When the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) set out to deliver the 275,000-square-foot Phoenix 32nd Street VA Clinic, they aimed to create a healing environment using sustainable design strategies. Due to its location in the hot desert climate, sustainable design features were necessary to offset higher energy use as well as equipment issues.

Those efforts paid off when the project recently achieved a Two Green Globes rating, demonstrating significant achievement in resource efficiency, reducing environmental impacts and improving occupant wellness, and was recognized as a Green Globes Project of the Year honorable mention by the Green Building Initiative

Situated on 15 acres, the five-story outpatient facility, completed in 2022, houses multispecialty and telehealth clinics, an education center, pathology and imaging services, and one of the region’s largest outpatient mental health clinics. This all-encompassing design approach embraces communal spaces, streamlined navigation, and an overarching dedication to recuperation.

Working with Hoefer Welker (Kansas City, Mo.), a multidisciplinary architecture, interior design, medical equipment planning, technology consultancy, and engineering firm, the project team sought to create a homelike environment using biophilic and sustainable design strategies that would help patients feel relaxed and welcome.

At its core, biophilic design emulates humans’ inherent relationship with nature in built spaces. Research shows that exposure to nature, light, and organic elements benefit mood, stress, and recovery, while elements like natural light, greenery, and organic materials evoke a love for the outdoors.

Because plants can pose a risk to infection control in medical facilities, Hoefer Welker looked for creative ways to bring nature indoors. By using natural colors, curves and organic shapes, the designers evoked the feeling of nature, with the same benefits of real plants.

For example, taking cues from the desert hues and the landscapes and geological formations of the Southwest, the interior design for the VA clinic incorporates shades of oranges, browns, and deep reds. Additionally, glass walls and partitions help maximize access to daylight and views of nature, and exterior patio spaces provide access to nature and a place to take a break.

To harmonize with its surroundings, the Phoenix clinic includes eco-friendly elements, such as shading systems and high-energy fritted glass panels to prevent bird collisions, reduce glare, minimize solar heat gain, and decrease energy use. Water conservation was addressed through drought-tolerant plants, native vegetation, and low-flow plumbing fixtures.

The team also optimized lighting conditions, refining color temperature, color renderings, and glare control measures to reduce light-induced migraines.

Thanks to these energy conservation efforts, the project achieved a 36 percent reduction in energy use compared to ASHRAE 90.1-2010 baseline standards. In addition, interior water use decreased by 34.8 percent, while outdoor water consumption decreased by 50 percent.

 

Ashley Eusey is director of sustainability at Hoefer Welker (Kansas City) and can be reached at Ashley.Eusey@hoeferwelker.com.