Crucial Design for Safety and Efficiency in Arizona

TUCSON, Ariz. — The University of Arizona Medical Center, South Campus in Tucson, Ariz., provides critical support and relief for local law enforcement agencies while also providing a safe place for patient healing. The Los Angles office of Cannon Design worked on the $37.4 million project and focused on creating a normalized healing environment that would serve multiple facets of behavioral medicine.

The 96-bed psychiatric hospital also features an integral county courtroom and a Crisis Response Center with a 24-hour call center. The facility is organized around a shared sally port in order to provide a secure circulation zone for medical staff, law enforcement, courtroom personnel and patient transfers.

The Crisis Response Center provides a single point to assess, stabilize and treat patients that do not require emergency or acute psychiatric care. This frees up the current emergency departments, medical inpatient units, jails and juvenile detention facilities in the area, according to Carl Hampson, associate principal for Cannon Design and design leader on the project.

“One of the biggest challenges was creating a clear organizing strategy for the numerous activities that occur both within and between the two buildings while mitigating potentially conflicting traffic flows of patients, staff and visitors,” said Hampson.

In order to organize the facility, the design team made sure all patients had private rooms with access to views and daylight, as well as independent access points allowing for segregated movement of patients and staff.

The facility was also designed to address potential expansions in the future and is configured to balance vertical stacking with organizational and operational efficiency and safety while preserving land for future building. The organizing strategy provided a framework for the numerous activities that occur within each building, helping to control the potential traffic flows of patients, staff and visitors.

The facility has specific acute and sub-acute inpatient and outpatient services, crisis assessment and stabilization, and specialized facilities for law enforcement and first responders. The courtroom located inside the facility can also provide an entrance into the hospital for those entering through the legal system.

All patient rooms have private access to views and daylight — with independent access points allowing for segregated movement of patients and staff onto units greatly enhancing safety.

The facility is focused around a ‘healing’ concept where nature played a significant component in the design. In order to connect patients and staff directly to nature, each building is organized around accessible exterior spaces where views or access to the Sonoran Desert landscape is possible.

The medical center is also designed to minimize environmental impacts — the east/west orientation of the building reduces solar heat gain and minimizes glare — helping especially during the hot Arizona summers. The windows facing south include perforated window sunscreens that still provide views but reduce the peak energy loads by over 30 percent.

The psychiatric facility was not the first for Cannon Design, but it was the first for Hampson, the design leader.

“My goal was to craft a meaningful work of civic architecture despite the stigma associated with psychiatric facilities,” he said.

By accommodating patients and staff as well as focusing on safety — the team of behavioral health experts, medical planners and designers were able to complete the facility and welcome patients in last July.