The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has selected Kaiser Permanente’s Radiation Oncology Center as a recipient of the prestigious AIA National Healthcare Design Award. Only seven projects received this year’s recognition, which recognizes the best new healthcare buildings around the world. According to the AIA, winning projects display “conceptual strengths that solve aesthetic, civic, urban, and social concerns as well as the requisite functional and sustainability concerns of a hospital.”

Although only 16,000 square feet, Kaiser Permanente’s Radiation Oncology Center has garnered significant attention for design innovation. It graced the cover of Contract, was featured in Fast Company, was named one of two projects (out of 55 submissions) to receive an Award of Merit from Healthcare Design, was named the “Best Health Project” in Southern California by ENR, and received an Honorable Mention Award from Architects Newspaper in its Building of the Year Awards.

More about the project

Typically, radiation therapy centers are located below ground to accommodate heavy equipment and shield radiation. These spaces serve a very functional purpose, and are typically barren of natural light and amenities that support the psychological and emotional needs of cancer patients. Kaiser Permanente did not want to build that type of facility. Instead, the health system sought to create a state-of-the-art medical center that brought its oncology radiation services above ground and into the light.

The overall design concept was driven by the distinct needs of cancer patients and their treatment schedules, which typically occur five days a week for five to eight consecutive weeks. To alleviate the stress and discomfort that comes with treatment, natural light, views to nature, and soothing interior colors were harnessed to create a calming and nature-oriented experience that feels more like a spa than a diagnostic and treatment center. The heart of the building houses three linear accelerator treatment rooms enclosed within three-foot-thick concrete walls; the concrete is clad in cherry wood to impart a sense of warmth to the waiting area on the other side of the room. A glass wall stretches across the footwall of each room, opening onto a plush vertical garden.

The project is a gateway building for Kaiser Permanente’s Orange County – Anaheim Medical Center Campus. The exterior glass facade enhances the medical center’s sculptural form and creates an interior/exterior connection with a custom glazing pattern that mirrors the surrounding landscape. The inner panes of the double glazing feature a digitized photograph of trees presented as a composition of circles. In areas that require privacy or protection from the sun, the pattern is intensified, while other areas are left clear to open up views

Demonstrating Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to sustainable design, the LEED Gold building is one of the few net-positive healthcare buildings in North America. Energy reduction strategies include an efficient envelope design, domestic water heating, natural lighting strategies and equipment cooling. The placement of a solar PV array on an adjacent parking structure generates enough energy to power the building with energy to spare.

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