Ranked the No. 1 eye hospital for 12 consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute (BPEI) boasts an international reputation as one of the premier providers of eye care in the world. With patient visits tripling in just eight years, BPEI’s Naples, Florida, location was rapidly outgrowing its existing space. To accommodate both current and anticipated patient volumes, the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine|Bascom Palmer Eye Institute partnered with GS&P to design a new two-story, 21,200-square-foot eye clinic and ambulatory surgery center that would support and reflect the client’s culture of retaining internationally acclaimed physicians in every subspecialty in ophthalmology.
“Bascom Palmer’s existing Naples practice, which was in a leased space, was experiencing dramatic growth in patient numbers, and that meant extended wait times,” explains project manager Shauna Carpenter. “In addition, surgeries were either being performed off-site or at the institute’s Miami facility, which was inconvenient for both patients and staff. In response to their growth, the client invested in a 1.5-acre parcel of land just 4 miles north of downtown Naples, with the goal of building their own stand-alone facility that would accommodate the community’s ophthalmology needs while allowing them to improve their service lines and overall level of care.”
Maximizing Square Footage
After completing studies related to the institute’s existing and projected patient volumes, the design team discovered that the property the client had purchased presented a challenge when it came to accommodating the programmed building’s square footage, as well as parking and LEED certification requirements.
“When we began the schematic design, we quickly realized that the client needed more exam rooms, more offices, and subsequently more square footage than they had originally planned for,” explains Carpenter. “Although we initially thought the location was too small for their needs, with some out-of-the-box thinking, we were able to fit the building and all of its programming requirements onto the site.
“To achieve the maximum square footage, we made the footprint of the first floor smaller than the second floor, which created a cantilevered second story. So, where there wasn’t enough physical space on-site for a porte-cochere, the second-story overhang provided a covered drop-off area for patients. This not only gave us the square footage needed, but also created the unique, contemporary look the client was seeking.”
“First impressions mean a lot,” adds principal-in-charge Luis Cano. “If a patient drives up to a building that looks like it was built in the 1970s, even though it might house the world’s finest doctors, that patient is never going to feel that they’re getting the best care possible. Our goal was for the new facility to reflect the cutting-edge technology that’s being used on the inside through the architectural design of the exterior. We wanted it to look 21st century, modern and high-tech, and this building sets the tone before a patient even walks through the door.”
Another way the design team maximized the overall square footage for the distinctive building was by standardizing the facility’s treatment rooms. Carpenter explains:
“We worked with BPEI to bring their standard eye lane design from the medical campus to Naples. By standardizing the eye lane/exam rooms, the practice is now able to utilize the same room for multiple specialities and subspecialties, which helped us save valuable space for other programming needs.”
“The client was also receptive to investing in technology that monitors room usage,” notes Cano. “This allows them to schedule their treatment rooms to the various specialities at different peak times of the day, which means reduced wait times for patients.”
Reaping the Benefits
Along with site limitations, another key challenge for the design team was implementing new building information modeling (BIM) software during the contract documentation phase.
“At the beginning of the project, GS&P introduced Revit, which was a new drafting software to our company at the time,” says Carpenter. “Because it was a new experience for everyone involved, that meant a learning curve—especially when it came to applying a new program to an entire building. However, we quickly learned the BIM process and found that the benefits far outweighed the unknowns by enabling us to minimize conflicts and maximize design coordination with our consultants. For example, our waterproofing consultant was able to review a digital model of the building and run studies for us to make sure water didn’t penetrate through some of the custom details and connections, which can sometimes create the opportunity for water intrusion.”
“We weren’t designing your typical square building,” says Cano. “It was extremely complex, with lots of angles and unusual details that we had to make sure would work. It had to be buildable. Revit and other programs such as Newforma—a document management program that allowed us to quickly make electronic markups—were invaluable tools that greatly enhanced the overall level of communication between the design team and the various project professionals.”
A Patient-Centered Design
Designed to provide a better patient experience, the new state-of-the-art facility accommodates twice the number of on-staff ophthalmologists than its predecessor. It also provides more than six times the amount of clinical space, allowing BPEI to expand the number of clinical research trials offered to patients.
“We worked closely with ophthalmology expert Julio Ripoll, who brought his ophthalmology design and space-planning expertise to the project,” notes Cano. “This partnership was vital in programming a world-class facility and in supporting the level of care that Bascom Palmer is known for both locally and internationally.”
Providing more streamlined services to the southwest Florida community, the long-awaited eye clinic and ambulatory surgery center features 20 standardized eye lane/exam rooms, an imaging suite, optical services, physicians’ offices and a full surgical suite with two operating rooms and associated preparation and recovery areas. The practice also provides clinical space for the treatment of virtually all eye diseases, including macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts and pediatric eye disorders.
GS&P’s patient-centered design includes intuitive reception, registration and lobby areas that blend futuristic and classic design to enhance the visitors’ first impression. A two-story atrium space serves as the main lobby, enabling visitors to easily locate the treatment rooms, nurse station and reception area upon entry. The atrium is fully enclosed in clear glass to maintain an open feel, while the cantilevered design shades the interior and patient-drop-off area.
“Creating a patient-friendly atmosphere was a central focus of the project,” says Carpenter. “We worked closely with the client’s interior design team, and we placed a particular emphasis on aesthetics, lighting, exterior views, seating, furnishings, indoor climate control and accessibility. From the special features in the interior design, including custom sculptural pendant lighting that was inspired by the shape of an eye, to the exteriors that offer views of the surrounding tropical landscape, it all added up to the most comfortable physical environment for the patient as possible.”
A One-of-a-Kind Facility
Opened to the public in 2015, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute’s iconic new Naples’ facility reinforces the client’s role as the country’s leading eye-care organization while supporting their growing presence in southwest Florida. Recipient of the Collier Building Industry Association’s 2015 Sand Dollar Award for Best Healthcare Facility Over $5 million, as well as IIDA South Florida Chapter’s Best of Healthcare Award at its 2016 BRAGG Awards, the leading-edge facility was designed to meet a minimum certification level of LEED Silver status. Sustainable initiatives include low-flow/waterless fixtures, rainwater harvesting, automatic lighting control systems, high-performance mechanical and electrical systems, and water-efficient landscaping. Renewable, sustainable and low-VOC materials were also incorporated into the building's interiors.
“The client inspired and challenged us with creating an eye-catching, iconic building that made people do a double-take as they drove by,” says Cano. “It took a combination of teamwork, coordination, ingenuity and the use of available technology to achieve such an intricate, atypical design that sets a new architectural standard for the community. The feedback and design process were so positive that UM|BPEI approached GS&P to partner with them to design their first international facility, located in Abu Dhabi.”
“With this new facility, we have expanded the institute’s capacity and service lines in the Naples region of the Gulf Coast of Florida,” notes Edward Hengtgen Jr., Assistant Vice President of Facilities Design & Construction at the University of Miami. “We have added new subspecialties, surgical procedures and other treatments not previously available to our West Coast patients. We were looking to create a premiere eye-care destination. GS&P helped us combine our many and varied clinical needs, and our desire for high-end aesthetics and patient care, into a unique, one-of-a-kind facility. This building is a tribute to our exceptional team of Bascom Palmer staff and faculty members who deliver excellent, personalized and compassionate care for each of our patients.”