Project category: New construction (completed February 2005)

Chief administrator: William Giermak, CEO, (757) 622-2208

Firm: Paul Finch & Associates, PC, (757) 471-0537

Design team: Paul G. Finch, AIA, ACHA, NCARB, Principal-in-Charge, Quality Control; Joseph H. Trost, AIA, Principal-in-Charge, Design; Susan V. Swisher, ASID, Interior Designer; Pei-Chi Pang, Associate IIDA, Interior Designer

Photography: Larry Whitesel

Total building area (sq. ft.): 88,000

Construction cost/sq. ft.: $136

Total construction cost (excluding land): $12,000,000

The relocation of St. Mary's Home for Disabled Children into a new 88,000-square-foot facility presented the opportunity to enrich the lives of severely disabled children and young adults. The new 88-bed, state-of-the-art intermediate care facility is unique, as it's the only private long-term care facility in the state exclusively for young people.

The most challenging aspect of this project was to incorporate a homelike, child-friendly environment that would give reassurance to parents, enlighten the children's lives, and provide the necessary medical facilities. The intention of the layout is to separate the different facets of the children's daily life. The children spend their days in “schools” and nights in their “homes.” A bus canopy was provided for picking up and dropping off children capable of traveling outside the facility to participate in their various school activities. For children restricted to spending all hours within the facility, areas were created to imitate the experience of going to school, including activity rooms, a pool courtyard, a texture courtyard, an aroma courtyard, and a playground courtyard. Separate spaces are defined for living to mimic the experience of home life and include medical, educational, therapeutic, and recreational care.

The home is equipped with a centralized conservatory for large or intimate gatherings and is complete with nursing units, a kitchen, a laundry, public school support, administration, purchasing, housekeeping, a maintenance shop, a doctor/dentist clinic, and a beauty salon/barbershop to contribute to a full “community” atmosphere.


The flow of the new space and everyday activities has become more efficient in contrast to the maze of tight corridors and cramped spaces in the aging previous facility. Staff spaces have been consolidated to minimize foot traffic and confusion in critical high-traffic areas.

Interior finishes create a residential feel by using calm and soothing colors and warm wood tones at entryways while carefully maintaining a durable and cleanable healthcare facility. Special attention was given to embellishing the ceilings to capture the attention of children who face upwards while in their wheeled chairs or lying in bed. Paw prints can be found on ceiling tiles to captivate the imagination of the children. Colorful circles, diamonds, and triangles also can be found on the ceilings. Colors in the activity rooms are bright and cheerful to stimulate activity. A “night-light” effect was added behind the handrails in the resident pods to help illuminate the area enough for staff yet keep a low light level for sleeping children.