The art of building child-friendly hospital space

Ron Beahn and Alison Rich, from Akron Public Schools, discuss art selections.

Ron Beahn and Alison Rich, from Akron Public Schools, discuss art selections.

Akron Children’s new medical tower will not only serve the healthcare needs of the region’s children, it will continue the hospital’s decades-long tradition of providing an outlet for their creative talents.

When the new building opens in 2015, more than 400 new pieces of colorful, child-friendly art will adorn its walls. The art will match the building’s backyard theme, as well as the related themes of the individual department floors.

Of the total, 250 pieces will be children’s art.

Akron Children’s art consultant, Ron Beahn,  is selecting, framing and installing the children’s art.

A popular watercolorist, Beahn, who curated Goodyear’s $6 million art collection, owns a framing store in Cuyahoga Falls and has been director of the Boston Mills Arts Festival for many years.

As the hospital’s art consultant, he has been responsible for selecting and installing children’s art when expansion, department moves and new pediatrician offices have created a need.

Planning for artwork

Beahn began working with architectural drawings and HKS designer Becky Baumer in August 2013 to develop a plan that defined what art would be needed and the costs.  Once the plan was approved, Beahn sent emails to art teachers at 119 northeast Ohio schools to invite them to participate.

The need to match art to the themes created a challenge for Beahn.

“Teachers enter the school year with a set curriculum dictated by the state,” he said. “You can’t dictate to the schools what you want. It was difficult to go to the teachers and ask for a treehouse painting, for example.”

Although he didn’t exclude any school that couldn’t comply, he’s using the themes as parameters when selecting the art.

“My goal is to take at least one piece of art from every school that made the effort to participate,”Beahn said.

Out of the 119 schools, 55 responded. Beahn has been scheduling visits to the schools to see what the children have created. To date, he’s purchased 65 pieces from 20 schools. High school students whose artwork is selected receive a $50 gift card, while elementary and middle school students get a $25 gift card.

With the building construction ahead of schedule, Beahn is pushing to have all the art in hand by the end of May.

In addition to the children’s art, 150 photographs, reproduced in 16×20 or 30×40 formats, will be installed in theme-appropriate areas of the building.

These photographs will be selected from among those submitted by employees in the Building on the Promise Photo Contest and will have a label identifying the photographer.  Each employee can submit up to 6 entries per theme, with no limit on the number of images that can ultimately be displayed for an individual employee.

Art for outdoor space

Rendering of the outdoor amphitheater

Rendering of the outdoor amphitheater

Outside the new building, 3 areas have been designated for outdoor sculptures. Beahn has reached out to artists in northeast Ohio to request drawings of their concept, a personal bio, an image of their past work, and a cost including installation.

“Materials can be anything from steel to concrete to stone,” said Beahn. “What’s important is how the artist uses the material to capture the vision of the hospital and its mission, while appealing to children and teens.”

As a place for the artists to begin, Beahn shared the landscaper’s vision for the 3 locations:

  • Main entry drop-off and amphitheatre – This space was designed as an opportunity to incorporate colorful and interactive sculpture.
  • Southeast corner of the building at the main lobby – This highly visible space will be suitable for an arrangement of smaller pieces, with the landscaping designed around the art.
  • ED Entry – This space is intended for staff respite, so it can be geared to an older audience.

Beahn and the hospital’s selection committee will make the final decision on the photographs and sculptures.

New building interiors focus on the backyard theme

An abstract sculpture of a hanging tree will be a key interior design feature in the main lobby of the new building.

An abstract sculpture of a hanging tree will be a key interior design feature in the main lobby of the new building.

Colorful, engaging spaces and child-friendly art installations are woven throughout the fabric of Akron Children’s Hospital’s facilities. It’s an important part of the care we provide.

Spaces that make kids feel relaxed and happy, even though they’re in the hospital, can actually help with recovery and ease pain.

It was with this in mind that hospital leadership asked the design team for our 7-story medical tower to look “through the eyes of a child” during the planning process. The result is The Backyard, the new building’s design theme.

