Holistic Approach

By Mary Grauerholz on March 4, 2014

WHR brings sustainability to Stamford Hospital.

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Images courtesy of WHR Architects, ©JMcSwainStudios.com

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Images courtesy of WHR Architects, ©JMcSwainStudios.com

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Images courtesy of WHR Architects, ©JMcSwainStudios.com

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Images courtesy of WHR Architects, ©JMcSwainStudios.com

With their sheer size and nature of the work they do, hospitals are often imposing, anonymous structures that stand apart from the community. When WHR Architects began work on Stamford Hospital, an acute-care facility in Stamford, Connecticut, they set out to turn this notion on its head.

Stamford Hospital Development and Renovation Project

Location: Stamford, Connecticut

Architect: WHR Architects (www.whrarchitects.com)

Square Footage: 636,274 sq. ft.

Project Cost: $450 million

"Hospitals often become like islands; everyone wants to stay away from them because of traditionally what they’ve been. They’ve not been a part of the urban fabric," says Tushar Gupta, the project’s lead designer and a principal of WHR, from the firm’s Houston headquarters. "The hospital needed to open itself to the community."

Through its affiliation with the Planetree Model, the project incorporates a holistic sustainable design approach that recognizes the interdependence between an efficient, healthful environment and the well-being of people. From the beginning, WHR—along with the project’s landscape architects, Dirtworks, PC, and project engineers BR+A—worked with the larger community and the hospital, including a green team of hospital staff who helped guide the transition from a traditional hospital with an aging infrastructure to a state-of-the-art facility with links to two parks and a revitalized neighborhood.

The new 11-story structure—which will include a new emergency department; suites for surgical, cardiovascular, and critical care; and patient care units—will be joined to the original hospital by a concourse.

The project, begun in 2008, caught a tailwind from the hospital’s general development plan, including connections to surrounding parks, the riverside, and the neighboring community. Along with the healthy business environment, Gupta says, the hospital wanted to build on that success "with a healthy physical environment and campus."

The project’s core strategy is indisputably sustainable. The site design incorporates shade trees, native landscaping, green roofs and terraces, as well as stormwater gardens that take advantage of runoff. Bike and pedestrian paths meander through the grounds.

The interior will reflect the same philosophy. "We’re committed to sustainability," Gupta says. Nontoxic low-VOC materials, calming acoustics, and increased ventilation and filtration systems will increase environmental quality and infection control. Massing, reflection, lighting of the building, and landscape elements are designed to protect the livability of neighboring communities and native species.

The project is currently registered with the U.S. Green Building Council under the LEED® rating system and is also incorporating a number of strategies from the Green Guide for Health Care as best practices, such as outdoor places of respite for patients and visitors.

Gupta’s colleague, Sustainable Design Leader Komal Kotwal, says that the project design is expected to result in an energy reduction of 20 percent over baseline. WHR also is expecting an estimated 30-percent reduction in building water usage and a 50-percent reduction in irrigation.

Gupta commends the hospital’s green team with guiding initiatives such as recycling and nontoxic cleaning products. "They really became the shepherds of this effort," he says. "They’re also advocates at the community level."

WHR has several LEED Gold projects under its belt, including the Jersey Shore University Medical Center, in Neptune, New Jersey, which opened in 2009. "That project is where we were able to push the envelope on design," Gupta says. "The Stamford project hopes to take this one step further."

With the involvement of the community, WHR sees the project as much more than an architectural design. "It’s not about the building," Gupta says. "It’s about creating a healthy community and a holistic path to health."