The Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System Medical Center in New Orleans (SLVHCS) features nine buildings uniquely specified to aid the more than 70,000 vets who visit each year. Veteran-specific design includes straight, long stairways, without switchbacks to increase visibility; blind corners were also minimized. Bathrooms are prominently located, as many vets travel from rural areas. Accessibility was championed, with ample and easy wheelchair storage at the entrance.
“To design for this specialized patient population and its healthcare needs, we recruited over 100 veterans and 180 VA hospital staff from Louisiana—many of whom are vets themselves—for research workshops, interviews and design charettes,” says Steve Maslen, senior vice president, Clark/McCarthy Healthcare Partners (CMHP). The SLVHCS replaces the New Orleans’ VA destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina, and sets new standards for patient-centered care, and both honors veterans’ service and reflects the local New Orleans’ culture. “A lot of resilient thinking went into the design of the facility to make sure that what happened with the previous hospital doesn’t happen again,” adds Edwin Beltran, design leader of NBBJ’s interior architecture and design practice. “It’s built to last.”
Just one of the many visibility enhancements is the glass wall panels used in the rehab building lobby. Because color-blindness affects veterans in disproportionately high numbers, the color palette predominantly features colors like blue that are more recognizable to the vision impaired. Each building features Vivid Chrome back-painted with anti-fingerprint treatment in different colors to aid in wayfinding. Here, blue signifies the rehab building.