The ‘Care’ in Healthcare: A Human Perspective On the Spaces We Design

By Jennifer Beggs, Intern Architect

On a daily basis, HDR’s architects and engineers model buildings on their computers, calculate fire ratings, design signage, measure travel distances, coordinate ceiling heights, and so much more. We think about buildings in terms of their setbacks, height requirements, structure, and compliance to laws. Specifically in healthcare design, we strive to shorten a nurse’s travel time, provide efficiency in department layouts, and add windows to patient rooms, for example.

Have you ever considered that these buildings may be the last spaces that a person sees?

In mid-April, I attended the Hospice Palliative Care Ontario (HPCO) conference in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada. Most of the attendees were nurses, doctors, care providers, and personal support workers who work alongside dying patients. As peculiar as it may sound for an intern architect to attend a conference on palliative care, I gained a unique perspective on the types of events that go on within the spaces that we work on every day.

Dying is not fundamentally a medical event; it’s a social event that happens within a family and a community. The journey that a person goes through at the end of his or her life often involves friends, family members, and medical staff. From listening to stories and experiences shared by those who work with the dying every day at this conference, it became apparent to me that what people value the most near the end of life is to be with people who will listen to them, who will read to them, and who will talk with them. That’s because they are facing the terrifying reality that they will soon take their last breath. They begin to grieve the loss of what they will never achieve and face the reality of the goals that they will never accomplish.

Above all else, they merely want to feel comfortable during their last days. Often the hospital or hospice facility will be the last place they will ever visit before they close their eyes for the final time. What do they see? How does the space make them feel? What are they surrounded by?

“Where we die is a key part in how we die”(Allison Killing, architect and urban designer). Of course, most people prefer to die at home, but this often isn’t suitable for medical reasons. So they are brought to a place that has unfamiliar views, materials, sounds, and people—the  spaces that HDR works on every day.

Hospital walls witness some of life’s greatest joys, as well as deep sadness. Hospitals are where many take their first breath, and others take their last. So many life-changing events take place within the walls that our architects and engineers design. Consequently, architecture plays a fundamental role in the process of dying.

The dying are still living. When people do not have much left to give to their life, they tend to soak in as much as they can in the time they have left. This often happens in healthcare facilities, which is why our work at HDR is so important.

“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower” (Alexander Den Heijer, author).

Looking for more posts like this? Check out HDR’s blog, BLiNK, written by employees at HDR. Our bloggers represent offices from around the world and write about topics of importance to the architecture and design profession.



Teck Acute Care Centre celebrates another milestone

The Teck Acute Care Centre at BC Children’s and BC Women’s Hospital has celebrated another milestone – the hospital held its topping off ceremony earlier this month! With the building now complete from foundation to roof, the Honourable Terry Lake, Minister of Health, and David Podmore, chair of the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation Board of Directors, visited the site to count down to a special banner reveal.

Our count down continues as we work towards completion in late Fall 2017!

The new Acute Care Centre will include an emergency department, inpatient units, paediatric intensive care, medical imaging, haematology/oncology and procedural suites. In addition, the facility will include a high-risk labour and delivery suite, and a neo-natal intensive care unit. The design has been through an intensive collaborative process, involving mock ups and consultation with hospital staff, as seen in this video.



Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence named the most sustainable post-secondary building in Canada

The LEED Platinum Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation was named the most sustainable post-secondary building in Canada, according to Corporate Knights Magazine’s 2016 Green Building Review. The building received Gold (first place) in the university and college buildings category. Okanagan College has issued a press release describing the honour in more detail.

The building, located in Penticton, BC, became the first of its size in the region to achieve LEED Platinum certification in June 2015.

HDR’s Bridgepoint Hospital in Toronto also received recognition, achieving Bronze in the Hospitals category.



HDR | CEI enters ‘Mt. Venture’ in the PlayHouzz 2016 Competition

A team of clever staff here at HDR | CEI have designed an entry for Houzz’s PlayHouzz competition. The competition, held by Houzz and the American Institute of Architects, is a charitable playhouse design contest and showcase. This year’s theme is “Adventure”, and they’re looking for innovative playhouse design entries that inspire a sense of imaginative play.

In response, Jorge, Will and Riley have designed Mt. Venture. Here is how they describe the inspiration that led to their creative design:

Conquering nature’s greatest peaks is one of life’s greatest adventures. Mt. Venture invites children to experience the thrill of climbing a mountain, encouraging them to play and explore. Once they reach the top, the little mountaineers will be rewarded with a stunning view and a fun ride down a spiral tube slide.

