No one expected the bamboo to grow so…fast. The shoots were purchased early in the construction phase of the project, and by the time they were ready to be installed in the healing garden on the upper floors, workers had to bend them into the “megavators” for transport.

In retrospect, that challenge was a small one for the new home of the Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center. It is owned by Spectrum Health, a community-based, not-for-profit health system in West Michigan that offers a full continuum of care through its seven hospitals and more than 140 service sites. The new addition was made possible in part by $34 million raised through philanthropy, with Fred and Lena Meijer of the family-owned Meijer supercenter stores leading the way. The biggest challenge (and opportunity) was working with Spectrum Health while it was consolidating two different hospitals—Butterworth Hospital and Blodgett Memorial Medical Center. “In design planning today,” says Joe Greenan, vice-president and business line manager of URS Health in Grand Rapids, who served as the project's principal-in-charge, “the process is more concurrent than linear. In other words, a certain level of operational planning may be occurring while the design team is developing the space and functional program, and design development may be occurring on the shell and core of the building while the design team may still be doing schematic design for the interior department spaces, etc. This creates more challenges for us in that the planning and design model is more complex, but it's exciting to be a part of such a dynamic process.”

An additional complication was the tight, urban site. The heart center was designed and built over the health campus's existing primary loading dock, primary electrical service, and ambulance drop-off. Also, two overhead walkways needed to be maintained, and the disturbances to the operation of an adjacent second-floor surgery suite and upper-floor inpatient units needed to be minimized. “To the credit of the construction management team, they did an excellent job in communicating with department managers, informing them ahead of time what they would be doing and where,” says Greenan.

The result of their efforts is Michigan's largest open-heart surgery program and its nationally recognized heart program. What follows is a guided tour by Greenan.


“The main lobby needed to have a presence as a Center of Excellence, so a separate entry from the main campus was provided. It also needed to be welcoming to families, patients, and staff, so a color palette that was rich, warm, inviting, and welcoming was chosen. The idea behind the glass donor wall was to make it a feature in the lobby that would provide visible recognition of donors, several of whom have their names etched on it. Some of the glass shows an abstract rendition of flowing water; other parts show rippling water—all intended to offer a sense of movement.

“The artwork is integral to the facility. Spectrum has a major art program, and donated art is featured throughout all facilities on the main campus. This addition simply continued a trend. The artwork is integrated with the interior concepts within public spaces such as hallways, waiting areas, consultation rooms, etc., on all floors, and serves as a distraction for people who are stressed. Some of the art was specifically selected to work with the interior scheme; other pieces located in waiting rooms were selected for their general interest. I like that aspect, especially in waiting areas—providing a temporary distraction to take the mind off serious matters.”


“The patient rooms are zoned for specific functions and needs of patients, families, and caregivers. These rooms at the Heart Center are larger than the typical rooms in the existing hospital, and more space than usual is dedicated to caregivers—specifically, a work zone with appropriate counter space and areas for supplies and cleanup. The family zone is commonly located on the outer wall. On two floors, benches fold out so family members can spend the night. There is also millwork on the wall with shelving so that personal items such as flowers, cards, and teddy bears can be displayed.

“With private patient rooms, family members spend the majority of their visits in the room—another reason the rooms are larger and the reason for extra padding on seats. But family members also need a respite from what's occurring, so there are lounges of different sizes and with various features: TVs with flat-panel monitors, softer seating, tables and chairs for games, and vending machines with drinks and snacks.

“The guest centers are located on the floors above the lobby and overlook the glass art wall. Windows to the outside allow visitors to see what's happening on the street. Short walls define separate areas within the guest centers so that people don't have to be intimidated by sitting right next to each other.”


“The healing garden initially was a feature added to permit an increase in the number of patient beds, because the Michigan health department requires that inpatient beds have views to the outside. Including a healing garden in the project allowed five rooms to be added on each floor, for a total of ten. The garden features bamboo and an artificial river made of crystal-type rocks, with fiberoptics in it for visual enhancement. It also serves as a privacy screen—if it weren't there, you'd have patients looking into other patients’ rooms.

“Locating the healing garden on the upper floors required that certain engineering issues be addressed; for example, the floor loading was designed to accept planting material and dirt. Also, windows on the walls and a skylight have to be able to be reached for washing, so a platform moves back and forth through the atrium for that purpose. And of course there's the air quality—getting the right humidity and temperature for the plant materials.”


“Today, there's always the intent to make nursing and reception areas aesthetically pleasing as well as functional. Nurses’ stations have to be inviting places where families feel comfortable interacting with staff. It is important to enhance patient and visitor accessibility, and a facility must also have the appropriate work space for staff to do charting and have conversations with clinicians in such an open environment. There are also spaces in those stations intended for private conversation so not everybody can hear. On the CCU floor, the substations between two patient rooms put the nurses near patients for direct observation and convenient charting. Interior windows allow nurses to monitor patients without being in the room.”

ipment manufacturer. Skytron representatives worked with staff to custom-design these and, as I understand, the surgical booms are the first in the United States for this type of application. Minor procedures can be performed in these rooms without having to transfer patients to the OR. The vast majority of equipment in the cath labs, PV [peripheral vascular] procedure suite, and OR incorporates the latest medical technology. Backlit murals in the ceiling of the nuclear medicine rooms are intended to serve as a distraction to patients.”

“The most enjoyable thing about this process was that we were able to work with the client and understand the service the client wanted to provide, the procedure for doing business, and the client's operational models. The success of this project is a result of the incredible team commitment of all members involved.” HD