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 Phillip Rollfing  

HKS collaboration

Architecture Students Team Up To
Design Medical Center For Mansfield



Junior and senior Texas A&M University architecture students unveiled 14 design concepts for a 269,000-square-foot medical center, to be located on a 40-acre site in Mansfield in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, at a Dec. 2, 2005 public design review at the Dallas headquarters of HKS, Inc.

The 14 student teams — a total of 29 students — collaborated on the project with architects from HKS, an international architecture/engineering firm, and with facility planners working with the project developer, Texas Health Resources (THR), the largest health care system in North Texas. The students were enrolled in an architecture-for-health studio directed by George J. Mann, the Ronald L. Skaggs Professor for Health Facilities Design at Texas A&M's College of Architecture.

For the semester-long project, Mann said, the students focused on sustainable, resource-friendly design solutions emphasizing energy conservation, renewable resources and modern evidence-based design concepts that can facilitate state-of-the-art medical practices, as well as patient wellbeing and recovery. Furthermore, he said, the students incorporated solutions for "surge" capacity, or the ability to respond to extreme disasters that might overwhelm the region's existing health care infrastructure.

"The project offered students a unique hands-on and very real opportunity to work in tandem with visionary clients and top-drawer design professionals," Mann said. "A real-world project means so much more to the students than a routine hypothetical homework assignment. By exposing students to the process of working with a client, they learn the art of listening and being responsive, and as a result of working with the highly accomplished architects and engineers at HKS and THR, the students are extremely motivated and their learning experience is incredibly enhanced."

Both HKS and THR invited the A&M students to explore alternative designs for the Mansfield project. As an advisory teaching firm, over the years HKS has worked closely with A&M architecture studios on a variety of projects. Since the inception of Texas A&M's architecture-for-health program in 1966, Mann said, A&M design studios have tackled over 500 health-related design projects for a variety of clients and organizations at locations around the world.

"The program focuses on case study approaches to health facility design, allowing students to work on real projects, with actual clients and budgets," said Mann. "Through its interdisciplinary approach to problem solving, the program encourages students to work with doctors and allied health professionals, as well as experts in all of the built environment professions."

Mann said the students' design explorations could have a significant influence on the architects' final designs. Their solutions are incredibly diverse, he noted, and each one addresses issues of importance to modern health care facilities such as energy conservation, natural lighting and indoor and outdoor gardens. One design, for instance, incorporates wind turbines which can generate and store electrical power. Several designs include rooftop gardens that can reduce the effect of solar heating on the building while providing serene green space that can be viewed and accessed by patients, visitors and staff. The designs also pay strict attention to building's orientation to maximize natural lighting throughout the facility.

"With our design we are hoping to change the idea of a hospital from a remote institution to a wellness center integrated into the community environment," said Courtney Brinegar, an A&M student who worked for HKS last summer and is currently participating on one of the Mansfield project teams.

Other professionals working with students on the Mansfield project include Jeffrey C. Stouffer, architect, principal and design director with HKS; Brian Holmes, a professional engineer and senior vice president of real estate operations for THR; and Joseph J. McGraw, Ph.D., professor emeritus at Texas A&M University.

The city of Mansfield is located in Tarrant County, Texas in the southern portion of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

"The explosive growth in Mansfield and in the southern portion of the Metroplex requires significant investment by all sectors of the business community, and in particular, the health care community," said Clayton Chandler, Mansfield city manager. "We are pleased that quality health care companies, such as Texas Health Resources, are choosing to invest in our city and its future. We look forward to a strong relationship with THR as they fully realize their plans for Mansfield. It is a partnership that will be beneficial to the economic vitality of our community and beneficial to the growing health care needs of our residents."

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