There are a few ways to conquer Mt. Venture: Mountain Climbing, Cave Exploring, and Rope Climbing. Each path offers a unique challenge that develops motor skills while fostering imaginations. The cave under the mountain provides a gathering space to rest and share stories and a small garden serves as an interactive connection to nature. 

Go see it for yourself! You can view the full entry here in the PlayHouzz Showcase. Be sure to give it a ‘Like’ to vote. Voting is open until 5 p.m. PST on Thursday, April 21.

Good luck, team!



Interior Heart and Surgical Centre’s Fourth Floor Perinatal Unit Now Open

Designed by HDR | CEI, the second phase of the Interior Heart and Surgical Centre supports maternal health in B.C.’s Interior

KELOWNA, BC—With the completion and opening of a new perinatal unit, the Interior Heart and Surgical Centre in Kelowna, BC is now fully operational.

Designed by HDR | CEI Architecture Associates, the unit includes 17 inpatient beds, with five private labour and delivery rooms, a specialized neonatal intensive care unit, a new surgical suite for Caesarean and multiple birth deliveries, and private and semi-private post-partum rooms.

Mothers and babies moved into the Perinatal Unit, which occupies the entire fourth floor of the IHSC, from the adjacent Kelowna General Hospital last weekend. Several babies were born within hours of the move. The unit’s location in the IHSC provides close access to physicians who can perform urgent C-section deliveries, improving patient care when it’s needed most.

“This is an important facility that will support the health of new and expecting mothers and babies in the Interior of B.C., and we’re pleased to see it open and operating,” said Bill Locking, senior vice president of HDR | CEI.

The Perinatal Unit is the second and final phase of the IHSC’s development. The first phase, involving the base building and interiors for the first three floors, opened to the public in September 2015. That phase was designed by HDR | CEI and HOK Architects in joint venture, built by PCL Constructors, and led by Plenary Health.

The IHSC facility houses an advanced cardiac surgery program that supports an estimated 600 open-heart surgery procedures each year. The first two floors include private pre-operation and post-operation day surgery bays, family rooms, a cardiac surgery ICU, 15 operating rooms including two for cardiac operations, and advanced medical imaging equipment to support minimally invasive surgery. The third floor features a medical device reprocessing department.

The building was designed using the latest evidence-based design principles, and is targeting LEED Gold standards. Wood is featured in the exterior wall cladding and in the canopy and soffits, and used extensively for interior decorative elements. The use of wood promotes a warm and natural aesthetic that supports the form and function of the Interior Heart and Surgical Centre as a facility dedicated to healing.

© Sunny Jhooty

© Sunny Jhooty




New Residential Development Approved at 989 Johnson Street


A new residential development planned at 989 Johnson Street received unanimous approval from the Victoria City Council. Two residential towers, 15 and 17 storeys, will soon be built at the corner of Johnson and Vancouver streets in downtown Victoria, BC.

The 180,000 square-foot development with include ground-floor commercial space and 209 residential units with underground parking.

Ground-breaking is expected to take place at the beginning of August, and is anticipated to take two years.

The Victoria Times Colonist reported on the new development. Find the whole story here.



The Importance of Community


By Mary Chow

A question we often ask a new client before starting to design a community, recreation or sports centre is “What does success look like to you on this project?” Along with answers about meeting budgets and timelines, when you finally get to the heart of why the project is being built in the first place, more often than not the answer is “community”.

What does that mean?

For our clients it means a place that will enrich lives, a place to discover new interests, a place to find and make new friends, a place that will meet a need that is missing from the lives of the people in the community.

For me, the word gives real meaning to my work. My client is not the project manager sitting on the other side of the table at meetings. It’s the stay-at-home mother who is looking for relief from her day, a distraction for her child. It’s the senior who often doesn’t make lunch, but will go to his local community centre for a hot nutritious meal. It’s the youth looking for a place away from home to connect, relax, or to do homework. It’s men and woman looking for a way to keep fit or a place to learn something new.

It makes me want to do a good job.

For me, it’s also about extending the idea of “community” into my workplace. The building we create is a result of a community of participants. Each person contributes to the overall whole; without them, the building may be completed, but will never reach the level of excellence that we anticipate.

