Some of my greatest pleasures in life come from visiting buildings that I helped to design. There’s something deeply satisfying about seeing your labor of often many years come to fruition and be used as you intended. I also love to drop in on HOK projects that my colleagues here worked on, even if I wasn’t directly involved.
I had a great opportunity for this on a recent trip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where my HOK Healthcare colleagues designed the beautiful Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital. Now several years old, it looks like it could have opened just yesterday – it’s clearly well-loved and well cared for by its occupants.
Given my sustainability bent, I especially enjoyed the green roof that’s visible from many of the patient rooms as well as waiting rooms on upper levels. Those great views also include an historic water tower and the expanse of Lake Michigan beyond. Given my educator bent, I also liked the signage in the waiting rooms that explains the ecological value of Columbia St. Mary’s 18,000 square feet of vegetated roofs, including greenhouse gas reduction, retention of rainwater, increased energy efficiency, and acoustical improvements to interior spaces. There’s also a human side to green roofs; some research suggests that views to vegetation from hospital rooms can reduce patients’ reliance on pain medication and shorten their hospital stays. Views like these can also have a calming effect for staff, families and friends in times of stress.
Hopefully Columbia St. Mary’s green roofs will continue to provide both valuable ecological services and great views for many years to come!
Check out Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science and Practice of Brining Buildings to Life if you want to learn more — it’s a nice book with a chapter on these issues, “Biophilic Theory and Research for Healthcare Design.”