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Always on the Sunny Side at Butler County Health Care Center

Dec. 9, 2016

Healthcare facilities were historically built with the sole purpose of providing medical care, leading to the design of overly sterile and dark environments often completely disconnected from the outside world. These facilities focused very little on how the design impacted the patients and staff inside.

However, over the past decade, there has been a major shift in the healthcare industry to create more positive indoor spaces that help patients heal faster, more comfortably, and ultimately help to provide better care.

This design initiative within the healthcare industry is focused on creating environments built for both function and occupant comfort since numerous studies have found that the design of a healthcare space can influence well-being, promote healing, relieve patient pain and stress as well as reduce medical errors, infections and falls.

Daylighting as a Healing Tool

One of the ways architects are improving the design of healthcare facilities is though the incorporation of natural daylight, which has proven to be a powerful healing tool. Research has linked natural daylight to faster patient recovery rates, decreased dependency on medication and reduced staff and family stress.

Because windows are the connector between the built and natural environments as well as the gateway to letting in natural daylight, architects need to incorporate more windows into their designs to achieve these design goals. However, incorporating more windows can pose its own set of challenges related to heat gain, glare control and patient privacy.

The Challenge

Visions in Architecture, the architecture firm tasked with designing the Butler County Health Care Center in David City, Nebraska, was struggling with the same concerns of how to provide patients, staff and visitors with access to outdoor views while preventing heat gain and glare. In order to determine the best solution, the architects employed Evidence-Based Design, referring to a number of studies linking daylight exposure to improved patient outcomes in order to determine their design.

The architects considered a variety of options to increase access to natural daylight. Traditional windows and shades were ruled out because they accumulated dust in an environment that needed to be sterile, and mechanical shades were also ruled out because they did not have the flexibility to meet the Center’s design needs – the complex curtain wall flares out at a 7-degree angle in curved pie-shaped forms.

The Solution

After considering these options, the architects determined SageGlass® dynamic glass was the best fit for the project due to its ability to prevent heat gain and glare while maintaining views of the outdoors and access to natural daylight. Constructed on the south-facing end of the hospital, the Center installed 3,000 square feet of SageGlass on its curved glass curtain wall that stands at an impressive 22 feet.

SageGlass’ flexibility of design allowed the architects to maintain their aesthetic vision while meeting their functional sun glare and control needs. This installation is truly one with the sun. The SageGlass curtain wall automatically tints in sections as the sun moves westward throughout the day to maximize sunlight exposure. The automatic tinting is also programmed to change with the sun’s position year-round. 

In addition, due to the large size of the curved wall, installing SageGlass reduced the Center’s reliance on HVAC, increased its energy efficiency and improved overall energy costs.

Patients, staff and visitors are now able to enjoy the benefits of clear views of the park and golf course as well as a comfortable indoor experience free from heat gain and glare. SageGlass also allowed the Center to achieve its goal of providing high quality, personalized health care in a cost effective and safe manner.