“As a result of the Southwood project, Kaiser Permanente named GS&P a member of its Preferred Provider program, which opened the door for additional projects like the North Arundel replacement facility,” explains senior architect and principal Brent Hughes. “Kaiser Permanente wanted to make the new facility a community focal point that embodied the core values expressed in their ‘Total Health’ and ‘Thrive’ initiatives. Our overarching objective was to communicate those values on the interior of the building while using the exterior to engage members from the moment they entered the site.”
A Carefully Calibrated Site Plan
Planning for the new medical office building on a vegetated 13-acre site bounded by wetlands, public arterial roads, private streets, utilities and property lines proved to be the project’s biggest challenge.
“Not only did we have to meet zoning requirements that limited our options for siting the building, but we also had to fit a 25,000-square-foot program onto the restricted site,” says architect Corie Baker. “It certainly took some creativity to get the footprint to fit, but the end result worked incredibly well.”
Making the most of limited site space, GS&P’s three-story design efficiently stacks the clinical and retail functions to reduce the building’s footprint while increasing visibility from nearby streets and the adjacent highway. The organization of program elements creates a clean and defined circulation system that supports a patient-friendly environment and provides views to exterior amenities.
The design team also had to contend with parking ratios and the adjacent wetlands’ associated forest conservation regulations.
“Space was so limited that expanding the building by just 60 square feet would have prevented us from meeting Kaiser Permanente’s required parking ratio,” notes architect Adam Smith. “By balancing the competing site and program requirements, we maximized the use of an extremely constrained site. We were also able to preserve 15 percent of the surrounding natural forest by expanding the setback from the adjacent wetlands and making a concerted effort to mitigate disturbance to the north property boundary.”
Further maintaining the site’s natural ecosystem, the design incorporates on-site bioswales for use as stormwater management to avoid runoff into wetland areas.
Designed to be Seen
Despite the site constraints, the property that Kaiser Permanente selected for its new medical office building offered one major advantage—location.
“Kaiser Permanente places a great deal of emphasis on the view of a facility from a distance and on approach,” notes architect Clint Harris. “They purchased this particular property so the building would be visible from as many vantage points as possible—especially the freeway and Quarterfield Road, a secondary thoroughfare that runs close by. We studied various elevations and view corridors along the freeway to make sure drivers would be able to see the facility from those points. These efforts were integral to how we positioned the building and determined its height.
“There aren’t many other medical office buildings in the area, so we wanted this building to stand out as a beacon for the community—something both memorable and identifiable. We want it to catch your eye as you drive by. That’s one of the reasons we selected a metal-clad building type with a wood-grain texture. It stands apart from the local context, and the wood finish also conveys a feeling of warmth that draws people in, giving them a sense that this facility will provide the very best of care.”
The Flexibility to Grow and Adapt
Given the program requirements and limited available square footage, space planning also posed a significant challenge that resulted in some innovative design solutions.
“Because of the small building footprint, we created a layout that allows clinics to share space rather than be isolated,” says Smith. “This increases the efficiencies of the programmable space while giving clinics the support and flexibility to handle varying quantities of patients.”
To provide flexibility for future growth, GS&P incorporated demountable interior partition walls into the design that allow for the adaptation of space as program needs change. The building’s upper stories include 6,000 square feet of reprogrammable floor space.
“The principle behind these demountable walls is they can be easily rearranged for future renovations,” notes interior designer Ashley Wood. “This is an innovation initiative for the Kaiser Permanente mid-Atlantic states region, and became a successful design challenge for our team.”
Comfort through Clarity
As a cornerstone of its brand, Kaiser Permanente embraces the idea of a “Total Health Environment” that comforts members during the entirety of their visit through design and the branding of key experiences. With three floors and nine different clinics, GS&P focused on creating comfort through clarity with intuitive circulation and wayfinding. Entry portals, graphics, directional signage and color-coded walls that denote different functional programs allow users to easily navigate their way through the facility and to their final destination.
“Although the program is only 25,000 square feet, it contains multiple clinics located in different directions,” notes Wood. “We want patients to feel comfortable and at ease when they enter the building without any added stress or confusion from trying to find their way. One way we made wayfinding more intuitive for visitors was by the use of color. We associated each floor level and each clinic with a different color to create a rhythm and a meaning every time you see that certain color.”
“Thrive,” a subset of Kaiser Permanente’s Total Health initiative, focuses on encouraging physical fitness. GS&P incorporated this idea in the facility’s design through the use of wall graphics, color and strategically placed signage.
“Kaiser Permanente does a lot to educate their members about staying healthy,” explains Smith. “One way we helped support their mission was by making the stairs more inviting. We brought them out into the main entrance lobby and made them feel more like a monumental stair and not just a means of egress. The windows, the lighting and the flooring all make the stairway more enticing, and nearby signage encourages users to ‘burn calories, not electricity’ by taking the stairs instead of the elevators."
Going for Gold
Kaiser Permanente North Arundel Medical Center is on track to become the first LEED Gold certified facility in Kaiser Permanente’s mid-Atlantic region. Sustainable features include Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) mechanical systems, 100 percent LED lighting, instantaneous water heaters, occupancy sensors, full energy monitoring reported to Kaiser Permanente’s regional offices, and a more efficient building envelope than the 2015 energy code required.
“With careful planning and client guidance, we drastically improved the facility’s environmental impact by reducing its total water and energy consumption, carbon footprint and demand for construction materials,” says project coordinator Terrance Perdue. “Energy model calculations project the building to perform 36 percent better than AHSRAE 90.1 standards, which is the benchmark for energy consumption building codes across the U.S. Water consumption will be more than 20 percent lower than federal government standards, and regionally sourced materials with high-recycled content and low-VOC emissions will promote a healthy interior environment."
High Performance, High Design
Designed to provide the Baltimore Metropolitan region with vital healthcare services including primary care, obstetrics, pediatrics, optometry, ophthalmology and imaging, the new Kaiser Permanente North Arundel Medical Center is slated to open in the spring of 2017. Celebrating the connection between patient health and the built environment, GS&P’s high-performing, energy-efficient, flexible and identifiable design solution provides a state-of-the-art facility that meets the needs of the client as well as the growing community.
“This project was about creating something for the community that was desperately needed,” says Hughes. “I am incredibly proud of how our team worked within the constraints of one of the last undeveloped properties in the area and delivered a vertical, compact and elegant design solution that will serve the surrounding community as well as Kaiser Permanente’s growing membership.”
“Our goal was to create a space that not only sets a new standard for Kaiser Permanente going forward but also for the region,” says Taj Brown, Senior Medical Architect Planner/Interior Designer at Kaiser Permanente. “Working with the exceptional team at GS&P, we have accomplished this and more. The exterior of the building projects a distinct character and strong presence that captures your attention with a contemporary look that will remain timeless. I believe that once our members and staff have a chance to experience the facility they will be both motivated and inspired by the interior design. I can’t say enough about the positive experience I’ve had working with the entire GS&P team and look forward to working with them on many great projects in the near future.”