September 26, 2013
By Brian McFarlane, AIA, Principal, Group Director for Healthcare Development, HKS, Inc. and Rachel Saucier Knox, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Vice President, Pediatrics Healthcare Practice Leader

HKS hospital designs have been recognized in the media recently for their beauty and comfort including Benjamin Russell Hospital for Children and Capital Health Medical Center, noted in the September 21 article in The New York Times:

While this is a welcome change from hospitals’ longstanding reputation for institutional drabness, some people have questioned whether high design comes at a high price. In fact, quality design is integral to clinical excellence and operational efficiency. By designing smart, project teams can create hospitals that cost less to build, less to operate and help provide higher quality care.

Quality and efficiency are extremely important as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) heads toward full implementation. The ACA will compel hospitals to provide tangible factors that increase patient satisfaction, as payments will be based, in part, on patient satisfaction surveys. An increase in the number of patients is expected to create a shortage of physicians, requiring hospitals to make the most of doctor-patient interactions. And since the new law will penalize hospitals for excessive readmissions, providers must focus not only on getting patients well, but keeping them well.

Properly sized patient rooms are an excellent example of a patient satisfier with clinical benefits and cost savings. Private rooms reduce infection risk and provide the quiet atmosphere necessary for healing. Family zones within rooms enable family members to stay with the patient 24/7 without interfering with nurses and others on the care team; family involvement can improve patient safety and help prevent readmissions. Sufficient space and privacy allow doctors to maximize the time they spend face-to-face with patients. Standardized layouts are more efficient to build, and they give hospitals the flexibility to adapt a patient unit to a different acuity level without extensive renovation.

For the Benjamin Russell Hospital for Children in Birmingham, Ala., an expansion of Children’s of Alabama, the only freestanding pediatric hospital in the state, hospital leaders chose a private room model with rooms thirty percent larger than those in the existing facility, to improve patient care. This 760,000-square-foot building was completed ahead of schedule and under budget; its construction cost per square foot was below the national average. Lean design and construction techniques resulted in a highly efficient project that will continue to be efficient well into the future. The hospital earned a Gold rating for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) from the U.S. Green Building Council. Lower operating costs due to  sustainable design will enable the hospital to direct more resources toward providing excellent healthcare to the children of Alabama.

Capital Health Medical Center – Hopewell (NJ), is another LEED Gold-certified HKS hospital project designed for quality care and return on investment. At Capital Health, an adjacent medical office building (MOB) provides doctors and patients quick, convenient access to both hospital and physician office services. Placing non-hospital functions in the MOB resulted in substantial savings, as medical offices can be built to a less restrictive, and therefore less expensive, building code than hospitals. HKS helped Capital Health qualify for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 242 Hospital Mortgage Insurance Program, which is projected to save the project around $500 million in interest over the life of the loan.

A holistic approach to project design goes well beyond bricks and mortar. Thoughtful, compassionate design considers the health needs of a community, including the financial health of hospitals and patients.

For more information, contact Brian McFarlane at or Rachel Knox at




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Tagged Brian McFarlane, designing smart, high design at a high price, hotel or hospital, operational effeciencies in healthcare design, Rachel Knox