Jan Marion, owner and founder of H. Marion Framing Studio, understands that green design involves more than just meeting the latest industry standards. “First and foremost, the design must look good. It's like if you're eating health food; it's got to taste good first for people to really want to eat it,” says Marion. “Specifically for healthcare design, not only must it look good, but also it needs to reflect the values of and reinforce the brand image of the facility.” Such is the philosophy behind the firm's latest project at St. Francis Hospital's Wolf Gallery, in Evanston, Illinois.

The Wolf Gallery is a 65-foot continuous wall that connects St. Francis Hospital to its surrounding buildings. “The Wolf Gallery is the main link to the hospital from two professional office buildings to the East and West,” says H. Marion licensed ASID interior designer Pam Rosenberg. “They're all built together, but this is the main link. Not only does it serve as a link, but it's also the only waiting area—a place of respite—for people who are going from the three separate buildings to each other.”

The hospital is currently undergoing a significant 10-year renovation. Its final phase includes an update of the Wolf Gallery, which had formerly been a collection of donated art.

The H. Marion design is rooted in green thought, intended as an extension of the adjacent healing garden. As Marion explains, “The imagery that we selected evokes this same healing garden motif. We wanted this long expanse to be kind of an extension of this outdoor healing garden.”

But it's not just the imagery that invokes green principles. H. Marion has been innovating green design by printing on eco-friendly materials with UV- and fade-resistant inks for longer life and increased sustainability. In the past, the company has used aluminum substrate, but for this installation, bamboo was used for printing. Marion describes the process: “First, we have to create a substrate that's not going to warp. Whether we're using aluminum or bamboo, it's a three-ply construction to prevent warping. In the case of bamboo, it's 100% bamboo. It's sustainably grown and harvested, and it's very resistant to moisture, mold, and infestation. Before we even get into the printing process, we've chose to keep the natural blonde color of the wood. This also helps in the printing process when we're selecting our ink colors so that our visuals show up better. Then we sand the edges and either frame them using 100% bamboo frames or mount them float-style as-is.”

The printing process is similarly cutting edge. The method, known as giclée printing is essentially large-format ink-jet printing. This process allows printing directly on thick substrates such as the bamboo art pieces used in the Wolf Gallery. In the past, a bamboo panel would need to have the ink transferred to it or applied as a silkscreen, but as giclée technology evolves and advances, the ink can now be applied directly.

The Wolf Gallery design is the first in what will hopefully be many green installations by H. Marion Framing Studio. Though Marion himself was unable to assure that everything the studio does in the future will be green, he said that, when the numbers make sense, it is something they strive for: “When we're specifying art for a hospital, oftentimes the bulk of it on the patient floors is going to be poster quality for budget considerations. But when we're doing common areas and areas that are more important, we often have larger budgets and greater flexibility to stretch from a creative standpoint. So in those instances, I could say yes, we will aim to be green.”

Even in their poster quality framing, Marion notes, “We've adopted a less aggressive, more subtle green involvement.” He explains that not only does H. Marion use sustainable hardwood frames—a renewable resource that is being grown and produced locally—but also that the companies it chooses to work with harbor the same environmental goals and practices that the firm itself does. One such company, Larson-Juhl, has even implemented a reforestation program called Global ReLeaf wherein it has replanted more than 300,500 trees between 1991 and 2007.

All of this is just part of the growing green push in the industry however. “[Pam Rosenberg and I] saw something interesting in print: According to a survey conducted by McGraw-Hill Construction, 19% of senior healthcare and hospital administrators expect to be significantly involved in green building in 2008, more than triple the percentage from 2007,” Marion noted. This rapid growth assures Marion that green design will start to be less of an option and more of a necessity for many designers. Because aside from the design firms themselves being interested in sustainability, an increasingly large number of administrators are similarly minded.

Marion explains: “As with any new technology, you reach a critical mass in terms of the equipment infrastructure. In other words, when calculators first came out, they were really expensive. But when you reach a critical mass in terms of production, the prices come down. Applying that idea to this industry, there has been a lot of research and development with respect to the appropriate technology. As more and more of that technology becomes available, artists are freed up to start creating in that arena. We're going to be seeing much more of it. It's going to become more affordable, and it's going to look good.” That's the sort of prospect H. Marion Framing Studio can get behind. HD

For more information on H. Marion Framing Studio, visit http://www.hmarionframing.com or call 847.562.1222.

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Healthcare Design 2008 August;8(8):54-55