"GS&P had completed several successful hospital projects for BayCare Health System in the past,” says Jeff Kuhnhenn, GS&P senior architect and principal-in-charge on the project. “So we already had a strong awareness of who the organization was and what they were about. However, building a hospital and building a workplace are two very different things. So we started out by asking a lot of questions and then actively listening to their responses about what does and doesn’t work for them.”
A large measure of those questions and answers were traded during preliminary visioning sessions—a workplace strategy that aligns goals for the project.
“The visioning sessions really kicked off the whole thing,” explains Kuhnhenn. “The sole purpose of visioning is to build consensus around a common set of ideals that are defined in a common language, so as you move through the process it’s easy to go back and revisit why and how we decided upon something.”
“Those early sessions were a huge part of the development of the project and how we got to where we are today,” adds Jacqui Russo, GS&P senior interior designer. “We initially worked with a core staff of around 25 people—directors, leaders, VPs—who head up all the departments. We took them through those workplace strategy visioning sessions and came out with a lot of key information that gave us the guiding principles for the design.”
Guiding principles established during these fundamental working sessions included the need to foster collaboration between employees via an open, effective workspace. It was also determined that the new corporate headquarters should convey a sense of permanence and reliability, as well as embody BayCare’s brand and culture.
“The client was involved from the very beginning in developing these guiding principles,” reflects Russo, “and I think that’s why they’re more passionate about this project than perhaps a client who hasn’t been involved in this process. They really wanted to get the right functioning program fulfilled, and they have a genuine sense of ownership in the project as a whole.”
Once fully developed, the final workplace strategy provided an informed blueprint and design criteria for the new campus that pragmatically aligned with BCHS’ mission and organizational goals.
Location, Location, Location
With 300,000 square feet of office space schematically designed, a site large enough to accommodate the two three-story buildings would be required. BayCare ultimately decided upon a 40-acre site in its home base of Clearwater, Florida. Conveniently located between the central business districts of Tampa and St. Petersburg, the site would not only afford the organization ample room to grow, but it would also allow BayCare to engage with and contribute to the surrounding community.
“One of the challenges with suburban sites is they are often remote from other needs,” says Kuhnhenn. “This particular site is right in the middle of a mixture of all kinds of different uses, from single- and multi-family homes to recreational facilities and churches, and it’s an appropriate neighborhood for this kind of development. The site works for the scale of the buildings, and it’s also fitting because BayCare’s mission is all about community health. It makes perfect sense for them to be located squarely within a living community.”
In spite of its obvious advantages, the site’s natural depressions and general soil quality presented the design team with some unique geotechnical challenges.
“The site had never really been developed and was formerly used as a borrow pit for the construction of an adjacent land bridge,” explains Kuhnhenn. “Between the condition of the soil and the site’s natural geology, we had limited options for how we could orient the buildings.”
“There was also a lot of vegetation in the soil, which can swell and shrink based on rainfall,” adds Eric Bearden, GS&P senior architect and project team member. “So you have to mitigate that to get a solid surface to build upon.”
Working with the site’s natural stormwater flows, along with the placement of the buildings, the design team devised a solution that fit BayCare’s desire to project an institutional image while avoiding geotechnical challenges below grade.
“What we eventually ended up with was some minor gyrations with the angle between the buildings,” says Kuhnhenn. “We moved them north and south, then east and west, until we finally found the optimal location.”
A Sense of Permanence
In addition to consolidating administrative spaces, an important mission for the new headquarters was to imbue the organization with a sense of institutional longevity. To achieve this, the design team relied upon pure geometries and vertical rhythms that reference historic civic structures while serving the vital function of providing shade.
“We decided to go with a design that affected a smart, corporate feel,” says Kuhnhenn. “We eliminated horizontal overhangs in favor of a lot of verticality. The main entry is basically a three-story archway into the building that gives people their first impression of the BayCare Health System, and this aligned with the message they wanted to convey going forward, which was a sense of permanence and maturity.
“BayCare was founded in 1997, and in a relatively short period of time they’ve grown into a chain of hospitals and outpatient facilities with close to 20,000 employees. With this new headquarters, they’re essentially planting a flag that says they’re a mature organization with well-thought-out processes and methodologies, and when you come to work for them you’re becoming a part of that. I think that’s why the more mature, corporate look was appealing to the administration. They really wanted to put down roots and build a sense of permanence.”
It was also pivotal to BayCare that the new facility represent its brand and culture, not just to the outside world, but also to the thousands of hospital and clinic-based employees who will attend orientation and training programs within the building.
“The openness and transparency of the design clearly exemplifies BayCare’s culture,” says Russo. “They want to be welcoming to the community, and when you enter into the main lobby area that message is clearly spoken there. The two-story space has their branding weaved throughout the design, including their core values, which are prominently featured.”
