3 Design Considerations for Hospitals Built in Hurricane Zones

Posted by Kent Doss on Aug 24, 2021

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Recent work at Array prompted our design team to compile crucial guidance for designing facilities in hurricane zones. For example, a health facility located on a tropical island requires considerations of building movement, sustainability, and resiliency. Keeping these factors at the forefront of the design process helps ensure safety, optimal use of capital dollars and long-term operation of the site. In this blog, we’ll offer an inside look at the results of our design meetings and offer guidelines you can apply to your next project with extreme weather of this type.

Features to withstand and mitigate weather events

Wind Resistance Concept Graphic

Building designs must be oriented and shaped to withstand high wind. Below, you’ll see a conceptual design our team created with a tear-drop shaped building that allows for minimal wind resistance. This design also offers the added benefit of inhabitable green space on the roof with 30% slopes. Those slopes provide limited resistance in high wind locations. Lastly, this building shape avoids negative pressures that would pull off façade materials.

Entryways for buildings in hurricane zones also offer opportunity to contend with weather appropriately. The concept rendering below shows an arced entryway. The arc is one of the most stable structural constructs, shown here to reveal the hospital entry also fitted with hurricane shutters extending past the face to aid in solar control while allow for large openings and glazing when in use, and completely protected when necessary.

Tear Drop Rendering-1

Maximizing Sustainability

Sustainability is more than simple adherence to any single rating system…we firmly believe that a truly sustainable approach to architecture must include an integrated understanding of the operational practices and business environment for which we are designing and building. In the case of hurricane and flood zones, the issue is complex. In such scenarios, we consider material sustainability and lifespan, water reduction and reuse, health and wellness strategies, as well as best practices to optimize greener, healthier structures through better information and parametric simulation. Part and parcel of these issues, two reign supreme: (1) energy efficiency and (2) energy reliability and resiliency.

Energy Efficiency

Reducing energy consumption starts by right-sizing the building program and is further developed through the passive features that we integrate into the building design. Simple strategies such as building orientation, fenestration sizes and locations, solar shading devices, and natural ventilation features can serve to significantly reduce energy demand while simultaneously creating a more comfortable and productive environment for the building occupants. In the unlikely event that all energy redundancies are overcome by a weather event, natural ventilation also ensures that the building remains comfortable to occupy.

The design of the buildings active mechanical systems can be tuned to the most efficient and beneficial systems for your specific operating conditions. A design team can use advanced modeling and analytic tools to explore and evaluate the most appropriate combination of high-efficiency traditional systems (such as heat recovery chillers and dual outside air systems), more efficient (but sometimes more operationally complex) alternatives (such as displacement ventilation and chilled beams), and on-site renewables (such as wind turbines and photovoltaic panels).

The healthcare industry is approaching a tipping point where Net Zero Energy Performance and Carbon Neutrality go beyond concepts into proven applications that can be a key contributor to your long-term operational viability and independence.

Energy Reliability and Resiliency:

Both the design and healthcare industries have witnessed the devastating impacts that natural disasters can have on our communities and ensuring that our critical facilities remain functional during and after these events should be a primary goal. We believe that the challenge to ensure that you always have clean and reliable power must have a multi-faceted approach.

The first part of the solution should focus on having a reliable primary emergency energy source. Since travel is often impossible during an emergency event, the most appropriate primary system should utilize equipment that can be operated and maintained by local personnel. That emergency energy source could be high-efficient diesel generators with on-site fuel storage, on-site renewable sources, i.e. photovoltaic panels, wine turbines or fuel cells – or both.

Hurricane From Space

As climate change results in more frequent and powerful tropical storms, we must also challenge ourselves as designers and providers to imagine what operations will look like if all systems experience catastrophic damage or failures during a disaster. By implementing passive solar protection, natural daylighting, and natural ventilation strategies we can ensure that building occupants remain as comfortable as possible even with no power available.

Finally, all systems (primary, redundant, and passive) should be hardened as much as feasible to withstand powerful storms. By utilizing advanced modeling and analytical tools to orient and form the building mass for minimized surface wind loading, incorporating opening protectives, and anti-progressive-collapse structural resiliency we can design for storm survival.

 Sustainability in the Bigger Picture

We’ve covered many of the elements that can help with sustainability, especially with regard to energy efficiency, reliability and resiliency. You can take an even closer look with our more encompassing Sustainability Diagram, where we show how and enhanced envelope, occupancy and daylight sensors, native landscaping and other features combine with positive result:

Click to enlarge

Sustainability Diagram Reduced

In Summary

In hurricane zones, the goal must be to design a campus of the future that is equipped to deliver exceptional, safe, and operationally efficient patient care in uplifting and healing environments. Armed with this framework, we hope that you feel better prepared to address the complexity of these projects in the future. As always, our team is here if you need us.

Topics: Sustainability

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