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Sarasota Memorial Hospital Bed Tower


[GS&P has] taken this effort further than any other architect has been able to do in the past.

As part of a campus-wide infrastructure redesign, Sarasota Memorial Hospital recognized the need for its new nine-story patient tower to enhance efficiency in patient care and greatly improve the experience for patients and their families. Of primary concern was the difficulty staff and visitors had in navigating the facility. GS&P designed nursing units based on a holistic view of key service adjacencies and interunit interactions, known as platforms of care, and linked the new tower’s upper floors directly with those of the previously disconnected existing towers. Wayfinding was also greatly improved through the design of a new main entry and a new orienting courtyard. The new tower, due to be completed in 2012, will further improve patient care at one of the nation’s leading healthcare providers.

Describe the hospital’s environment and need for GS&P’s services.

Tamara Rice: The majority of the hospital was built in the 1960s and 1980s, and the last major renovation was the addition of the critical care tower in 1992. So it’s an older hospital that hasn’t been able to keep up with the latest and greatest offerings in family-centered, patient-focused care.

What have been your biggest challenges to date, and how have you been able to overcome them?

Bob Berry: The bed tower is part of an overall master facility plan, which Sarasota Memorial has been trying to create for many years now. They tried two or three times with other architecture firms to develop a successful master plan, but they could not accomplish the hospital’s needs within a reasonable budget. So the biggest challenge has been to stay within their budget. They are a public institution and are scrutinized and responsible for being a good steward of public funds. So far, we’ve been able to meet their needs, and have taken this effort further than any other architect has been able to do in the past.

How have you been able to do what other architecture firms have not?

Bob: The biggest thing is not only listening to what they have to say but understanding what their needs really are and applying them in the right measure. I know that sounds very intangible, but the master planning process for the new bed tower is really the key. We very diligently worked with them and offered solutions that they may not have seen in the past.

Community involvement was a large part of the project’s success, correct?

Bob: Absolutely. The hospital did such a great job of working with the community. During the central energy plant portion of the project, they actually brought one of the neighbors in and made office space available in the same area as the planning director’s office so that the individual could observe everything firsthand. As a result, a great level of trust was built between the neighbors and SMH. Even now, as we’re developing the final plans and approvals with the city, county, and various public entities, that trust carries into the reviews by city officials. The groundwork laid by the hospital to include the neighbors in their planning has had a very significant, positive impact.

A key element of a visitor’s experience is proper wayfinding, something that was a major need for this facility. What have you incorporated in the bed tower design to provide these improvements?

Bob: We’re going to create a very strong orientating element with the new main entrance. As visitors approach the new building — under a long canopy similar to an airport — they may choose to enter the hospital either through the new main entrance or the surgery entrance several feet further. The Emergency Care Center (ECC) also has its own identified entrance. Wayfinding will be improved by a new exterior courtyard between the new and existing patient towers. Improved wayfinding will also include new signage inside the facility and also throughout SMH’s off campus locations in the community to provide a consistent, uniform message.

Tamara: Currently when a patient comes in for surgery, she has to find her way around the existing hospital for registration, then find her way over to preadmission testing. It’s a very confusing process. With the new design, surgery patients will go in one door where they will be greeted, registered, and escorted to preadmission testing or up the elevators for surgery. Families will be given a pager and can wait in an open courtyard. Once the patient is ready to leave, the family is paged and everyone exits the same door they came in. In simple terms, patients will always be dropped off and picked up at the same place.

Describe the hospital’s current processes with regard to patient care delivery and GS&P’s proposal to improve their systems of care.

Bob: The new design creates many more private rooms. Instead of traditional semiprivate rooms with very antiquated small spaces, patients will have a more spacious, private environment. We’re also integrating the functionality of platforms of care, which is a concept that groups similar types of care together.

Tamara: Before the redesign, departments were located all over the place. With the new floor structure, for example, women’s services will all be on the same floor. The OB area, mother/baby antepartum, and testing/triage will all be co-located. The NICU will be located directly above labor and delivery and connected with a dedicated elevator within the unit.

Will the nurses’ stations be larger or closer to patient rooms?

Tamara: In the NICU, we’ve provided a nurses’ station between each pair of beds along with larger nurse stations so that nurses can meet and compare information. The new design incorporates the best of both worlds because our experience has been that nurses need both a quiet place to work and a larger space to meet as a team to discuss patient care.

