Students create designs for children's healthcare facility

George Mann

George Mann

Six design proposals for a 153,000 square-foot children’s outpatient health center in historic downtown Richmond, Va., emphasizing ease of access for patients and their families, healing gardens and "green" design principles, were unveiled by Texas A&M senior environmental design students last April at events on campus and at the Dallas offices of HKS Inc., an international design firm.

The fourth-year architecture studio project, led by George J. Mann, holder of the Ronald L. Skaggs Professorship in Health Facilities Design, tasked students to design a children's medical center for site in densely developed downtown Richmond. The facility includes space for labs, diagnostics, research, education and patient registration areas, but unlike a traditional children's hospital with rooms for patients in need of extended recovery, the Richmond center is an ambulatory, or outpatient facility.

"Among the project's objectives, Mann said, "was to provide green space to relieve the surrounding, predominantly concrete cityscape and to integrate the building into the historic downtown district and nearby park space."

The children's healthcare design project was informed by a semester-long lecture series examining "Issues and Trends in the Design of Children’s Health and Hospital Facilities" sponsored by the Texas A&M Center for Health Systems & Design.

Students also gained valuable insight at the Feb. 24­–27 International Summit & Exhibition on Health Facility Planning, Design and Construction in San Francisco, where they attended presentations and viewed exhibits about new trends in health facility design.

Throughout the project, 13 students working in six teams received input and periodic critiques from healthcare practitioners and Texas A&M faculty from a wide variety of disciplines including architecture, public health, medicine, pediatrics, engineering, landscape architecture and urban planning, construction science, visualization and facility management.

The students also gained valuable guidance from design professionals at HKS, Inc., an advisory teaching firm that works closely with the Texas A&M Department of Architecture.

“HKS was pleased to play an integral role in this project,” said Jeff Stouffer, national group director of strategic development for HKS’ healthcare group. “The students’ professional demeanor and creative thought has been inspiring. It was a pleasure to transfer our passion for creating buildings that enhance childrens’ and their families’ lives.”

This studio was designed to prepare students for work at architectural firms by mirroring real-world practices, said Mann, "experience which gives them a competitive edge in the job market."

Collaborating with working professionals on a meaningful project boosted the students' confidence.

“Designing a hospital for children helped us see that we can do what we love while helping many people in the process,” students Rebecca Campbell, Kelsey Mercer and Preston Scott noted in their project summary. “It was a difficult task, but the strong partnership from HKS and healthcare professionals helped tremendously. We learned much more during the collaborative design process than we ever could have working as individuals.”

Though the student teams' design solutions varied, they all include strong nature components.

Sustainability was foremost in the design developed by Silvia N.Izaguirre and Isaura Rodriguez, which incorporated solar energy and a rainwater collection system. Their solution also integrated nature into outdoor and indoor spaces, respected the historic context of downtown Richmond and emphasized health education.

Generous use of public green space defined the design by Caitlin Lee Magill and Katelyn Nunn, who provided a large ground-level portion of the site as an open garden area. Additionally, private outdoor spaces scattered throughout the building, they said, "act as sanctuaries for patients, visitors and employees at the hospital.”

posted April 22, 2013