For the design, it means infusing community into the project by creating spaces for the community. Spaces not just for specific program elements, but spaces for interaction and to just “be”.

Our best projects are elastic from the start. They begin with inviting the community—a range of key stakeholders that have a real vested interest in the project—to contribute. These stakeholders are representatives from the neighbourhood, from sports groups, accessibility groups, seniors, youth, new immigrants; essentially any key group that would benefit from the project. But the project needs to stay elastic with our teams to ultimately allow room to change and to become better as each person contributes something worthwhile.

You know when you’ve reached your goal when the best day is the long awaited for opening day. When the community comes to experience their community centre. Where the number of people who enter the front doors exceeds everyone’s expectations and it’s when you really understand how many people have long waited for this place to become theirs.

Looking for more posts like this? Check out HDR’s blog, BLiNK, written by employees at HDR. Our bloggers represent offices from around the world and write about topics of importance to the architecture and design profession.



980 Howe open for business in downtown Vancouver

980 Howe_24

The new Manulife Office Tower in downtown Vancouver at 980 Howe had its grand opening just a few weeks ago.

Designed by HDR | CEI Architecture Associates and Endall Elliot Associates, the highly sustainable 16-storey building is a model of clean, contemporary office design. The facility provides 245,000 square feet of leasable office space in downtown Vancouver.

Elegant contemporary design
“The client challenged us to create an all-glass curtain wall building,” said Alan Endall, architect and principal with Endall Elliot Associates.

The design team wasn’t sure that was possible at first, as an all-glass curtain wall structure would have a hard time achieving the energy efficiency standards required for the project, which is targeting LEED Gold.

“The team responded with an all-glass design that incorporates innovative features to reduce solar heat gain and ensure energy efficiency, while preserving transparency and a sense of openness,” said John Scott, Vice President of HDR | CEI.

A limited material palette and a subtle layering of light colours and textures helps the building achieve a simple, almost minimalist expression that contrasts with the more heavily articulated and solid buildings in the neighbourhood.

980 Howe_01

Sustainable features abound
The design uses a triple-glazed curtain wall throughout the structure. Triple-glazing—essentially three panes of glass separated by argon gas—offers better insulation than the more common double-glazing. It also provides additional surfaces for low-e coating, which prevents interior heat loss and mitigates solar heat gain.

To address how light and shadow affect the building, the design team studied the position of the sun at different times of the day and during each season. This led to the use of ceramic frit patterns—ceramic baked onto the glass—with subtle variations in glass colour and patterning on the four orientations of the building to address the different amount of sun and shadow that each frontage gets.

The design team used a highly transparent low-iron glass on lower floors of the Howe Street facade, since that face tends to be in the shade and solar gain is not as much of an issue.

“It was another way that we were able to vary the appearance of the all-glass building along that frontage,” noted Endall.

Continuing the minimalist theme, interior finishes are kept simple, with white marble on columns and walls, granite paving, and wood introduced in the ceiling to help create warmth in the lobby.

“The entrance lobby is an important aspect of the interiors,” said Scott. “We introduced a double-height linear entry lobby with low-iron glass and structural glazing along the street to facilitate transparency.”

Building amenities include a fitness centre and a common meeting room on the penthouse level.

Additional sustainable features include:

  • A combination of high performance building envelope, high efficiency mechanical systems, heat recovery and lighting technologies limit energy use.
  • End-of-trip cycling facilities with ample covered bike parking, showers and change rooms
  • Preferred parking and charging stations for electric vehicles.
  • Landscaping strategies with rain gardens, boulevard structural soil trenches providing a reservoir to support shade trees, public education, and art celebrating water management.
  • Plantings featuring native species and hardy west coast plants to minimize maintenance and pest management.
  • The project mitigates the “heat island” effect by placing parking underground, incorporating street trees and plantings to help cool building surfaces, and using light-coloured landscape materials, both at the ground plane and roof level.

980 Howe_07

980 Howe_12



Edmonds Community Centre wins IPC/IAKS Distinction


Edmonds Community Centre and Fred Randall Pool
has been honoured with an IPC/IAKS Distinction award from the International Association for Sports and Leisure Facilities.

129 projects from around the world competed for awards demonstrating excellence in sports, leisure, and recreational facilities. Overall, 31 projects were recognized at the Awards Gala which took place in Cologne, Germany on October 27th.