Each floor of the new building will represent a different aspect of the backyard, with its own paint, carpet, flooring and graphics to support the theme:

  • 1st Floor Emergency department will represent a puddle, with aqua as the primary color (a cool, calming palette)
  • 3rd Floor Outpatient surgery center will represent a sandbox, with a warm, orange color (a bright, lively palette)
  • 4th Floor High-risk delivery area will represent a garden, with a soothing, yet cheerful color palette
  • 6th Floor NICU will represent a daytime tree house, with green as the primary color (a tranquil, inspiring palette)
  • 7th Floor NICU will represent a nighttime tree house, with the tranquil, inspiring color of raspberry
The new ER space will represent the puddle in The Big Backyard Theme, using aqua as the primary color.

The new ER space will represent the puddle in The Big Backyard Theme, using aqua as the primary color.

When visitors walk off the elevators, they’ll also see large-scale murals representing the appropriate theme for each floor.

Other design considerations: LEED, patient needs, and more

Beyond the art and colors of the theme, the design team had other important considerations.

To achieve LEED Silver certification, the interior design team is avoiding paints with volatile organic compounds (VOC) and ensuring that carpet and flooring adhesives have low VOC levels. They’re also considering ease of maintenance.

“Hospital flooring is traditionally 12” x 12” tiles that need to be stripped and waxed,” said Andrea Sponsel of HKS Architects and one of the interior design team members.  “The new building will have sheet vinyl flooring that requires no wax, reducing fumes and downtime.  The flooring in the patient restrooms will also be a seamless, slip-resistant flooring, eliminating traditional grouted tiles that are harder to maintain.”

The needs of patients and their families have also been top of mind.

“We are designing for different age groups, cultures and demographics, and not just patients,” said Sponsel.  “We want this to be a nice destination for visiting siblings, too.”

Both the main lobby and outpatient surgery center waiting area will have play areas, featuring a backyard fence with peek-a-boo holes.

Orange will be the primary paint color of the outpatient surgery center.

Orange will be the primary paint color of the outpatient surgery center.

The holes will be placed at eye levels appropriate to different ages. When you peer through the holes lower to the ground, for instance, you’ll see graphic and interactive elements aimed at toddlers and preschoolers. The middle will be geared toward the child and young adolescent age groups, and the top will contain teen and adult content.

“Hospital staff saw the design and materials during their team sessions, and the families had input on the design ideas,” Sponsel said. “As the building is enclosed and walls go up, the finishes will start to be applied, with most of the work being completed by the end of 2014.”

Akron Children’s goes green with LEED to build new medical tower

Abstract design features in the future lobby play into the "things familiar" and backyard ideas. The blue wall represents an abstract fence. The design team is also working on large tree sculptures and a ceiling sculpture element to symbolize a tree canopy of leaves.

In the new building, many areas like the lobby will rely on a lot of natural light, one of the things engineered to get LEED certification.

When Akron Children’s new medical building opens in 2015, it will have a LEED for Healthcare Silver certification, reflecting the building’s environmentally-responsible and resource-efficient status.

Started in 1998, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a rating system for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of green buildings, based on potential environmental impacts and human benefits.  Recognizing that buildings in the healthcare industry face different challenges than office buildings and homes, there’s a special LEED for Healthcare.

Chris Mundell

Chris Mundell

“LEED is a volunteer program, not a code.  It provides guidelines,” said Chris Mundell, vice president/sustainable design coordinator at HKS Architects.

According to Mundell,  Akron Children’s intended this to be a LEED building from the earliest planning stages.  In May 2012, a LEED meeting was held with hospital administration, architects, engineers, contractors and trade partners to discuss ways to incorporate sustainable materials, lean principles and energy efficiencies.

Mundell admits that LEED can be a stretch for healthcare design.

“Healthcare facilities are open 24/7, making it difficult to manage energy and water use,” he said. “For example, a medical tower for children requires frequent air changing, which is hard on energy efficiency.”

Another challenge is using less water without impacting infection control.  One solution being considered, according to Mundell, is low-flow toilets and faucets in public restrooms.

“We are trying to be better than conventional healthcare facilities built to code,” said Mundell.  “We have a 15 percent energy reduction goal and a 30 percent water reduction goal.”

Akron Children’s primary focus is to make an impact through design and construction, such as healthier indoor materials, for the benefit of patients and employees, including low emission paints, adhesives, coatings and flooring.

“Sustainable construction materials, like the use of recycled materials, certified wood, and local sourcing of materials when possible, is another area of focus,” Mundell said.

