Cancer Specialists of North Florida - Outpatient Cancer Treatment Facility Prototype
Standing Up to Cancer with a New, Inspiring Image
For more than 30 years, Cancer Specialists of North Florida (CSNF) has provided quality cancer care to the Jacksonville community, including medical oncology, radiation oncology, gynecologic oncology, hematology and diagnostic imaging. With 30 specialists and eleven clinic locations, CSNF is the largest, private, physician-owned group in northeast Florida.
In an effort to create a replicable model for future facilities, CSNF tasked GS&P with designing a new cancer treatment facility prototype that would serve as the group’s new brand standard. The new outpatient archetype needed to improve operational efficiency, and offer an environment that was both comfortable and cutting-edge.
“The client desired a prototype for a large cancer treatment facility as well as a smaller one, so we created two different forms—a 17,000-square-foot facility and a 12,100-square-foot facility,” explains senior architect Joe Bucci. “They weren’t completely identical, but were both very similar in that they were designed with future expansion in mind to accommodate the group’s radiation oncology, medical oncology and diagnostic imaging services.”
Consistent to both facilities were components such as a linear accelerator with the ability to add a second vault, a CT simulator, exam rooms, a procedure room, a laboratory, a modular pharmacy and infusion therapy, along with staff support spaces.
Building a Brand
As CSNF sought to further establish its image in the Jacksonville community, the look and feel of the new prototype was equally as important as its functionality. As senior healthcare principal Skip Yauger explains, coming up with the facility’s exterior design concept became one of the project’s biggest challenges.
“We presented a wide variety of design alternatives to the client until we hit upon something that truly resonated with them,” recalls Yauger. “They were drawn to natural materials—such as stone and wood—and at the same time wanted the design to reflect the high-tech treatment they provided without appearing institutional. So we ended up melding all those elements together.”
“Although the client liked the concept of using wood cladding, they were concerned about associated maintenance costs,” adds Bucci. “After a fair amount of research and discussion, we settled on a durable foam product that looks like wood, and shows a woodgrain texture when stain is applied.”
GS&P’s final design solution for the exterior included stacked stone and faux wood wrapped around structural steel to give the building the look of heavy timber construction without the related costs.
“Another interesting challenge to this exercise is that we weren’t just designing one facility for one location—we were creating a prototype to be replicated on different sites across the region,” says project designer Corie Baker. “How do you ensure that you’re being sensitive to that new site and that new community? Ultimately, it’s about building a brand, organizing around modules of space that can be added to expand the building, and then selecting materials and a scale that will be universally acceptable.”
A New Interior Identity
Once inside, the main waiting area sets the tone for the rest of the prototype. GS&P’s design featured wood-tone laminate, wood-look plank flooring, and wood-plank paneling to tie in the exterior design. GS&P’s interior and exterior designs position CSNF’s new facility model as both sophisticated and personal—juxtaposed goals that served to assure cancer patients they were in the best possible hands for effective, nurturing medical care.
“We wanted patients to walk in and feel confident that this facility and the doctors in it could provide quality care, but without the space looking cold and impersonal,” says Bucci.
“Our goal was to welcome the patient with a feeling of hospitality that starts in the waiting room and extends throughout the building,” adds Baker. “While the facility houses the physicians, chemotherapy and technology that treat cancer, we wanted the environment itself to also be conducive to healing. Views of nature, natural light, and a comforting environment that reduces stress are all components that support the healing process.”
From the main waiting room, glass doors on either side of the reception desk lead to a sub-wait area. This area gives staff a place to temporarily stage patients who are either waiting for test results, waiting to transition into one of the treatment areas, or waiting to set up their next appointment.
“Patient flow was a key component to the design, so the prototype was laid out to allow patients to move through the steps of their treatment in a constant progression with little backtracking or returns to the front waiting room,” explains Bucci. “Keeping patients moving from space to space makes them feel like they are making progress, even when wait times are longer than expected.”
The sub-wait area reduces the required seating in the main waiting area, increases the turnaround time for exam rooms, and minimizes overall steps for both patients and staff. Creating the sub-wait component and exam rooms central to both radiation and medical oncology also enhances flow and operational efficiency while reducing the number of exam rooms required.
Chemotherapy infusion was located in an open space, replete with natural light and views to a butterfly garden that was designed to encourage sociability among patients. Interior finishes replicate natural textures and colors for a warm and soothing ambiance.
“When we walked through their existing facilities, the client mentioned that the majority of their patients didn’t want to be alone during chemotherapy treatment—they wanted to interact with others who were going through the same thing,” notes Baker. “This is why the infusion therapy room, where patients receive chemotherapy over long stretches of time, is one large, well-lit, cheerful area with no partitions or delineation. There’s a private room if they need it, but otherwise patients can talk to each other and see they’re in this together.”
The infusion therapy area is directly connected to the modular pharmacy, a system especially requested by the client. Pharmacy technicians prepare chemotherapy and other drugs for patient treatment in a visible, glass-walled space that contributes to the facility’s high-tech, modern look. Just outside the facility, patients can look through extensive glazing, which is shaded to prevent glare, onto a butterfly garden.
“We proposed a butterfly garden for the area outside the infusion therapy room as a benefit to patient healing,” says Baker. “We used native and drought-tolerant plantings to reduce the need for irrigation, so the garden is not only therapeutic for patients, but is also low-maintenance for the owners.”
Incorporating Sustainable Practices
Like the landscape choices in the butterfly garden, GS&P incorporated passive and active sustainable design best practices into the prototype, starting with orienting the facility on a north-south axis. A large expanse of glazing on the south side brings in daylight, while the roof overhang and light-colored, reflective roofing mitigates unwanted solar heat gain. All exterior glazing is insulated low-e glass to improve thermal performance.
Sustainable features in the new CSNF facilities include clerestory windows along internal corridors that allow more natural light to filter into the building, reducing the need for traditional lighting. Doors along the corridors feature frosted glass to allow daylight to filter into additional spaces. GS&P specified LED lighting for other areas and installed room occupancy sensors, which can be set to automatically turn lighting off when a room is unoccupied.
“The daylight infused throughout the space is key for patient satisfaction as well as energy efficiency,” says Baker. “We also used locally produced steel and concrete, as well as materials with no off-gassing or chemical residues, and durable products that won’t require extensive maintenance or frequent replacement.”
Signaling a new era for Cancer Specialists of North Florida, GS&P’s new prototype design sets the group apart from other providers, supporting CSNF’s goal of establishing a new brand and identity that inspires staff and instills confidence in patients.
“The physicians are truly excited about the new facilities and the enhanced experience they create for the patient,” says Bucci. “In the first year of operation, patient volumes through the smaller AC Skinner facility exceeded the client’s expectations with an average of 35 radiation oncology patients and 45 medical oncology patients a day—that’s more than any of their other facilities.”
Given the increased patient volumes, the client is now investigating additional sites where they can increase their market share in the region. They have also incorporated GS&P’s sub-wait design concept into their existing facilities, reporting improved operational efficiencies.
“The goal of Cancer Specialists of North Florida is to deliver the best possible care for each and every one of their patients, and our design assists them in meeting this goal,” concludes Baker. “It sets a new paradigm for the group, and creates an atmosphere that is comforting to patients and families as they go through some very difficult times.”