Innovative design for Ste-Anne Hospital features green elements


Many managers of aging Canadian health-care facilities are beginning to see the benefits of changing old buildings into innovative and green health-care environments. This is exactly what happened with Ste-Anne Hospital in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Québec, where the clients and ARCOP architects – a joint venture with Cardinal Hardy / Provencher Roy/ Jodoin Lamarre Pratte & Associates architects (PCJA) – designed a long-term psychiatric-geriatric facility that feels like a contemporary home rather than a typical health-care institution.

What makes this 67.7 million dollar project remarkable? The answer lies in five words: green residential welcoming therapeutic environment.

Nature, ambient light and therapeutic design

One of the first main conceptual intentions driving the project was to establish a strong visual link between the user and the landscape in order to break with the traditional isolated hospital concept. In the annex, this can be seen through the shape of the wings, which allow maximum window surface and interaction with therapeutic gardens. In the main existing pavilion, the architectural design team decided to re-open the concrete structure and replace the prefab concrete panels with an immense curtain glass wall that allows views and maximizes natural light and ventilation. From a user’s perspective, those initiatives have a big impact. The hospital is no longer an interminable labyrinth of dark or artificial corridors; it becomes an interesting experience similar to a processional path that links all interior and exterior spaces through different layers of privacy and controlled views.

Another concept driving the project was the desire to design spaces with a residential character while always respecting staff requirements and according to labour and health safety rules. The spatial organization and appointment of the physical environment promotes well-being for people with dementia, pain and post-traumatic stress disorders. To minimize the sensory overstimulation that can afflict them, the architectural design team created quiet rooms with soft colors, eliminated unnecessary clutter and provided bathrooms that preserve the veteran’s dignity and privacy.

The design also supports residents’ sense of orientation; each unit has its own color, and specific rooms or activity spaces are easy to find. Finally, for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, hospital administration and designers decided to develop a “Snoezelen room”. It is a multi-sensory room in which stimulating activities and experiences are used to increase awareness and positive behaviors for individuals with severe sensory impairment or neurological challenges.

A green welcoming environment

The last concept intention driving the project was the desire to respect the environmental aspects at every level of the design. From the layout of the site to the selection of materials, the project adheres to the principles of sustainable development and, among other things, is also a pilot project for using geothermal energy in this building type. It is the energy of the earth that drives the new building’s heating and air conditioning systems. Also, the annex’s orientation has been determined according to the sun’s trajectory. The new building’s volumes on two levels, its geometry breaking the traditional hospital “T” shape, and the use of green materials and details such as opening windows, help to bring to this long-term care installation a true residential character linked to “green” alternatives. Finally, ambient light and natural ventilation reduce electricity consumption and improve personal comfort. The combined effects of these technologies will result in energy savings in excess of 40 per cent compared to conventional construction methods.

The first phase of this 31,686 square metre hospital has just been completed and consists of the construction of a new thermal power plant, an electrical substation and a residential care annex adapted to the needs of older patients (132 beds). The second phase, renovation and extension of the principal ’70s pavilion, will start this year and will be completed in 2009. The old tower will have a new contemporary look and will accommodate a community centre as well as 33 individual rooms linked to an activity area and wards on 10 levels (total of 330 beds). In a later phase, the hospital will redevelop common areas and the patient care section in the main pavilion, in addition to renovating the old Edith Temple Pavilion. In 2009 Ste-Anne’s Hospital will offer 460 beds in private rooms.

Hospitals are increasingly building their facilities with the environment in mind. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because they can save money. An integrated process and a true complicity between client and architects, has been the key success to Ste-Anne Hospital’s project.

For more information: or contact: Bruno Verenini Partner, Arcop (514) 878-3941 ext. 202