The IPC/IAKS Distinction award is aimed at increasing the accessibility of all sports and leisure facilities in order to offer all people, regardless of their physical abilities, opportunities to practise and view sport without barriers. Four projects in the ‘Indoor facilities for sports, leisure, and recreation’ category were recognized with the ‘Distinction’ award. Edmonds joins other notable projects designed by MJMA, Zaha Hadid, and Herzog De Meuron.

Accessibility and inclusivity were key considerations for the architectural team during the design process of the facility. Adapted equipment and features were incorporated throughout Edmonds Community Centre to make recreation more accessible to people with physical disabilities. The ethnically diverse neighborhood demographic also impacted the design, as change room and shower spaces address differing cultural requirements for modesty and privacy.

The IAKS/IOC award adds to the recognition the community centre has received since its opening, including receiving the BC Recreation and Parks Association’s 2015 Facility Excellence Award.



The Misconceptions of Integrated Project Delivery

CEI candids 2014_12

There’s been a lot of talk lately about IPD (Integrated Project Delivery), but with it has come many misconceptions, misunderstandings and miscommunication about what IPD really means.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) defines IPD as “a project delivery method that integrates people, systems, business structures and practices into a process that collaboratively harnesses the talents and insights of all participants to reduce waste and optimize efficiency through all phases of design, fabrication and construction.”

The Integrated Project Delivery method contains many specific components, including continuous involvement of the owner and key designers and builders from early design through project completion, an alignment of the business interests of all parties through shared risk/reward, and joint project control by the owner, key designers and builders. As you’d expect, a true IPD model is truly integrated, sharing and spreading responsibilities and rewards among all parties.

As an architecture firm, we are seeing many requests for proposals that request IPD, but also refer to other delivery methods such as design-build, stipulated sum and even P3—all in the same proposal. This indicates to me that our clients are interested in IPD but are unsure exactly what’s involved. This can be troublesome, as a confusing RFP puts not only the contractors and consultants at risk but the project itself.

IPD isn’t a new model—it’s been around in one way or another for many years, though true IPD projects are few and far between. It takes a special client and project team that fully agree to all the terms that an IPD project requires. After talking to many contractors, consultants and even clients, my experience is that most do not fully understand exactly what’s involved in a true IPD contract.

Everyone is willing to improve the construction process, and a modified IPD can be the tool to do so. Many so-called IPD projects are just this: a modified IPD contract that conforms to the ideology of an integrated project. Construction companies, consultants, suppliers and, most importantly, the client all want to be a part of a successful project.

With a little knowledge and a desire to improve how we design and construct buildings we can change the process for the better. We can incorporate aspects of IPD and modify the contract so all parties involved are comfortable and happy with the outcome, and as we do more and more of these IPD-type projects, the parties involved will become more familiar and comfortable with the process and we can introduce more aspects of a true IPD contract.


Currently, at HDR | CEI, we already do many aspects of Integrated Project Delivery simply as good business practices. Educating our clients and the project team are key to a successful IPD project and to making everyone comfortable with the process and the contractual obligations.

People are often confused with the differences between Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) and Integrated Design Process (IDP). In addition to the contractual obligations of an IPD project, it also includes aspects of the integrated design process. Both require the project team to collaborate together in a specific manner for the benefit of the project and ultimately for the benefit of the project team, ensuring a successful project.

IPD and IDP differ in some key aspects. IDP projects do not require all parties to have a “business interest” to the point of shared risk and reward. Financial gain is not necessarily tied to a successful project outcome. Having all parties involved, including the owner, consultants and construction company, at the onset of a project is beneficial. It facilitates an environment in which all parties agree to share information and ideas, and are willing to compromise and work together. Dialogue between all parties is open and communicative, egos are left at the door and input is expected and appreciated from all levels.

We do many projects using an IDP approach. Any project with careful collaboration between the consultants, client, contractors and suppliers is an IDP project. A client or owner can specify IDP as part of the contractual obligations of participating in a project without the financial risk/reward of a typical IPD project.

However, when specifying that a project will incorporate IDP, the expectations have to be clearly defined early on. A roadmap of how collaboration is to occur and what is to be expected from all parties involved needs to be clearly laid out in advance with sufficient time allocated to collaboration and dialogue.

If you are considering an Integrated Project Delivery model for your next project, be clear to your team exactly what your expectations are, select a team with experience and a willingness to collaborate in a way that benefits the project. Those are the keys to a successful IPD project.