Healthy Nurse

Healthy Nurse

Steve Hall / Hedrich Blessing

Architects often aspire to make their buildings responsive to their users’ needs, but what really makes a building engaging remains an open question. The new nursing school on Loyola University’s Medical Center Campus in Maywood, Illinois, furthers that discussion with a facade cleverly integrated with mechanical and structural systems.

The Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and Center for Collaborative Learning in suburban Chicago finished half of its two-phase expansion in 2012. Beginning with Solomon Cordwell Buenz’s (SCB) 60,000-square-foot nursing school and mock hospital, the plan was to unite the campus’ nursing and medical programs. Previously miles apart, the two disciplines now co-mingle in a ground floor “information commons” and digital library that connects to nearby buildings.

Steve Hall / Hedrich Blessing

“The school of medicine is the heart of the health-science campus,” said SCB design principal Devon Patterson. Cross-pollination was an objective—the ground floor’s café and multipurpose rooms have become popular study spots. A large glass staircase situated far from the elevators is meant to facilitate chance meetings and interactions across disciplines.

But the Niehoff’s connectivity goes beyond linked spaces. Three unique facade/ structural systems enclose the building: External shades regulate daylight on the south-facing walls; the west side bears a precast core wall with an adjustable mechanical system to dissipate heat in the summer; the north side is clear glass, maximized for transparency. All three are triple glazed for higher insulation values.

Steve Hall / Hedrich Blessing (left) and Dave Burk / Hedrich Blessing (center, right)

The facades also tie in to solar chimneys that inject the building’s HVAC system with fresh air. Transparent shafts at the building’s southwest and southeast corners allow sunlight to heat rising air, reducing the building’s active heating load. Precast concrete slabs above each floor hold hot and cold water to ferry heat to and from the interior spaces.

Since the building is a teaching hospital and treats no patients (a mock hospital on the third floor features high-tech mannequins for medical training), its windows are operable—a unique feature for buildings of its kind on campus.

Niehoff’s radiant heating and cooling systems, its commitment to natural ventilation and high-efficiency glazing, and ample natural light (close to 90 percent of the building needs no artificial light during the day) helped the building earn a LEED Gold certification. For the nursing students and faculty who now call the Niehoff home, fresh air and sunlight are welcome additions to the campus.

“I think it really contributes to a positive environment inside the building,” Patterson said.