Patient-First Design

Glass Façade Creates Healing Atmosphere for Hospital in La Jolla, California 

by Andre Kenstowicz, CSI, LEED GA, senior architectural manager, Vitro Architectural Glass

Patient-first care is alive and well at Jacobs Medical Center, a 509,000 sq.ft., 245-bed medical and surgical specialty hospital that innovatively fuses together modern technology, forward-thinking design, and a healing environment to deliver world-class care.  The newest hospital in the University of California San Diego Health System, Jacobs Medical Center, is distinguished by a gleaming, point-fixed structural glass façade, fabricated with Solarban® 70XL glass on Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass by Vitro Glass, and a striking curvilinear form that reinforces patient-centered care prominently throughout its ten stories. 

CannonDesign, with offices in Los Angeles, California, and Chicago, Illinois, specified abundant use of transparent solar control low-e glass to give patients clear, scenic views of the surrounding hills and ocean.  These soothing vistas, combined with plenty of natural daylight and glare and noise control, help create the healing, relaxing atmosphere the architectural firm and hospital administrators desired. 

Although it met all performance requirements, the glass specification had to be adjusted to achieve another design objective.  That required close collaboration between Vitro Glass and Northwestern Industries, Inc. (NWI), a Vitro Certified™ fabricator.   

“Part of what makes this project so unique is the whitish exterior look the architect wanted the building to have,” explained Frank Forgione of NWI.  “We worked with Vitro’s technical team testing various glass samples and mock-ups that could meet this requirement and still maintain the desired performance.  Ultimately, we put a customized silk-screened white frit on Starphire Ultra-Clear glass, which we then laminated on the Solarban 70XL.” 

This configuration was used extensively, including the 11’ 8” floor-to-ceiling windows in all patient rooms; the front-glazed, unitized curtain wall system; and spandrel shadow-box glazing.  All told, more than 100,000 sq.ft. of glass was installed. 

To adequately handle this high volume and facilitate the timely shipment of glass orders to glazing contractor ENCLOS, Los Angeles, NWI used the Vitro Concierge Program™, which provides logistics management and customized coordination for projects of this size.  By providing priority access to the glass, the Vitro Concierge Program helped to ensure that the project stayed on schedule.  “We worked closely with ENCLOS to meet their scheduling requirements, and worked through the Concierge Program, which allowed us to stay on top of everything,” said Forgione.  “It was a collaborative effort to make sure that glass was available from Vitro to us, and then from NWI to ENCLOS.” 

While glass provided the natural, soothing element hospital executives demanded, other amenities were incorporated to ensure convenience and comfort.  Patient rooms were designed as private suites furnished with smart beds oriented for panoramic views of La Jolla and tablet computers that patients can use to control motorized solarshading, lighting, temperature, and to see their treatment schedules and medical records.   

This design, combined with advanced modeling, influenced the building’s curvilinear nature.  The unitized curtain wall developed by ENCLOS showcases more than 40 radiused dimensions, including concave and convex surfaces.  The resulting freeform style simultaneously minimizes conventional right-angle corners and maximizes daylighting, creating a natural flow and providing easier navigation for patient beds.   

Formulated with the industry’s most advanced triple-silver coating, Solarban 70XL glass has visible light transmittance of 64% with a solar heat gain coefficient of 0.27 and a light-to-solar gain ratio of 1.85.  This high performance, combined with the silk-screened white frit on Starphire Ultra-Clear glass, not only helped the architectural firm achieve its design objectives, but it also enabled the facility to earn LEED® certification at the Silver level. 

Since starting operations in November 2016, Jacobs Medical Center has passed its check-ups with flying colors.  Groundbreaking research and education, advanced surgical technologies and a patient-first ethos in an architecturally significant setting haven’t just transformed the traditional hospital stay.  They’ve ushered in a new era of health care. 

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