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Patient experience is number one at Taussig Cancer Center

Working with a design-savvy healthcare client

By Jennifer Storey, Senior Architect (Cleveland, OH)

When an internationally recognized healthcare institution looks to us for innovative design, we rise to the occasion. But how does working with a design-savvy client benefit the final product?

A client who embraces the healing potential of design
Cleveland Clinic ranks among the largest and highest-ranked hospitals in North America. This internationally recognized non-profit multispecialty academic medical center is no ordinary healthcare client. The clinic’s high standards for care and specialty programs are well-known, but it’s also exceptional that these standards extend to its approach to the quality of its physical environment. Design is part of its identity and its mission—Cleveland Clinic sees the design of its spaces, rightly, as a key component in healing and it goes to great lengths to get it right.

We had the privilege to serve as architect-of-record, medical planner and interior designer, alongside William Rawn Associates as design architect, for the new Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center in Cleveland, Ohio. This transformational center is now welcoming its first patients. It seems a fitting time to reflect on the rewards of working with this innovative healthcare leader.

Open working relationships facilitate great design
Great outcomes come from good communication during the design process. The Cleveland Clinic pioneered an approach it calls Owner Controlled Team Project Delivery (OCTPD). They apply this process for all project delivery methods at the Cleveland Clinic campus. Ultimately during design and construction every challenge funnels to the owner and is addressed by the entire OAC (owner, architect, construction) team. Meetings aren’t about pointing fingers but about finding the best solution for the project.

In OCTPD, the tradespeople constructing the building often have great, effective ideas and their early input can inform our design. This makes it more likely to get it right the first time so we’re not redrawing or, worse, reconstructing. For the Taussig Cancer Center, a Design Assist project, we had 12 design assist partners, led by Turner Construction, on board during design so they could help us nail the details.

Working with our partners early enhanced the design and kept us on schedule and budget
Originally, the building’s cantilever design required a special construction schedule in which the rear of the building was built up first to make the cantilever construction possible. Our design assist partners, Sippel Steel and Industrial First, suggested that a temporary support system be built in the front of the building. Ultimately, this technique allowed construction to proceed more quickly, which helped keep this extremely complex project on schedule and on budget.

We leveraged the power of mock-ups and the promise of virtual reality so the client could better experience the design
To show the Cleveland Clinic how ideas would play out, we created everything from cardboard mock-ups to an early in-place mock-up of an exam room and infusion room to scale for touring and design refinement. In creating these full-scale mock-ups, Stantec’s Brendan Mullins realized he had taken a step toward creating virtual 3D mock-ups of the spaces. He created and brought 360-degree Virtual Reality (VR) mock-ups and VR goggles of the test spaces to the building site one day and our client quickly saw how potent it was to experience the space visually. [Read more about Brendan’s virtual reality] Dr. Brian Bolwell of the Cleveland Clinic adopted the VR modeling as part of the institutions outreach and fundraising.

Inspiring more than just patients
The privilege of working on a meaningful project brought an added dimension to the project from start to finish. The Taussig Cancer Center building incorporates inspired ideas that build from a sense of shared purpose and passion for the project such as “the recognition wall.” Roughly 2,000 construction workers logged hours on this project. During construction, builders and tradespeople created an impromptu “recognition wall” where they hung ribbons inscribed with the names of family members and loved ones suffering from or lost to cancer—the ribbons were color-coded to denote cancer type. Located in an area where tradespeople passed daily, this wall reminded us of the new facility’s purpose. The Cleveland Clinic is now exploring the idea of an artist adapting the ribbons from the wall into a permanent art piece. 

Designed with patient experience and empathy in mind
The design for the Taussig Cancer Center draws on feedback from a panel of former cancer patients who outlined elements that would make their experience as welcoming and healing-focused as possible. From these conversations, design details emerged such as the convenience of USB outlets placed throughout the facility and private waiting areas for gowned patients entering the linear accelerator (LINAC) areas, as well as more significant goals such as the ability to bring natural light to the LINAC area.

The center is organized by cancer type. This allows patients to have all their appointments in one area and for caregivers to come to the patient, rather than vice versa. Infusion and exam rooms (levels 2-4) are located on the same floor, minimizing travel distances. Families can remain in the same waiting area and join loved ones as they move between exams and infusion.

The 350-foot-long canopy at the building’s entrance sets the stage for a convenient and welcoming arrival process for patients. Here, a carefully considered mix of services include a resource center for cancer information, art and music therapy spaces, and a boutique that stocks free hair-loss items for patients undergoing chemotherapy. First floor patient services include a café that accommodates special diets, a meditation room, a wellness center offering aesthetic services, and a large lab to streamline blood testing.

Design that benefits physicians and care providers
The Taussig Cancer Center brings integrated treatment for all cancer types under one roof so patients aren’t shuttling between buildings. This results in greater collaboration among physicians to ensure patients are getting the best care. The facility gives physicians the latest in healing tools in 126 exams rooms and 98 treatment rooms for private chemotherapy infusion, a centralized home for high-level treatment technology (including LINAC, Gamma Knife, and X-Ray), and on-site diagnostic imaging. Physician offices and a conference center are located on levels 5 and 6, allowing staff to remain in the building throughout the day. One smart design feature: all exam rooms are the same size regardless of their department, providing flexibility to right-size cancer treatment programs as needed over time.

Connections with the outdoors
The prodigious cantilevered glass south façade and transparency on the north and south facades allow natural daylight to travel deep into the building and fill patient corridors, all infusion rooms, care stations, and collaborative spaces. Wood surfaces bring warmth to common spaces. The building connects with the Cleveland Clinic’s green spine and from its treatment bays patients can look out on a verdant part of campus. Design features respond to user needs; a 35-foot wide skylight over the lower level waiting room in the radiation therapy sector of the building gives users a welcome dose of natural light in an area that’s typically shut off from it.

When a client shares our passion for great design, it makes extraordinary things possible.

Jennifer is a healthcare architect with more than 20 years of experience. She was the project manager of the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center project and oversaw the project’s construction administration phase.

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Cleveland Clinic sees the design of its spaces, rightly, as a key component in healing and it goes to great lengths to get it right.

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