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Healthy Building Concepts In Long-term Care Settings

Nov. 20, 2020

What’s the real-world impact of building materials on the spaces they create? Recently, two design-build experts spoke about their work with SageGlass, a Saint-Gobain company, in long-term care (LTC) and rehab facilities.

Jon White, Principle LTC’s Vice President of Design and Construction, and Joe Cable, Senior Architect, presented a webinar about designing healthcare facilities—including two of Principle LTC’s current projects. They spoke about their design goals for a brand-new campus and how SageGlass and other Saint-Gobain products were woven into the plans.


The Intersection of Healthcare and Healthy Buildings

“We are a design and construction team housed within a healthcare company, so we are at a unique intersection between those two disciplines…Being at this intersection gives us a unique viewpoint, so to speak, on the subject of healthy buildings,” says White.

White explains that healthcare settings, like long-term care/rehabilitation, are the perfect case studies for the positive effects of smart building design. He says, “One patient might be rehab-ing and making their way around the building. Right down the hall, you might have another patient who’s up in age, bedbound, maybe they have dementia—and the only interaction they get with the outside world is the view from their bedroom window. It’s our job to make sure that’s a really nice window, with a really clear, unobstructed view, and that they can look out without any hassles of pain or glare ruining their experience.”

Principle’s design/build team worked closely with SageGlass experts to analyze the effects of electrochromic glazing in the future facility. White says, “Saint-Gobain’s team and this partnership has been extremely helpful to us in this regard. They help us specify materials that will work in harmony to create this healthy building environment.”

Architect Joe Cable presented a detailed walk-through of Principle’s future LTC/rehab campus. “This is the facility [where] we are using all of our innovative techniques,” he says. Cable outlined six primary considerations for the “healthy” building:

  • Aesthetics
  • Natural light
  • Biophilic design
  • Indoor air quality
  • Acoustics
  • Accessibility

Glazing is a key element of several of those considerations, Cable says. The facility’s modern, airy floorplan includes an entryway, conservatory, and gym that are open to the second floor, allowing for lots of natural light. Since the complex is organized around several courtyards, most rooms and spaces have windows that offer views of those landscaped spaces—with greenery and calming water features. Cable says, “We spent a large amount of time on the landscape and design of these courtyards, because we feel it’s very important to the healing process. Keeping all of these areas as open as possible allows us that opportunity.”


Sunlight Analysis

SageGlass worked with Cable’s team to analyze the glazing challenges of the new building. “SageGlass helped us understand and analyze some of the sun angles: where it would be best to have glazing, and how that would affect the human experience in the different spaces,” Cable says, including the therapy rooms, reception area, conservatory, and dining room. Simulations and renderings looked at sunlight angles throughout the day, and throughout the calendar year.

Cable mentions several practical examples of glazing challenges in a healthcare environment: Are visitors backlit in silhouette when they walk toward the reception desk, making it hard to communicate? Does glare from the windows interfere with reading screens? Do big windows add too much heat to a room? “In the end, after we looked at all of these ideas and options, we ended up with a solution that was different than our initial thought,” Cable says. “That’s where the real value of [our partnership] comes in. We worked with the group at Saint-Gobain on a pretty regular basis.”

Principle’s design/build team ended up using SageGlass products throughout much of the new campus, reducing the need for interior window treatments and creating a more pleasant—and more healing—environment for patients and staff.

Smart glazing design also allowed them to “bring the outside landscape into the space,” with a focus on views of nature in the facility’s courtyards.


Building Design in the Time of COVID

In addition to glazing and light concerns, the Principle team worked on other considerations—with indoor air quality coming to the fore as the coronavirus pandemic continued. “Air change requirements are always important,” says Cable. “We have zoning, depending on the type of occupant, or even if we have to isolate part of the facility for COVID or other considerations.” The new campus will use needlepoint bipolar ionization as an “air scrubber” that inactivates small particles—including viruses—that might bypass more traditional remediation tools.


Above and Beyond

Cable noted that the new LTC/rehab facility was designed with accessibility and comfort in mind—not just meeting code requirements, but going above and beyond to make sure every single person in the space can experience it “to its optimum.” In addition to SageGlass, they will use Saint-Gobain products in almost every part of the space—from acoustical ceiling tiles and specialty ceiling materials to insulation and gypsum.

“I can’t emphasize enough how our collaboration with Saint-Gobain has helped us be able to be innovative,” says Cable. “They have been helpful as a resource…for new, upcoming products as we move forward as we start to have data and analytics to understand what we need to do in new buildings.”


Looking Ahead

Jon White explains that Principle will use a data-driven approach to look at the impacts of smart building materials like SageGlass. “We are very excited about designing and building healthy buildings. We’re going to measure the use of SageGlass and the availability of natural light in our therapy gym against the recovery rates of patients using that gym—compared with patients using similar facilities that don’t have the same access to natural light.

“By identifying these links, we can make the case for healthy building environments.”

To learn more about Principle LTC’s work with SageGlass and their healthy building plans, watch the Webinar here.




Jennifer Pitterle is a Minnesota-based writer and editor with a focus on lifestyle journalism and creative nonfiction.



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