A Healthcare Haven for Wounded Soldiers

Planetree nature-inspired design principles, sustainability, and a high-quality therapeutic environment all went into the design of the new Audie L. Murphy VA Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center for wounded veterans in San Antonio, Texas.

At 84,000 square feet, the center cost $39.5 million to build. However, the building team—with Robins & Morton as the main contractor and SmithGroupJJR and Marmon Mok teaming up on the design side—actually shaved $3.75 million off the original budget and a full month from the project schedule thanks to an integrated design and construct project delivery approach.

Crediting IDC’s team-based approach as the key to the project delivery method’s main success, Matthew Reiskin, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, associate, project manager, SmithGroupJJR, Washington, D.C., explains that when challenges arose, the team was never distracted by fingerpointing, and could therefore fully focus on finding a solution.

For example, “If the contractor was in a bind, then the A/E reviewed submittals immediately or sketched solutions quickly. If there was a gap in the documentation, the contractor worked with the A/E to fill it in,” Reiskin says. “Overall, there was a high level of trust and a sense of motivation to solve problems and keep the project on schedule.”

As for the design, indirect and accent lighting, bedside lighting controls, high-performance windows, and shades help create a soft, comfortable environment for the patients.

“A connection to the outdoors is made with expansive views to the landscaped courtyard, and windows at the end of corridors,” Reiskin says. In addition, “the public areas have soft material palettes selected from sustainable materials including carpet, wood, and warm colors.

Because the new polytrauma center was an addition to the Audie L. Murphy VA Hospital, site logistics proved to be rather challenging in that the center is a simple bar building that fills a gap in the hospital frontage and enclosed an internal courtyard in the rear, according to Reiskin. In other words, the center was basically wedged in, which required careful planning and material selection to help the center blend in to the existing hospital.

Furthermore, there was no room for laydown and parking on the site, so construction staff and equipment had to be shuttled back and forth to a location a mile away. Similarly, only one delivery truck could be on site at a time, so deliveries had to be carefully coordinated.

Some of the center’s therapeutic highlights include a physical therapy gym with patient lift systems to help patients learn to walk again and a Gait study room where patients walk, run, and jump while a high-tech flooring system provides sophisticated pressure and angle measurements to help evaluate muscle and coordination conditions.

Reflecting upon the project, Reiskin identifies the biggest challenge as “providing a building that gives wounded warriors a sense of hope and that they’re being provided with the best care in the most comfortable surroundings.”

Article taken from Healthcare Design magazine.