Danielle Larrabee
Danielle Larrabee
April 28, 2020

15 Minutes with Meredith Shilling

Danielle Larrabee
Danielle Larrabee

As with many in our health practice, Meredith Shilling, AIA, has been navigating these challenging times in her personal and professional life. A newly promoted principal at CannonDesign, Meredith is a trusted voice to her clients and coworkers. We recently caught up with her for fifteen minutes and got her real-time perspectives about her thoughts about what the future holds.

How are you and how are you adjusting to working from home?

It’s been quite an adjustment, honestly. It’s my nature to never sit still and I’ve been relegated to my upstairs with my young daughter being taken care of in the downstairs during the workday. I’m also a very social person and thrive more in an office environment, with impromptu huddle sessions and collaboration with my coworkers. I’ve been holding some user group meetings with my clients virtually, but I’m missing those personal connections.

One thing I have appreciated is my walks with my family. We walk around the Baltimore waterfront and I’m noticing small things I’ve never observed before. It seems like I learn something new on those walks every day.

What kind of questions are your clients asking right now?

The initial calls with our clients were working with them on immediate ways to provide alternative care environments to accommodate the unprecedented surge of COVID patients. Now, we are working with them to reconvert those spaces back to their original function.

I’ve been lucky to be leading some really interesting programming meetings for new healthcare spaces. My clients are wondering how the established guidelines—everything from space size, ventilation and flexibility—are going to change in the future. The very idea of a waiting room has actually come into question; we are considering if there are better ways to pre-screen infectious patients and keep them away from those who are most vulnerable also coming into those same areas.

I’ve also seen some interesting discussions around telehealth. Many healthcare organizations have come further by implementing telehealth systems in the past three weeks than they have in the past two years. It was really a forced change, but now that they have the infrastructure and know-how, they are wondering what will change in their “new normal.”

There have also been discussions about the current supply chain systems for hospitals. The flaws in these just-in-time delivery systems were very apparent in this crisis with the lack of PPE equipment available to hospital staff. I wonder how hospitals will adjust their methodologies so that necessary equipment will be available when needed.

How has this experience changed your outlook on healthcare design?

As architects, we are always trying to balance cost and space offerings, often forced to VE out certain elements as the design moves along its path to completion. Things once not thought critical to include will almost certainly be considered in a different light after this crisis.

I think we as designers also need to help create the new set of protocols to be ready for the next “black swan” event. We all have been thrust into thinking differently and we now are considering things we never had to before in an instant. I find that a really big challenge, but I’m excited to tackle that with my clients.

What is the most inspiring story you have heard?

I am so inspired by all the doctors and nurses on the front lines who are innovating and making their environments work for them. Kaylee Stone who works for our Blue Cottage team is an active ICU nurse and her stories are just incredible.