The project teams are also addressing sustainability through more efficient mechanical systems, use of natural light and LED lighting, and adding green spaces where patients and staff can relax.

Although LEED initiatives can sometimes increase construction costs, Mundell stresses that for Akron Children’s the cost has been minimal.

“The necessary documentation of compliance with the requirements of the rating system is extra work and extra money,” he said. “And there are registration and certification fees, but good design decisions shouldn’t cost more.”

Once the building is completed, Akron Children’s will track water and energy use for five years after construction.

“Akron Children’s is still a work in progress. We are trying to create a nice facility that works operationally, but is still sustainable,” Mundell said.  “We can’t do everything, but we are using LEED to guide us.”

From houses to hospitals, architect is living the dream

Norio helps lead a kaizen workshop to design Akron Children's new NICU using small scale models.

Norio helps lead a kaizen workshop to design Akron Children’s new NICU using small scale models.

Norio Tsuchiya has dreamed of being an architect since he was in third grade and his best friend in Ecuador told him that some people design houses for a living.

So in 1991 when the opportunity arose, he made the trek to the United States to pursue his passion. He received his undergraduate degree from Letourneau University in Longview, Texas, and went on to earn his master of architecture at Texas A&M University.

He began his career designing upscale, modern homes, but soon realized he wanted to do more.

Norio Tsuchiya

Norio Tsuchiya

In 2007 he joined HKS Architects, where he began designing healthcare facilities around the country that impacted the lives of hundreds of people. Today, he’s vice president and senior project designer of the Dallas-based firm’s healthcare academic and pediatric team.

“In some ways, it has been way more than I was thinking that I would be doing,” said Tsuchiya, reflecting upon his childhood dream. “I’m still doing things that I love to do − to create beautiful buildings, but [I’m designing] spaces that help people heal and feel better. I can’t ask for more than that.”

Tsuchiya is now digging deep into Akron Children’s Hospital’s $200 million “Building on the Promise” expansion campaign. As lead designer, he led the collaborative effort to design the exterior elements of the medical tower, now under construction.

The exterior design was derived from visioning sessions with Akron Children’s leaders, staff, patient families, and the community.

When family members communicated a desire for individual spaces and lots of natural light in the new neonatal intensive care unit, Tsuchiya and his team were sure to incorporate these aspects into the new building.

HKS Architects and Akron Children's sent 1,000 origami cranes to Hiroshima to be placed at the Children's Peace Monument.

HKS Architects and Akron Children’s sent 1,000 origami cranes to Hiroshima to be placed at the Children’s Peace Monument.

In addition, Akron Children’s Hospital President and CEO Bill Considine expressed interest during these sessions to create an inviting and naturally lit front entrance – not only to offer families comfort when approaching the hospital, but also as a wayfinding tool.

Tsuchiya and his team expanded upon that vision, creating a transparent path illuminated with an innovative lighting system to connect the new parking garage to the tower’s main lobby and then again to the existing hospital’s lobby.

Norio Tsuchiya“The building isn’t just a device to create this aesthetic vision,” said Tsuchiya, who, now that construction is well underway, only steps in to problem-solve if issues arise on how the design is conceived. “We’re trying to let the design communicate some of the ways that the building actually works.”

With a mellow personality and soft-spoken nature, it’s no surprise Tsuchiya is making a name for himself designing healthcare facilities — from children’s hospitals to teaching hospitals — that incorporate calm and relaxing healing environments.

“That sort of attention to the patient experience is what I love about doing architecture in healthcare,” he said. “Everybody thinks that you have to plaster it with color and make it really busy. I think I’m able to temper that urge to go crazy and really consider the experience of everybody.”

Team planning high-risk birth center has 182 collective years of OB experience

Scott Radcliff, of Hasenstab Architects, leads a brainstorming session.

Scott Radcliff, of Hasenstab Architects, leads a brainstorming session.

Last month, Akron Children’s announced that it would dedicate a floor in its new building to high-risk deliveries – a milestone in the hospital’s 123-year history.

This has long been a dream of hospital leaders like President and CEO Bill Considine, as well as the doctors who head up the hospital’s maternal fetal medicine and fetal treatment centers and neonatal intensive care unit.

Now comes the work to make this dream a reality.

