In April, opening day visitors to Partners Healthcare's new Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston were greeted with light-filled, state-of-the-art facilities, which the Boston Globe commended as "emblematic of the transformation rehabilitation medicine has undergone." Behind the scenes, the nine story, 262,000 ft² facility designed by Perkins+Will also reflects recent advances in computational modeling that are transforming the design process.
As the project's environmental performance modeling consultant, Buro Happold provided advanced life-cycle cost and building performance analyses critical to meeting key client goals for optimizing patient comfort and safety, as well as integrating resiliency planning strategies and ongoing sustainability.
As one of the most costly building components, and one that affects everything from a building's look to its structural and HVAC systems, the facade was the subject of intense study. Using computational fluid dynamic modeling, Buro Happold analyzed triple and double-glazed window walls for life-cycle costs, effects on energy use, and ultimately, their impact on thermal comfort for patients.
The modeling revealed that the enhanced performance of the triple-glazed window would support the desired thermal comfort while eliminating the need for in-room fin-tube radiators, which were identified as a maintenance issue relative to infection control. Although the triple-glazed option was cost neutral, this approach offered the added benefit of reducing infection risks; a key concern for all hospitals.
The environmental performance modeling also encompassed resiliency planning, to ensure that the hospital could continue to operate in the event of a disaster. Dynamic thermal modeling helped the design team to analyze natural ventilation strategies which were crucial to both day to day building performance and indoor air quality as well as post-disaster operations (after Hurricane Katrina, hospital staff had to break windows to get access to fresh air).
As government agencies, institutions and private sector clients continue to raise the bar on sustainability and long term ROI, environmental performance modeling will play an increasingly important role in realizing successful buildings. The Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital exemplifies how an investment in early analysis can help to capture a project’s full potential.