on the project were allocated to create a naturalistic outdoor space with a bioswale running through the site. The canopied courtyard is setup for hosting outdoor events for all of the disciplines located at the Research Park Complex.
The design incorporates a number of evidence-based Design (EBD) practices to improve environmental conditions in support of patient privacy, comfort, safety and overall satisfaction. Among the recognized EBD practices included in the design of the School of Dentistry:
--Visual barriers that promote a sense of privacy
--Acoustical considerations to reduce noise
--Reduction of overhead glare from lighting
--Positive distractions such as information monitors in the waiting room or over patient chairs
--Waiting rooms that can accommodate supporting family members
--Good air quality—free from unpleasant odors
--Architecture and signage that promote easy navigation through the facility
--Access to natural light