Southwest Washington Medical Center’s (SWMC) new eight-story E.W. and Mary Firstenburg Tower is one of the first hospitals in the country to fully integrate interventional radiology, cardiovascular, neurology, and open-heart services in a unique one-stop-shop system. Located just 15 minutes north of Portland, Oregon, the project was commissioned to service the region’s growing population. The expansion nearly doubles SWMC’s current space and reinforces the hospital’s near-150-year legacy of providing quality healthcare service.

The 307,000-sq.-ft. project is comprised of a new Heart and Vascular Center, featuring two suites dedicated to open-heart surgery; 13 state-of-the-art operating rooms; six interventional suites; and 154 new private patient rooms. The design speaks directly to patient, employee, and community needs, encourages recovery and independence in every aspect of the facility, and creates a new face for the campus that will take the hospital into the next 150 years.

Designed to encourage independence, all patient rooms are same-handed and single-occupancy with expansive views of the surrounding mountains. Large windows offer plenty of natural light, and angled hallways and sound-absorbing materials help reduce noise—a frequent patient complaint. Spaces were designed for families to relax and unwind, including a resting “perch” outside each room. In-room entertainment includes movies, video games, and Internet.

Special emphasis on staff wellness was paramount. Amenities like the “secret garden” give staff a private outdoor place of respite. Bed lifts installed in every patient room reduce nurse injuries, and custom-designed, wider, sliding patient doors enable easier maneuverability for staff and patients. In addition, the use of colors in the surgery rooms uplift and energize the staff, and the building design provides all staff—even surgeons and anesthesiologists—access to natural light.

Project category: New construction (completed December 2006)

Chief administrator: Joseph M. Kortum, Chief Executive Officer, (360) 514-2082

Firm: NBBJ, (206) 223-5555

Design team: Richard Dallam, AIA, Architecture, Interior Design, Lighting (NBBJ); Tom Hudgings, Structural Engineer (KPFF Consulting Engineers); Sandy G. Bonderman, PE, Mechanical Engineer (Notkin Mechanical Engineers); Karl Pihl, Electrical Engineer/Telecommunications (Sparling); Shawn G. Moore, PE, Civil Engineer (Hopper Dennis Jellison, PLLC); Greg Brower, Landscape Architect (The Berger Partnership)

Photography: © Benjamin Benschneider

Total building area (sq. ft.): 476,526

Construction cost/sq. ft.: $221

Total construction cost (excluding land): $105,343,000

The project, situated in a remediated brownfield site, transformed a car lot into a state-of-the-art medical facility complete with landscaped pedestrian pathways and healing gardens—including more than 300 trees and 3,000 plantings. Other community touchstones include a lobby designed as a community gathering space (with convenient public access to a centralized Health Resource Center, Internet-ready plug-and-play kiosks, a café, and flower shop) and an entryway ceiling crafted to reflect ship halls—reminiscent of the shipyards that used to reside in place of the hospital.