Park Street Clinical Laboratory Building
A Beacon of Well Being: A hospital facility mends an urban wound while also providing the means to heal patients.
Based on what you have seen and read about this project, how would you grade it? Use the stars below to indicate your assessment, five stars being the highest rating.
During the 1950s and ’60s, New Haven received more funding per capita for urban renewal than any other U.S. city. Unfortunately, many of these experiments went awry. A planned extension of Route 34 into the western suburbs was never finished, despite the construction of the two-story Air Rights Parking Garage built to straddle the new highway. The incomplete project was a symbol of failed urban planning for about 45 years, creating a blight in the center of the city. The Park Street Clinical Laboratory, completed in late 2009, is one of a series of new buildings in the downtown medical district that seeks to rectify this debacle. The result of a collaboration between New Haven–based Svigals + Partners and international firm Behnisch Architekten, the 150,000-square-foot structure supports an adjacent cancer-treatment center with clinical processing labs, a blood bank, offices, a public atrium, and pharmacy.
Behnisch Architekten and Svigals + Partners had worked together before in pursuit of a project in New Haven that they did not win. “It was a partnership that began before this building in terms of the firms feeling very connected with each other from a creative point of view,” says Barry Svigals, founding partner at Svigals + Partners. “And we obviously both shared a passion for sustainability.” The initial goal was LEED certification, but during the process, the ambition escalated; the hospital currently anticipates LEED Core and Shell Gold certification for the building. Svigals + Partners collaborated with Behnisch’s Stuttgart headquarters on the initial design, then worked with Behnisch’s offices in Venice, California, for the rest.
The spirit of connectivity generated from the joining of the firms during the integrated design process carried over into the program for serving the needs of the medical community. The building is bordered on three sides by city streets and on the fourth by the two-story parking garage. The team took advantage of the unfinished highway project under the garage by transforming the lanes into six loading docks at the basement level. Inside, a 10,000-square-foot pharmacy serves the adjacent hospital. The ground floor offers retail space (not yet occupied), while the second floor houses administrative offices and a 150-seat auditorium.
In addition to these functions, the core purpose of the building was to consolidate the laboratories, which were previously separated throughout the hospital in an ad hoc way to accommodate the various needs. To process the necessary five million-plus clinical tests a year, the technicians needed a common space with the latest equipment. “The labs represent a technological step into the 21st century for the hospital,” says Svigals.
The new design also encourages interaction between employees and patients with lively public spaces. Located at the main entrance, the five-story atrium takes advantage of daylighting on the south side, minimizing the need for artificial lights even on cloudy days. It also serves as a hub of connectivity—access to the parking garage is on the atrium’s second floor and an air bridge on the fourth floor connects to the treatment center. “For possibly thousands of patients every day, the atrium is their first experience in the hospital,” says Svigals. “They’re coming in under traumatic circumstances and this space provides a transition for them emotionally as well as physically.” Interior gardens and a colorful palette further bolster the cheery space.
The building is a high energy user because the labs operate 24/7, according to Maurice Cohen, the hospital’s senior project manager. An air-to-air plate heat exchanger is used for energy recovery, allowing the supply and exhaust air to pass by each other to pre-heat the supply air in the winter and pre-cool the supply air in the summer.
Ventilation was a challenge because laboratories are required to use 100 percent outside air supply to control pathogens. “Two dedicated air-handling units provide fresh air to floors three through six, which house the labs. The air circulates through these spaces and is then exhausted either by the dedicated exhaust duct or through the fume hoods,” says Larry Jones, project manager with energy consultant Atelier Ten. In more densely occupied spaces, demand control ventilation (DCV) is used to monitor carbon dioxide and supply more fresh outdoor air when necessary.
The architects clad the building with a dynamic yet functional facade using a mosaic of clear, colored, silkscreened, and opaque glazed panels. “One of the most important things we worked on was the skin,” says Jay Brotman, partner at Svigals + Partners. “It’s a high-performing, unitized glazing system that arrived on-site pre-assembled and was put in place once the structural steel was up.” The colorful facade also enhances the streetscape for pedestrians.
New Haven’s downtown still lacks cohesion, but the laboratory building is an important step in knitting the city back together, while also providing crucial functions for the medical facility. “It’s really a welcome mat the hospital has offered to the city,” concludes Svigals.