HCD Breaking Through Competition – An experience as told by Kristin Dommer, AIA out of our D.C. office

Recently, I, along with a team of colleagues, participated in a conceptual design competition for HCD entitled “Breaking Through”. The ideas generated for this competition were to address current or future healthcare challenges. Teams were encouraged to propose innovative ideas that are an obvious departure from the current healthcare model while pushing beyond the boundaries imposed by current building codes and guidelines.

Every Friday, E4H team members from nearly every office came together via conference call during our lunch hour to brainstorm ideas, make critical decisions, and create a roadmap for milestones and tasks to be completed. Between meetings, ideas were shared on our Microsoft Teams portal while major decisions were put to a vote. Each meeting began with a summary of decisions made during the previous call and any voting results that came in, after which we would dive into lively discussions concerning our direction moving forward. Our meetings tended to be very energetic with a lot of thought-provoking ideas put on the table for debate, which we did with considerable enthusiasm!

Coming from the new D.C. office, I was late to the game and missed the first meeting where our concept, “See Green”, was developed. However, I was  able to jump in on the next meeting where we began discussing how to take that concept and turn it into a schematic. We went through several possibilities that could allow us to capitalize on the idea that “Seeing Green”—visual access to nature—speeds recovery and reduces dependency on medicinal pain management. Our ideas ranged from using exaggerated double facades to house therapeutic gardens, to implementing mimicry of natural environments, to using light shafts as a functional programmatic element. Ultimately, after a vote, those ideas were rejected in favor of the winning concept of the “See Green 360°” transportable biodome.

The biodome not only places patients in close proximity to nature to aid the recovery process, but brings healthcare to the patient rather than the traditional model of having a centralized healthcare location to which all patients must travel. This new model would allow easier access to general healthcare and specialized medicine in rural areas and third world countries while also providing a reasonable means of addressing crisis situations. Much of the biodome concept can be automated including delivery by drone, an AI healthcare team, and remote access to the dome by healthcare professionals anywhere in the world.

The “See Green 360°” biodome goes beyond the idea of seeing green, and addresses the need for being green. Loaded with ultra-slim solar film, water collection tanks, and atmospheric moisture extraction technologies among other sustainable concepts, the dome is capable of being self-sustaining. The capability to support itself allows patients to be treated anywhere regardless of the utilities and services available in their communities.

During a typical project, team roles are clearly defined. The Breaking Through competition broke with tradition and allowed a more loosely defined collaboration. In a way, the lack of formal structure allowed less experienced team members to step up and take on leadership roles while others were able to step back and refine other strengths. For example, in my typical day, I am an architect. Some days I work in my capacity as a project architect, while other days see me in a support role, but I am still focused primarily on architecture. As a member of a competition team, I was able to volunteer my leadership and writing skills to help carry the deliverable over the finish line. While it was intimidating to put some of these skills on display in front of so many very talented individuals, the reaction I received from everyone was very supportive.

Overall, the competition was a great opportunity for learning and growth while being able to exercise creative energy without the structure and limitations typically imposed by building codes and traditional team dynamics. The interoffice collaboration, while sometimes challenging, was a fun way for our E4H team to exchange ideas and engage peers with whom we may not normally interact. Everyone’s ideas were treated equally whether they came from an interior designer, an architect, or someone from our graphics department. When the next opportunity to participate in a design competition arises, I hope you are inspired to stand up and volunteer. The experience is well worth the effort! 

 

 

 

NeoCon 2018

NeoCon brings together nearly 500 companies and 50,000 design professionals, providing 100 CEUs and showroom tours highlighting new products. We were honored to attend “the commercial design industry’s launch pad for innovation” at the 50th Annual NeoCon.

Similar to a project launch, our trip began with familiarizing ourselves with the site (Chicago) and networking with ten other Boston designers who comprised our team for the week. The icebreaker event at BeSpoke Cuisine divided the group into smaller task forces, each completing one course of the meal. We were excited to work together to make something wonderful, appreciating the unique skills and perspective everyone brought to the table!

The following morning, we headed to the Focal Point factory, which graciously sponsored our trip to Chicago with Boston Light Source. Familiar with the Focal Point, we were excited to delve into their design and development, manufacturing processes, and operational strategies. We were given the opportunity to weigh in on some of their newest product developments like the Skydome Edge Acoustic, an acoustical ceiling solution that compliments their Skydome LED pendant. We are already brainstorming ways we can utilize these innovations in one of our next projects!

Chicago’s architecture has an amazing blend of Neoclassical juxtaposed against the sleek lines of modern design. This contrast of old and new is also apparent in the sculptural art found in the city—for instance Buckingham Fountain with its Rococo-influenced intricacies in comparison to the simplicity of Cloud Gate. And for the record, we Bostonians agree… it’s most certainly a bean, not a cloud.

Over the past few years, we’ve started seeing a shift in healthcare design to take inspiration from other sectors of design, in particular hospitality and residential, and this year’s product introductions at the Merchandise Mart only reinforced this trend. Comfort and flexibility impact the user experience and we’re starting to see waiting spaces evolve. A combination of soft seating, usable work areas (such as a high-top counter), and areas for privacy versus family space are all considerations when designing these healthcare waiting environments. As designers, we are responsible for considering the needs of a wide range of users to make our designs as inclusive and comforting as possible.

The Merchandise Mart also featured a few finish showrooms such as Tarkett, where we saw new releases in both the resilient (Johnsonite) and carpet (Tandus) industries. Bold shapes and tile formats left us brainstorming fresh ways to look at flooring for future projects.

We kept our eye out for unique alternatives for products as our industry continues to look at other markets for inspiration. Carnegie, Buzzispace, and 3form all had great new concepts for combating acoustics, without sacrificing form for function. Incorporating decorative techniques to address acoustics could impact hospitals, specifically regarding HCAHP scores on the “Quietness of Hospital Environment”.

    

The Barbican showroom featured their NeoCon Gold-winning WEV collection and a new concept for ceiling design—a 3D fiberglass printed mesh grid system which could be accented in a variety of colors while allowing lighting, sprinklers, sound, and security systems to live above the tiles. This product lends itself to a particular type of installation where the ceiling plays a more influential role, but if specified in the right application, it could introduce color and pattern in an unexpected way.

A few more product highlights:

  • KI featured their new desking series Tattoo, which won a NeoCon Gold award. This series embodied flexibility with options from sliding privacy screens, height adjustable worksurfaces, and hybrid storage and seating options.

   

  • Doug Mockett had rows and rows of hardware and accessories. This was interesting to see firsthand as these details sometimes come as an afterthought. We’re always keeping an eye out for innovative design.
  • Sherwin Williams highlighted color trends for the upcoming year. To combat the stereotype of hospitals being white and sterile, it’s important to incorporate fresh and engaging schemes. Paint is an inexpensive way to refresh a space.

Gerflor flooring’s European product designers were the masterminds behind the latest Gerflor launch—a terrazzo inspired sheet product with vibrant color options. This product would be perfect in bright colors for a pediatric environment but could also be used in neutral colors for a lobby space looking for a terrazzo visual for a fraction of the price. We’re seeing a growing interest in resilient flooring (rubber, sheet goods, and luxury vinyl tile) because of cleanability, comfort under foot, and acoustics.

NeoCon offered plenty of inspiration for us. We’re looking forward to applying these innovative products to our projects.