Describe the new bed tower patient rooms.

Tamara: Sarasota is unique in that it has a very seasonal population with many people who live there only during the winter. Because of the fluctuating population, the hospital pursued plan approval from the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) just prior to the code change that would require all private patient rooms. During the off-season, the semiprivate rooms will become highly upgraded rooms where a patient’s family can sleep in the other bed. The semiprivate rooms are also unique in that the patients each have a separate door that they enter, unlike the typical semiprivate room where you enter the room and have to walk past a bed to get to another patient bed. They are really very similar to private rooms but share a bathroom between the two rooms. The new private and semiprivate rooms will be at an angle so patients can look outdoors. All toilet rooms will be accessible, and separate space will be provided within the patients’ rooms for their family members to be involved in their care.

What was the driving force behind the new bed tower design?

Tamara: Sarasota is well known for the Sarasota School of Architecture, a modern regional style of postwar architecture that emerged on Florida’s west coast. We wanted to be sensitive to the surrounding design so it will blend nicely into the community. The lighting, the site work, everything has a greener focus. The materials selected throughout the building create a soothing, spa-like palette.

Describe the use of color and the materials used to create the spa-like environment.

Tamara: The lobby on the first floor is going to make a very big statement for the hospital with beautiful, open, and airy glass-filled spaces, terrazzo flooring, clean, modern finishes, and beautiful lighting. The patient floors will incorporate very simple wood grain finishes, some beige, and natural colors to make it a soothing experience.

This project is scheduled to be completed in 2012. As product costs continue to change, what steps must you take to ensure that all budget needs will be met?

Tamara: Because being good stewards of public funds is so important to us and our client, we must be in constant communication with our partner, Skanska, to stay on top of the budget. We have regular meetings to discuss anything new, which Skanska, in turn, updates so that we always have a running total of prices that have changed since our original estimate. We have to make sure we’re not spending money where we don’t need to spend money so that, in the end, we have a hospital that is going to look nice and be family-focused, but not extravagant. Everything has to have value.

How have you been able to organize such a complex project?

Tamara: We have three separate teams of people in our office working simultaneously on these smaller subprojects. To integrate multiple interior renovation projects and an early-release package with the new bed tower project, we have to constantly coordinate with each other. We utilize much more internal communication than normal. It’s imperative that we know every single little piece and part of this very complicated project.

Bob: The new bed tower is part of several pieces that have to come together for a successful master plan. Although the bed tower is what many are excited about, we have eight different project leaders, all architects, who are responsible for a significant component related to the new bed tower project. I’m very proud of the way each of them has focused on his/her individual pieces of the puzzle and how well each has worked together to coordinate that. And it’s not just these members. It’s our consulting engineers, our environmental graphics team, the contractor, and the owner. Everyone is working very well as a team.

What part of the project do you find the most rewarding?

Bob: I’m working with our client to keep an eye on all the pieces that are happening at the same time, and it’s something to be proud of. The finished product is going to be a very attractive facility. The new front entrance, alone, is going to change the hospital almost completely. Plus, they’ll have state-of-the art patient rooms in the new bed tower. In the end, when it’s all said and done and the process is behind us, I think we’re all going to be very proud of the campus.

Tamara: This is a huge, complex project where we are touching just about every part of the hospital. I’m very proud of being able to manage the scope and complexity of a larger project which has so many little projects that are part of it. The complicated nature of the project, and being able to logistically work it all out, has been very difficult, but rewarding.


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Project Info

  • Client: Sarasota Memorial Hospital
  • Location: Sarasota, FL, USA
  • Market: Healthcare Design
  • Services: Architecture, Engineering, Interior Design, Planning, Construction Engineering and Inspection, Structural Engineering
  • Team:
    • Orlando Lopez-Isa, AIA, LEED AP Principal-in-Charge
    • Matthew G. Harrell, AIA, ACHA, LEED AP Project Manager
    • Tamara Rice, AIA, NCARB, EDAC, LEED AP Project Professional
    • Robert A. Berry, AIA, NCARB Project Professional
    • Gregory J. Wieland, AIA Project Designer
    • Carrie May Kovacs, IIDA, LEED AP Interior Designer
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