Collaboration is a great thing, isn’t it? It happens all the time in healthcare projects—often with great success. One of the success stories of the new Naval Hospital at Camp Pendleton at the United States Marine Corps’ major West Coast base is the involvement of Young + Co. Inc., a 4-person interior design firm based in San Diego.

How did Young + Co. get to be part of the interiors team that included industry giants like HKS Inc. and HDR Architecture?

Well, for starters, one of the Navy’s requirements was to award a sizeable percentage of subcontracts to small businesses. In the end, the design-build team—a joint venture between Clark Construction and McCarthy Building Cos.—awarded 75 percent of the subcontracts to small businesses.

That, according to Jean Young, president of Young + Co., was one of the reasons her firm was chosen, in addition to the fact that she’d been working with the Navy for the past 15 years on other projects at the Medical Center at Balboa Hospital in San Diego. She reached out to her colleagues at HDR at the right time and ended up leading the design team for the development of the interior design concepts for Camp Pendleton.

HDR and Young + Co. completed the working documents to 90 percent. “We specified furniture, fabrics, artwork, finishes,” Young said. “Normally, in this type of project, we’d only do just the design concepts and complete working documents to 35 percent.”

Once the working documents were turned over to HKS to execute, the Navy kept Young on board until the very end so the continuity of the original design intent could be kept as things were changed.

Sort of a Cinderella story, don’t you think?

Young thinks so. “As a small business, for me to be involved in project of this magnitude was an incredible opportunity,” she said. “Interior designers need to know that these opportunities are available to small firms. You don’t have to be an HDR or HKS.”

Plus, what the Navy got was a team of senior designers who had a history of working together. It certainly helped in delivering the project six months ahead of schedule. (For the complete story, read all about it in Healthcare Design’s April 2014 issue and at this link: Camp Pendleton Replacement Hospital Mirrors Military Traditions)

For small interior design firms, the four takeaways from Young’s story are:

  1. Maintain or cultivate relationships with colleagues/individuals at large firms. A good way to meet those people is to attend conferences/educational events or volunteer for associations/organizations that serve a cross-section of the healthcare design industry
  2. Keep your eyes and ears to the ground to find out about large projects in your area
  3. Don’t be afraid to reach out to individuals at large firms that you know are submitting RFPs for large projects
  4. Maintain a professional website, because on the Web, nobody needs to know you’re small—and that’s the first place they’ll look.

Have any other advice or stories like this to share? Comment below.