UF Health North
Meeting the Healthcare Needs of a Growing Community
-Photo by Ryan Ketterman
Despite a rapidly growing population, North Jacksonville, Florida, was once a medically underserved area, with the closest hospital approximately 10 miles away. In 2006, UF Health Jacksonville determined that building a hospital in this location would provide much-needed medical services and an economic boost to the community, as well as fiscal diversity for the institution.
Leadership originally envisioned the project as a full-service community hospital with access to the sophistication and advanced technology typically found in an academic medical center. That vision transitioned into building a bedless hospital that would ultimately allow for the addition of 300 beds as part of a phased expansion. UF Health solicited GS&P to provide architecture, environmental graphics and wayfinding, interior design, and site design services for the project, with the goal of creating a leading-edge ambulatory care center and medical office complex in phase I, and a full-service inpatient hospital as part of phase II.
“One of the more innovative design concepts that came out of this project was the idea of blending a medical office building with four stories of physician offices with a two-story hospital platform,” says senior architect Brian Schulz. “We made that connectivity as simple as possible so that patients who are visiting their physicians can get a test done in the same building without having to leave. I think it’s a concept we’re going to see more of.”
“One of the main goals throughout the entire building was to make sure the patient knows that we care, and that UF Health cares,” adds Penny Houchens, senior interior designer.
It was clear from the onset that something different, something dramatic and contemporary, was envisioned. UF Health sought a facility that would not only provide innovative medical care, but would do so in a setting that raised the standard for aesthetics and a positive patient experience.
“UF Health was interested in creating a design aesthetic that spoke to the state-of-the-art healthcare they provide to their patients,” explains Schulz. “As part of that goal, we proposed a very contemporary aesthetic and were thrilled they had a strong appetite for this type of design. The large expanses of glazing, the sleek aluminum panels, and some of the bold architectural moves, including the silver ribbon and the spinning forms that rotate on each other, speak to the dynamic state-of-the-art healthcare that UF Health provides.”
Sustainability in Design
Incorporated into the design was a strong objective toward energy and cost savings, with sustainability elements in both material and construction choices. The team found the client to be very aware of that balance, making decisions easier. Schulz explains the process:
“Working from the outside in, we selected low-e insulated glass, which brings in lots of natural daylighting, so we don’t need to use as much artificial lighting on the interior of the building. Glare and solar gain were controlled by adding a printed screen matrix to the west-facing glazing, which was a measure also used with the two stories of glass in the lobby.
“We also dropped light wells down into the interior of the building. So natural light is reaching departments that don’t usually expect to see daylight throughout the day. And that’s good for staff morale as well as wayfinding.”
Other sustainable measures include a publicly accessed roof garden and portions of vegetative green roofing that insulate and protect the roof systems while also reducing the heat island effect.
Along with sustainability measures, the design team took long-term maintenance savings into account.
“We went with no-wax flooring throughout the entire building as well as sheet vinyl and luxury vinyl tiles that are much more durable and lasting,” explains interior designer Carolyn Blake. “A lot of the countertops have solid surfaces instead of plastic laminate, so they’re going to hold up better over time and be much easier to maintain. In terms of cost-saving furnishings, the creation of modular nurse stations allows for reconfiguration over time, so future flexibility is also a benefit there.”
Also facilitating longevity, terrazzo flooring with a 50-year life span was included in the lobby.
Maximizing Staff Efficiency and Satisfaction
Given the hospital’s mandate for fiscal feasibility, the key formula for its success was not only to attract UF Health physicians, but also community physicians not affiliated with the UF Health system.
“They wanted to get at least a 50/50 mix of doctors,” explains Joe Thompson, division vice president of GS&P’s Jacksonville office and principal-in-charge on the project. “In order to get good physician buy-in, the concept was to build the lower two floors as hospital-based and the upper floors as medical office building space. And the doctors loved it. It’s a very attractive part of the facility and why they are now 95-percent full.”
Similar economic and satisfaction goals impelled choices in the nursing staff space. For example, the layout and circulation systems provide protocols that reduce redundancies and increase efficiency, while carving out savings where possible.
“Staffing is the most expensive budget item for a facility, so we looked at maximizing efficiency with the least amount of staff,” says Houchens. “On the first floor, radiology in the emergency department is designed more like a universal care suite. Since their census for the ED is higher on the weekends and after 6 p.m., rooms not being used during quieter times will be reassigned to other departments, with staff being cross-trained, making the building as efficient as possible.”
“That connection between radiology and the ED is critical because of the diagnostic equipment that’s required in both spaces,” adds Schulz. “Instead of duplicating equipment, which is very expensive, diagnostic spaces are put on the boundary between the ED and radiology, so equipment can be used on either side of the line.”
On the second floor, similar flex space between key treatment areas permits logical adaptation of those areas as well, particularly as the construction of the hospital evolves.
As an academic hospital expanding to include a community facility, UF Health North understood that cultural changes would be part of the equation. In seeking to make that transition as seamless as possible, GS&P brought in Soyring Consulting to assist with financial analysis and operational input, as well as engaging UF Health physicians to participate in design meetings and best practices discussions.
Staff satisfaction was further enhanced by the inclusion of a fitness center, large meeting areas, and venues for educational interaction. An abundance of light wells and outside views were incorporated, with stations pulled closer to windows built with transparent elements that allow natural light to flood the central nurse station and support areas.
