Medical Construction & Design

JUL-AUG 2017

Medical Construction & Design (MCD) is the industry's leading source for news and information and reaches all disciplines involved in the healthcare construction and design process.

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All hands on deck In the wake of Hurricane Katrina's devastation in New Orleans, which destroyed the VA medical center, planning began for the replacement facility. The goal: to design a new four-story, 1.6-million-square-foot campus to serve more than 70,000 veterans in a 23-parish catchment area and across the Gulf coast. Building from the ground up gave everyone the opportunity to reimagine what a veterans' hospital should be. To learn about the intricate needs of this specialized patient population, the project team engaged a quantitative psychologist/industrial designer with a focus in disability studies and a clini- cal psychologist. Veterans of diff erent age groups and backgrounds came on board as research participants. Overall, the research eff ort included more than 100 veterans, 180 VA hospital staff from Louisiana (many of whom are veterans themselves), 70 hours of observation and 600 pages of notes. From these immer- sive and interactive facility planning ac- tivities, the design team distilled several major insights that informed the design priorities of the project, which continued through the end of 2011. 2 DESIGN NOTES Color Color cues were designed specifi cally with Louisi- ana veterans' needs in mind. Because colorblind- ness affects veterans in disproportionately high numbers, the color palette predominantly features colors like blue that are more recognizable to the vision impaired. Some colors were chosen to celebrate military service; others, including some sandy or olive-drab hues, were avoided to prevent associations with battleground areas. Furniture Furniture selections and layouts were also deliber- ate. A range of furniture sizes accommodates a variety of body types, and layouts are designed to be fl exible to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. By placing seating arrangements against walls and partitions, patients who suffer from post-traumatic stress have the ability to survey their surroundings, which further reduces anxiety. Veterans have high rates of disability and obesity. So, furniture at the hospital was selected for its stability and extra width, with large armrests that help patients sit and pull themselves up. Concourse A clear, straight path that runs through all parts of the hospital, the concourse simplifi es naviga- tion and limits anxiety-inducing blind corners. Staircases are built straight with no "switch- back" so people can see what's ahead. Courtyards Six major courtyards are strategically located to foster emotional and spiritual well-being and to serve as areas for rest and contemplation. The designers originally planned to use bamboo but were made aware that Vietnam veterans could react badly to that. Instead, the courtyards are fi lled with plants indigenous to New Orleans. Chapels During planning, veterans requested particular attention to the design of the chapels. The main chapel is located near the main entrance to the campus, with a second, smaller chapel near the rehabilitation and transitional-living depart- ments. Both look out onto courtyards and use windows to bring in abundant natural light. Bathrooms Many patients travel more than an hour to reach the hospital, and veterans have a higher incontinence rate than civilians. Bathrooms are designed to be accessible and are lo- cated inside the parking garage and at each of the three main entrances to the hospital. 3 MCDM AG.COM | J U LY/AUGUST 2017 | Medical Construction & Design 39

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