Healthcare and Hurricanes: Building Resilience for Critical Facilities

Nov. 6, 2018

This state-of-the-art medical research facility expands the important work of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. It’s also inside St. Petersburg, Florida’s hurricane storm surge line. Here’s how this innovative research hub ensures calm during the storm.

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital is at the forefront of innovation when it comes to pediatric medicine. Its forward-thinking work stretches beyond medical advances, however.

A strong focus on resilience ensures that the research and education facility’s important work will continue even during a crisis, a design decision that’s becoming increasingly important. The Johns Hopkins research facility is in St. Petersburg, Florida, within the hurricane storm surge line.

(Photo: High-performance glass from YKK allowed HDR’s design team to provide researchers, faculty and fellows with floor-to-ceiling glass despite Florida’s restrictive wind-borne debris requirements. Courtesy of HDR © 2018 Dan Schwalm)

Designing for Resilience

“The storm surge is actually about 2 feet above the first level, so what we decided to do is to move all of the switchgear and critical systems to the second floor as opposed to what’s typically on the first floor,” explains project architect Scott Hughes of HDR.

“Even if the first floor floods, the infrastructure will continue to be up and running. There’s also a biorepository which houses some very critical samples, and it has two different backup systems that are on the second floor. Some additional research that they wanted to protect was placed on top of the building so as not to allow any exterior water intrusion to come close to getting to any of that research,” he continues.

(Photo: The first floors Resident Lounge gives resident physicians their own space to touch down adjacent to learning classrooms. The built-in bench is complemented by movable collaborative furniture, including the Alight Ottoman by Steelcase. Courtesy of HDR © 2018 Dan Schwalm)

The facility boasts an n+1 redundancy on all of the research equipment just like the hospital has even though it’s not a healthcare building, Hughes explains. This extends extra protection to the center’s crucial research and makes things easier for the facilities team, who are used to maintaining backup power systems for the hospital.

It also has floor-to-ceiling glass despite its location in the hurricane zone, which was a design priority to connect the center’s researchers to the campus and community.

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“One of our challenges in Florida is the windborne debris code. In order to meet code, requirements become a lot higher,” Hughes says. “We were able to work with YKK to come up with a system that meets requirements and still maintain floor-to-ceiling glass within the offices.”

Building Community Connections

The facility is designed as a “town center” for the healthcare campus’ academic activities, bringing together treatment teams, education, research and advocacy work for four key Johns Hopkins All Children specialties: neuroscience, cancer, cardiology and neonatology.

(Photo: A long coffee bar is a fitting addition for Level 4’s design driver, Refresh. Colleagues can relax on the Lagunitas Lounge by Coalesse in a comfortable corner or hop onto the Move Stool at the Campfire Big Table, both by Steelcase. Courtesy of HDR © 2018 Dan Schwalm)

Collaboration is the name of the game when it comes to treating, preventing and curing pediatric diseases, and the building is thoughtfully designed to bring researchers, teachers and fellows together in as many ways as possible. Collaborative space is so central to the facility that it literally makes up the center of the building – a collaborative core runs through it horizontally and vertically, flanked by offices and laboratory space to the north and south.

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“We tend to talk about collaborative spaces as destinations. In this building, from very early on in the planning, there was a drive to say ‘Let’s start in the collaborative space. That’s where everything starts, and we’ll move out from there,’” Hughes explains. “The heart of that building is the collaborative and meeting space.”

The design of each floor is inspired by one of six drivers of collaboration: teach, socialize, assemble, refresh, discuss and navigate.

For example, the third floor features a forum stair and several sizes of conference rooms to fit the Assemble theme. The fourth floor’s design driver, Refresh, inspired the inclusion of a larger coffee bar that encourages interaction and socialization in a low-key setting. Each floor also has a primary color for laboratory spaces and a complementary color for offices to orient people as they move through the building.

(Photo: Level 3 includes both lab and office space along with several spaces in the collaboration core that support the design driver of “Assemble,” including a forum stair and several differently sized conference rooms. The custom wood veneer wall houses recessed linear lighting. Courtesy of HDR © 2018 Dan Schwalm)

“We were able to go to an 80-square-foot private office and enlarge the collaboration zones,” says Lori Armstrong Drazek, lead interior designer on the project. “Try to push people not to have the standard size office. If you don’t have a big private office, you can have more public meeting space.”

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(Photo: Private offices were kept at just 80 square feet to maximize the amount of space available for collaborative areas. This one features Tandus's Dot Matrix carpet planks. Courtesy of HDR © 2018 Dan Schwalm)

The design team fused together feedback from HDR’s laboratory, education, workplace and clinical teams to develop a flexible layout concept, which was especially important given that none of the researchers who would later occupy the building had been hired yet.

Plan for flexibility,” Hughes advises. “It was important for us to understand that we didn’t have the researchers on board, and depending on what kind of research would go into the building, things would need to be added later that we couldn’t design for. Having a way to get things to the floors and a good understanding of the way the building works, where we can grow, where we can’t grow and what systems we want to have in the future vs. on day one was an important takeaway from this building.”

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About the Author

Janelle Penny | Editor-in-Chief at BUILDINGS

Janelle Penny has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with a special emphasis on covering facilities management. She aims to deliver practical, actionable content for facilities professionals.

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