“Ninety percent of the space has daylight or outside views,” notes Schulz, “so staff always know what time of day it is, and that’s better for their quality of work.”
One of UF Health’s key goals for the project was the integration of technology into the building as well as the overall culture of the facility.
“Technology was one of our main design drivers,” explains Houchens. “The client recognized that accommodating visitors’ and patients’ devices was very important for the user experience, so power is built in to occasional tables and lounge seating throughout the lobby, ED and surgery waiting areas.”
Other technologies include point-of-care registration, information kiosks, and real-time locating systems that can track assets, personnel and patients. Nurse stations feature systems furniture to accommodate changing technology, while furniture in the consultation rooms allows the patient and practitioner to sit side by side to review images on a monitor.
“The facility was designed with a robust infrastructure for future technology,” notes Houchens. “For example, the emergency department and perioperative rooms can accommodate interactive footwalls in the future.”
Healing, in Art and Design
Perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of new medical design is its embrace of “healing art” in response to research showing that patient convenience and comfort is aided by the aesthetics of a medical facility. That philosophy is evidenced by the myriad of choices made at UF Health North. The unique details of the site’s location, adjacent to protected wetlands and waterways, inspired a clean, environmentally sensitive approach to the interior design. Houchens describes the evolution:
“What is special about the area is the marsh—it’s beautiful, with lots of color, and there’s actually some graphic nature to it. We tried to evoke the motion and feeling of that natural space using a balance of textures, colors and artwork that really brought in the environment of the area. The client wanted a high-tech, contemporary building, so we struck a balance between the cold and stark, and the warm and inviting. When you enter in the building, it’s a very welcoming, light and happy place. We worked hard to achieve that.”
GS&P’s interior design employs a crisp, modern look, with richly stained wood, upscale finishes, and warm, textured furniture groupings. Innovative features include color-changing LEDs on a two-story, artfully patterned feature wall, with backlit desks and various other high-tech elements featured in the design.
“The overall statement is of a contemporary, state-of-the-art environment, with intuitive wayfinding and little moments of interest and intimacy throughout,” says Blake.
Phases of Growth
Opened to the public in 2015, phase I encompasses two hospital floors housing emergency, imaging, surgery and support services, as well as four floors of physician office space situated immediately above the hospital floors. Phase II will incorporate the first 92 beds. Phase III will include structure parking and the eventual buildout of 300 beds.
With future construction on the schedule, phase I had to provide a structure that would cohesively connect to future additions without disrupting hospital operations. This was achieved by separating patient and staff circulation.
“The circulation for the public is along the main lobby,” explains Schulz. “We’ve provided a separated staff and patient corridor toward the back that will easily link across a green garden space to the phase II bed tower. We also built in small support spaces in phase I, as well as a delivery dock and materials area that will likely be replaced by a larger dock and materials area in the phase II bed tower.”
The site plan comprises aesthetic features that include a courtyard for outdoor dining, a garden space for family gatherings, and general landscaping design to work in artistic tandem with the design of the building’s interior.
An Economic Cornerstone
When UF Health originally bought the land upon which the new facility resides, it was largely an undeveloped area set along a marsh wetlands with very little nearby development. Since completion, responsive growth has occurred.
“There has definitely been growth of retail and commercial development around this hospital,” says Thompson.
“That represents a good mixture of community wellness and enhanced medical care, which is what a community needs.”
Providing a solution to the critical healthcare needs of Greater Jacksonville’s fastest-growing area has also had the effect of encouraging job growth. Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown announced at the ribbon-cutting ceremony that not only will UF Health North create 350 new healthcare jobs in the city of Jacksonville, but that Volkswagen of America will be moving into the area providing 100 new jobs, with continuing business expansion likely to add to that tally.
Shaping Healthy Lives for Generations to Come
Addressing the acute need for high-quality healthcare in northern Duval County, UF Health North’s six-story, 200,000-square-foot ambulatory care center and MOB creates a fresh, positive image, positioning the facility as the region’s first-choice provider for primary and secondary medical services. Recipient of the IIDA North Florida Biennial Design Award in the “Healthcare Large” category, and an Award of Merit from the Jacksonville chapter of the AIA, the state-of-the-art outpatient medical complex represents one of GS&P’s most successful healthcare designs. As Thompson states: “It’s great architecture, first-class interior design, and medically it’s an excellent facility. The community embraces it, the hospital embraces it, and it will only make more sense as the next phase develops.
“We’ve learned that physician recruitment has been robust, even extending beyond the parameters of Florida,” continues Thompson, “and patient census is higher than expected, with projections of greater growth as the area continues to expand. It’s also being viewed by other healthcare systems to see how it functions and operates—so it’s truly a success story.”
Dr. David Guzick, president of UF Health, expressed similar sentiments about UF Health North’s success at the facility’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“One thing that’s been missing from North Jacksonville until now is a comprehensive medical facility that reinvigorates our commitment to hospitality and service—two imperatives to making each patient’s experience the best that it can be. It brings a renewed sense of partnership between our faculty and the community physicians who will share the space, and it provides a crucial bridge to the services of our main campus if those are needed.
“UF Health North is an important foundation for what we know will become a powerful continuum of healthcare for North Jacksonville and beyond,” concludes Guzick. “The real joy comes in opening a new level of care for our community, shaping healthy lives for North Jacksonville and their families for generations to come.”