“We also worked with their marketing group to brand the four corridors that run off the main lobby area,” adds Alyson Mandeville, GS&P interior designer and project team member. “We branded each of those corridors with colors, as well as the locations that the BayCare system represents.”
Designed with the visiting employee in mind, the main lobby features a monumental stair and glass walls on the second level that provide a visual connection between visiting team members and the on-site administrative staff who support them.
“As people go about their daily business on the upper two floors of the building, we wanted them to have periodic connections down to the lobby space,” says Kuhnhenn. “Visitors to the building are primarily people who work for BayCare, such as team members who come in for training. We wanted to avoid the out-of-sight, out-of-mind tendency as much as possible. If you never see these people then you may forget why the administration exists. And it doesn’t exist for its own sake. It exists to support all the team members who are on the front lines of the hospitals.”
Functional, Smart and Efficient
Another guiding principle established during early visioning sessions called for the design of the new campus to place an emphasis on functional, smart, efficient and forward-looking concepts in order to maximize value for the not-for-profit organization.
“It was imperative that we deliver a smart, thoughtful design solution that respects both BayCare’s mission and stakeholders by being sensitive to cost,” stresses Kuhnhenn. “Our job was to avoid frivolity, focus on the value-added and give them a first-class facility. Where there are components of the building that go the extra step, they exist for a very specific reason, such as the exterior sun shading, which not only adds to the building’s character but also to its energy efficiency.”
On the phase-one building’s east and west exteriors, sun shading comprised of three-story vertical fins protect employees from Tampa’s intense morning and afternoon sun. Facades with more southern exposure are protected by horizontal screens that provide shade, as well as reflect light into the open office spaces. Strategies such as these, combined with the efficient use of glass and a central energy plant, resulted in buildings that are more than 60 percent more energy efficient than the average Tampa building.
“We decided this building was not going to be more than 40 percent glass, and that was the process we used moving forward,” explains Kuhnhenn. “It was vital that we had just enough glass to benefit from daylighting, but not so much glass that we’d start to see the detriment of heat gain. We could have wrapped the whole structure in glass, but the responsible management of glazing, along with the use of shading treatments, really helped control both heat and cost.”
Another key theme for maximizing value and employing forward-thinking strategies became fostering employee interaction. By grouping the majority of shared amenities at the center of each floor, the design team determined that a more appealing café/break area that balanced private spaces with collaborative workspaces could be generated. Conference rooms and private offices run along the perimeter of the centralized space, while café tables and casual seating provide an area for meetings and impromptu discussions and allow employees to work on their computers away from their desks. Materials that can be easily changed, such as carpet tiles and paint, are accented with shades of coral, green and turquoise, echoing the local flora, fauna and water, to create an interior that harmonizes with its natural setting while reflecting the essence of the organization.
Further augmenting employee interaction, a circular 6,500-square-foot dining hall connects both buildings and doubles as a special events venue for fundraisers and other programs. It’s curving, crescent-shaped walls, soffits and patterns create a less formal, more dynamic space to encourage a sense of community.
But perhaps at the heart of BayCare’s decision to move forward with such a large-scale amalgamation was its need for a more efficient and collaborative workspace.
“With this first phase, we have a three-story building at 50,000 square feet per floor that will be filled with people who are coming in from all these other offices that make up training, administration, marketing, legal, finance, managed care and quality assurance,” explains Russo. “Some of the employees have worked together in leased office space, but others have been segregated because there was no real estate for them to be together, so it’s going to be an immense culture change.”
“And we had to design spaces in which departments could efficiently work and adapt to this culture change,” adds Mandeville. “We strategically positioned the offices so that we’ve got large expanses of exterior windows facing open office environments, and private offices that look out over those workstation areas. We worked very hard with all of the departments to try to assess their needs and design a layout that not only fits their needs, but also makes them feel comfortable.”
“The plan for flexibility was also really important,” stresses Russo. “Wherever we had extra space, we added open workstations or meeting rooms. Those spaces were designed on a standard footprint so that you could easily throw up a wall and have two offices, or take out a wall and have a conference room.”
With its first wave of employees relocating to the phase-one building by the end of 2013, BCHS is poised for a brand new era that infuses the growing corporation with a true sense of permanence and ownership.
“When you transition from disseminated rental office properties into a beautiful, two-building campus that you own, that says quality and commitment and that you plan to be there for a long time,” says Russo. “And there are moments in the building that speak volumes as far as the quality of the design, which aligns with the quality of care that the organization gives back to the community.”
“This major consolidation marks the end of silos for BayCare,” adds Kuhnhenn. “I think you’ll see education improve, and internally the organization will be able to get things done a whole lot faster. The idea that you design based on promoting interaction is something that we advocate in a lot of corporate facilities, and it’s a natural fit for BayCare. At the end of the day, it will result in a far more unified culture.”