Communication and visualization provided important tools during remote-work meetings on the Giles-Bed Tower project in Louisville, Ky.

COLUMBUS, OHIO – More than 50,000 square feet of patient bed space that received an extensive overhaul at the Giles Bed Tower at Norton Healthcare Pavilion in Louisville, Ky., has welcomed back patients.

“The focus of the redesign was on patient comfort,” said Char Hawkins, IIDA, LEED AP, NCDIQ senior interior designer. “We took into consideration not just the patient’s comfort in individual rooms but their overall experience while in the Giles Tower.”

From the entrance, visitors benefit from the addition of a new family respite and nutrition area at the elevator lobby. The team also renovated the staff support core spaces to improve visibility – with the added benefits of increased efficiency as it was broken into zones for flexibility. This adds to a patient’s sense of safety; staff are dispersed throughout the unit and, therefore, more visible.

“To further improve both patient and staff experience, we substantially increased daylighting by adding 48 windows where a mechanical room and media room were eliminated. While many of those windows naturally fell at patient rooms, our conscientious planning allowed us to include windows in the shared spaces of nurse stations, a waiting room and circulation, especially at the ends of corridors so a view of the outdoors is never far away” added Dan Malec-Kosak, NCARB, project architect.

The design incorporated artwork and FRP panels with digitally printed regional photography through the building to add to visual interest. Resilient flooring throughout added comfort for visitors and staff while contributing to the overall aesthetics of the unit.

“Sound quality plays an important role in patient comfort,” explained Hawkins. To that end, designers included sound-absorbing acoustic baffles at nurse stations that pulled double duty as an eye-catching wayfinding element for visitors.

An important part of controlling the sound environment was the replacement of noisy 4-pipe heating and cooling system with a modern, large duct air delivery system.

“We still wanted to provide a spacious and open healing environment with the new, quieter ventilation system,” said Hawkins. “But we faced some construction challenges to make that happen.”

The building, originally constructed in 1970, had a low floor-to-floor height. New ductwork needed to be added without lowering the ceiling height.

“Our close relationship with the client was key here as they worked closely with the mechanical engineer and the MEP crews,” said Mark Anderson, AiA, LEED AP BC+C, project manager.

The rooms themselves were reconstructed from double occupancy to private rooms. On the east side of the building, rooms were converted from a block of three rooms to two rooms. To accomplish this, the team had to incorporate existing plumbing stacks and structural column locations. Roll-in showers were added to the rooms as well as a modular headwall that merged form and function.

“The headwalls play an important function and design element in patient rooms,” said Malec-Kosak. “Obviously they need to reduce clutter and manage equipment, but they also add to the patient’s sense of comfort through an attractive design that feels less sterile.”

Energy efficiency also got an upgrade. The restoration included replacing energy-inefficient windows with high-efficiency units and carefully insulating the inside surface of the uninsulated concrete exterior walls of the building.

Finding Solutions during the Pandemic

With the onset of remote work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the team had to develop solutions to challenges while working remotely.

One of the ways that helped the team visualize obstacles was weekly 360-degree photos taken by the construction manager, Wehr Constructors, and referenced during virtual meetings. This tool proved especially critical when the above-celling routes for the MEP system ran into unforeseen obstacles.

“We knew the above-ceiling system was going to be a challenge, but the reality was even more difficult,” Malec-Kosak explained.

After demolition, a 3D scan of the space allowed for workable changes to the MEP design to fit around those additional obstacles revealed in the building structure.

“Our visualization tools proved vital to completing the project under pandemic conditions,” added Malec-Kosak.

The total cost of the project was $20 million. The bed tower opened to patients in the summer of 2021. Other DeisgnGroup projects for Norton Healthcare include the Norton Neuroscience Institute, Norton Children’s Hospital and Norton Brownsboro Hospital.