AWARD OF MERIT – 2019 Healthcare Design Showcase

Established to diagnose and treat children on the autism spectrum and those with other developmental disorders, the new three-story Anna Shaw Children’s Institute (Dalton, Ga.) is one of the first facilities of its kind in the nation. The “treehouse” themed design creates a healthcare setting in which children feel comfortable.

Located on the Hamilton Medical Center campus, this freestanding pediatric outpatient center is inspired by its heavily wooded site. The building is oriented at a 75-degree angle to limit sun exposure. The use of wood, stone materials and key architectural features connect to the natural landscape.

The building’s three floors represent levels typically seen in a forest: forest floor, understory layer, and canopy layer.

The sloping site provided an opportunity to create two dedicated entrances to service patient populations. With an entry for behavioral health program components, the first floor includes clinics focused on behavioral health and developmental pediatrics. A classroom suite is also included with after-hours access to accommodate support group events and education programs. Representing the forest floor, this level incorporates calming brown tones and animal graphics typically seen in the lower level of a forest. Carpeted flooring masks distracting sounds.

The main entry, located on the second floor, provides access to therapy clinics (physical, occupational, speech and feeding), physical therapy and sensory integration gyms. The second floor also offers convenient access to administrative areas for family support services, public lobby and café amenities. This level features a 40-foot whimsical tree replica that spans the three floors on axis with an existing historic oak tree at the base of the site. Green leaves are utilized on walls and in the elevator lobby, along with appropriate fauna graphics for the understory layer, as the floor’s theming and for wayfinding.

The third floor, with canopy layer theming, contains a sub-specialty clinic and shell space for future growth.

The use of exterior portal elements mimic the holes in the floor or roof of a treehouse, while interior skylights also incorporate similar portal elements. Window portals, installed at varying heights, allow children to peer into the lobby from clinic spaces.

There are very few such centers in the country serving children with physical and cognitive disorders. Not only is this particular center unique in its treehouse design concept, but it combines components from the best-of-the-best centers to offer a more comprehensive program.

Project category: New construction

Chief administrator: Terri Woodruff, executive director of the Anna Shaw Children’s Institute

Firm: ESa (Earl Swensson Associates),

Design team: ESa (Earl Swensson Associates) (architect and interior designer); Brasfield & Gorrie (general contractor); SDG (Structural Design Group) (structural engineer); Enfinity Engineering (MEP engineer); March Adams + Associates (civil engineer); Inman Foodservices Group (food services designer)

Total building area (sq. ft.): 54,000

Construction cost/sq. ft.: $344

Total construction cost (excluding land): $18.6 million

Completed: March 2019