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Designing the New Oakville Hospital: An Integrated Approach

By John E. Christie, Director, Parkin Architects Limited and May Chow, Principal, Parkin Architects Limited

What goes into designing a state-of-the-art healthcare facility?

Parkin believes it comes down to an integrated design approach. This includes careful and thoughtful clinical planning achieved through research, experimentation, and reinvention with a thorough process of listening to users, patients and families. Additionally, it must be integrated into a concept of complex building systems such as structural, mechanical, electrical, information technology, furniture and equipment that then form a comprehensive understanding of needs and creates  a sustainable solution that reflects immediate requirements while being sufficiently flexible to absorb change and encourage growth.

A Strong Team From the Very Beginning

The New Oakville Hospital (NOH) is a large P3 project in Ontario. “With P3s, it’s no longer the hospital that hires the architect,” says Parkin Principal May Chow, who heads the NOH project. “Now, we are part of a consortium that bids on the project, so it’s the contractor that selects the Architect.”

The contractor for the New Oakville Hospital is EllisDon.

The price plays a key role in the bidding process and the lowest price often wins. But the design remains a major factor, and Parkin has won previous P3 projects based on the quality of the design. In the case of the NOH, it helped that Parkin and EllisDon have a history working together on P3s. In fact, the two firms – together with Adamson Associates – worked together in a private-partnership scenario to build the William Osler Health Centre, which was the first major healthcare P3 hospital in Canada to reach financial close.

Proven Track Record

“We were selected for EllisDon’s team because we have a proven track record in healthcare planning and design,” says Chow. “EllisDon knows how competent we are in terms of delivering solutions that are economical and meet the client’s needs. I think we’ve demonstrated to the New Oakville Hospital that we are leading edge healthcare planners. From a design perspective, we understand clinical planning; we understand hospitals. That’s our life, our passion.”

“EllisDon has enjoyed a working relationship with Parkin for over 20 years,” says David Klassen, Vice President of Design Build at EllisDon. “Their dedication has transformed into a strong working relationship with our staff and creates innovative facilities of which communities are justly proud.”

A Collaborative Approach

Parkin and EllisDon have worked closely with the hospital for this new build. This means taking the time to do numerous rounds of user meetings with each department, getting to know the staff, listening to their needs, understanding their processes, researching involving clinical practices and creating a strong working relationship.

“Even though we have a lot of healthcare experts on our team, we don’t say ‘this is how you should do it,’” says Chow. “Every hospital is a little different, and has its own way of operating. We design to meet the needs of the client, but also bring our experience to the table.”

Building a State-of-the-Art Facility

Halton Healthcare Services wants the New Oakville Hospital to be an icon for the community. This means bringing all the aspects of the most current evidence-based design trends, such as abundant access to daylight and outdoor spaces, while also remaining extremely patient-centered and staff-focused with more single patient rooms, increased safety and security, as well as improved efficiency.

The process in designing this 1.6 million square foot facility is complex, but the team wanted it to feel very simple to the staff and the public. “It’s a challenge to juggle 50 departments and keep it all organized in such a way that’s easy for the public to navigate,” says Chow.

Simple Navigation

Upon arriving at the hospital, patients, staff and visitors will see clearly marked traffic routes for staff, emergency vehicles and public transit, as well as ample parking. Simple circulation and way-finding systems will allow for accessible and convenient navigation throughout the facility.

Enhanced Patient Rooms

When designing for the patients, the little details go a long way – such as keeping patient bathrooms on the corridor side of the bedroom so when housekeeping is cleaning, they do not have to intrude into the care zone and disturb the patient. Bathrooms are also on the head-side of the patient room, so patients can easily make the journey using handrails from bed to bathroom despite limited restrictions in mobility.

Increased Safety and Security

Evidence-based design is used to create patient safety through minimizing falls and other accidents, while also keeping the overall design of the patient rooms consistent and uniform so staff members perform safely and efficiently no matter where they are in the building.

Latest Technology

Parkin always designs with the future in mind. The New Oakville Hospital is a smart building, meaning it will offer the latest technology, while remaining flexible to allow for adaptations as new innovations emerge. There will be new options for patient registration offered in booths, kiosks and workstations located in the main entrance and in clinical areas. Modern equipment and information communication systems will be put in place to enhance patient experience and improve patient outcomes.

“Parkin provides unique approaches to dealing with technical requirements and design issues,” says Klassen. “Our experience working with the Parkin design team has been consistently impressive due to their expertise and creativity.”

“Because we are employed by the contractor on this project, traditional models would suggest we’re held at arms length.  But thanks to our relationship with EllisDon and our experience working closely with the hospital user groups, we’re very much involved. Because of this collaboration, we are able to design a facility that is state-of-the-art while respecting the realities of capital and operating costs and creating environments that truly support patients, staff, the community and their future.”

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