Dr. Anand Kantak has long supported the plan to bring high-risk deliveries to Akron Children's as the ideal family-centered care.

Dr. Anand Kantak has long supported the plan to bring high-risk deliveries to Akron Children’s as the ideal family-centered care.

The first steps in planning the new space, which will be on the 4th floor of the medical building already under construction, took place Aug. 5 and 6.

A team of about 20 doctors, nurses, architects, administrators and Lean Six Sigma experts participated in a kaizen (Japanese word for “rapid improvement”) to give key stakeholders a say in how the space is designed.

A high-risk OB patient also participated the first day.

“Delivering babies on our campus may be uncharted territory for us, yet the doctors and nurses in this room have a collective 182 years of experience delivering babies at other hospitals,” said Lisa Aurilio, vice president for patient services and chief nursing officer.

Chief Nursing Officer Lisa Aurilio has also participated in kaizens for the ER and NICU.

Chief Nursing Officer Lisa Aurilio has also participated in kaizens for the ER and NICU.

The plan is to deliver approximately 100 babies per year when prenatal diagnosis determines the baby to be at risk and in need of immediate medical intervention by pediatric surgeons or other specialists upon birth.

This would include babies with congenital heart and neural tube defects, diaphragmatic hernias, and abnormalities that may affect the airway.

The team began by creating a vision statement for the new center. This was done by participants writing responses to prompts like, “I see…”, “I hear…”, “I think…” and “I feel….”

The input of the team members suggest they want to create an environment that's inviting, comfortable and focused on the highest quality of care.

The input of the team members suggest they want to create an environment that’s inviting, comfortable and focused on the highest quality of care.

Each team member was given 5 blue and 5 red dots to place on photos of the interiors of other birthing centers across the country. The exercise indicated the team is partial to soft rather than bright colors.

“They steered away from primary colors and starkness in favor of wood tones, a spa-like feel and interiors that convey home and comfort,” said Sherry Valentine, a project leader for Akron Children’s Mark A. Watson Center for Operations Excellence.

Sherry Valentine, Lean Six Sigma deployment leader, facilitates a group session.

Sherry Valentine, Lean Six Sigma deployment leader, facilitates a group session.

Other activities focused on issues of patient experience and staff work flows.

They looked at the proximity of operating rooms to patient rooms, how many steps doctors and nurses have to walk, storage space, the size and comfort level of the patient rooms, and the various “points of entry” for patients.

While most of these deliveries will be scheduled through maternal fetal medicine, the team also has to plan for the unexpected, including patients arriving via transport, 911 ambulance arrivals, and even the occasional “walk-in” mother-to-be in labor.

Jennie Evans, a registered nurse and medical planner with HKS Architects, offers insight.

Jennie Evans, a registered nurse and medical planner with HKS Architects, offers insight.

The team will make key decisions for the public/shared spaces, such as the waiting rooms, 3 ORs for C-sections, and 6 labor/delivery/recovery/postpartum rooms, which must also flexible enough to become 2 intensive care rooms and an isolation room, if needed.

Several participants talked about how the team “gelled” instantly and how they feel privileged to have a role in a history-making venture for Akron Children’s.

Drs. Melissa Mancuso and Stephen Crane are two of Akron Children's high-risk obstetricians.

Drs. Melissa Mancuso and Stephen Crane are two of Akron Children’s high-risk obstetricians.

“We are all very invested in this,” said Dr. Stephen Crane, director of maternal fetal medicine. “We have dreamed about this for years. It’s the right thing to do for our patients.”

Dr. Melissa Mancuso, co-director of the fetal treatment center, says the ability to perform high-risk deliveries will, over time, enable Akron Children’s to offer new treatment options, such as laser therapy for twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, ex utero intrapartum treatment (EXIT) procedure, fetal therapy for cardiac conduction abnormalities and in utero release of amniotic bands.

“Of course the best reason for doing this is it keeps moms with their babies and keeps families together under one [hospital] roof. You can’t put a value on that,” said Dr. Mancuso.

That’s not to say the process will be easy.

“The most challenging aspect of this for our hospital is thinking beyond babies and children as patients,” said Aurilio. “Now mothers will be our patients as well, and that has implications for everything we do from insurance contracts to medical coding to laboratory procedures.”