- THE MAGAZINE
For many years, Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island had only 10-inpatient beds to provide end-of-life care to adults, children and infants living with incurable diseases. It was all too common for the state’s largest and most-comprehensive provider of hospice and palliative care to turn away individuals because there simply was no room available.
In 2006, hospice administration made plans to consolidate and expand their facilities -- hospice, administrative offices, and an education and bereavement center -- into one building. Location was paramount when deciding on a new site for the hospice provider. It had to be easily accessible to the public. The site that was ultimately decided upon was an abandoned four-story, 50,000-square foot building at 1085 North Main Street in Providence. Situated along two major bus routes at the north end of the city and a mile from Interstate 95, the building would be readily accessible to most everyone in southeastern New England.
Besides the location, it was critical that the building design align with the hospice’s mission to offer compassionate, professional, state-of-the-art physical, emotional and spiritual care for all people facing terminal illness while integrating its philosophy on the cycles of life and nature. To help achieve this goal, hospice administration consulted a cultural anthropologist to determine the patterns and needs of their staff, patients and families.
“The intensity of what our families go through at the end of life is sobering,” says Diana Franchitto, president and CEO of Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island. “So it’s important to provide a comfortable and peaceful setting.”
Together, hospice administration and the cultural anthropologist worked with Vision 3 Architects of Providence to create a sustainable and professional design for the facility. To reinforce the hospice’s mission and concept for their new headquarters, the design specified the reuse of 95 percent of wall, floor and roof construction materials.
“Not only does reusing an existing facility significantly divert demolition and construction waste from landfills,” says David Sluter, CEO of New England Construction, construction manager for the project, “it enhances the neighborhood by converting a vacant building into a thriving healthcare facility that is open to community use.”
Additional sustainable design elements include:
- Recycling 92.6 percent of all construction waste.
- Adding a reflective white roof and extra insulation to prevent heat absorption and reduce air-conditioning loads.
- The installation of low-flow water fixtures with motion sensors.
- Installing high-performing and energy-efficient building mechanical and electrical systems.-Using only low- or no-VOC-emitting carpets, paints and adhesives.
- All wood products supplied from managed, renewable forests.
- Capturing and piping stormwater run-off to underground water storage systems, which collect, treat and return the rainwater to underground aquifers.
- Circulating and exchanging air in the building every 15 minutes with fresh outdoor air.
- Installing expansive windows that allow sunlight to illuminate rooms naturally.
- More than 90 percent of the occupied rooms have views to the outdoors.
- Specifying interior light fixtures that are highly energy efficient and automatically turn off when rooms are unoccupied.
- Special parking lot lights that keep light pollution at a minimum during the night.
- Landscaping the exterior of the building with native plants that require no artificial irrigation.
In addition, hospice administration signed an agreement requiring that they purchase at least 35 percent of their electrical power needs from renewable sources over the next four years. In its day-to-day operations and maintenance procedures, hospice administrators plan to use only green cleaning methods and products to reduce their carbon footprint.
Employee wellness was a significant consideration in proposed design solutions. The new facility offers many places for the staff to get away from the emotionally draining tasks at hand. A private four-season room and patio overlooks the city. Break rooms, not visible from the hospice facility, allow the staff to take personal time but be readily available if needed. Private phone booths provide a place to make private or sensitive phone calls without distractions. Informal nooks with tables and seating allow staff to hold informal and impromptu discussions. A “quiet room” is integrated into the design for reflection or prayer. Bike racks are installed to encourage employees to bike to work. A staff gym and showers are for the convenience of employees.
On May 31, 2009, a crowd of 500 people gathered to celebrate the grand opening of Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island’s $8 million headquarters. The facility is a tremendous accomplishment for the hospice provider who increased inpatient capacity from 10 to 24 beds and from 5,000 to 22,000 square feet. “Our new home reflects the thoughtful planning geared towards the needs of our patients, families and staff,” Franchitto says. “Our goals included creating a sustainable hospice environment that offers patients and family members comfort, peace and plenty of space for reflection and quiet time.”
The most-notable sustainable achievement arrived last fall when the U.S. Green Building Council awarded LEED Gold Certification to Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island ’s new building. It became the first medical building in Rhode Island to receive the honor and only the second building in the state to receive Gold certification.
“By achieving LEED Gold certification, Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island has set the bar nationally for the rehabilitation of an existing building into a model for progressive urban hospices,” Franchitto says. “We are proud to be a part of Rhode Island’s smart growth and climate change initiatives and look forward to seeing savings in operational costs over time.”