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Kaiser Permanente Small Hospital, Big Idea Competition; Kaiser Health Cube

Project Description

The Chalange

Kaiser Permanente, a leading not-for-profit health plan and care provider, invited students, designers, architects, engineers, and individuals everywhere to design a small hospital that evolves the way we deliver health care.

Kaiser Permanente has been operating large medical facilities successfully for well over half a century. But continued success requires new thinking. We are appealing to the world’s most talented minds to help design a revolutionary small hospital that can overcome the unique challenges of a small market (e.g., scarce resources and a shrinking pool of skilled clinical staff) and deliver exceptional, effective, and convenient care to our members. The hospital should have a near-zero impact on the environment.

Kaiser Health Cube

The new Kaiser Permanente Small Hospital Building will present a simple and easily understood identity to the community. A white cube rising from a carefully planted xeriscape park, will identify the location of the Kaiser Permanente Health Cube within the community, conveying the ideas of trust, care, friendliness and environmental stewardship.

Due to anxiety, stigma and loss of control that many people experience when visiting a hospital the Health Cube induces the feelings of confidence, contact with nature and a generally soothing healing environment to help reduce patients’ families’ and staff’s stress level to a minimum.

Campus Orientation

The public enters the new Kaiser Permanente campus through a central, clearly identifiable driveway that ends in a roundabout right in front of the Health Cube. All public amenities and functions are accessible from this driveway with easy orientation facilitated by a color-coded wayfinding system. While public access leads through the center of the campus, services and emergency vehicles access separate perimeter roads towards the back of the Health Cube.

For easy orientation and environmental reasons, the site is organized in a series of zones, each providing a separate functions and a different level of environmental quality: In the first zone, near the main road, a series of landscaped hills provides variety and shade to the surface car park that contains porous paving installation to eliminate the need for a storm-water management system. Shaded walkways featuring a variety of seating arrangements lead along hills connecting the parking with the Health Cube. The second zone contains the circular arrival plaza in front of the Health Cube and preferential parking for the disabled, bicycle racks, access to the medical office building, future hospital expansion and outpatient services. In the third zone, the Health Cube, the medical office building and space for future extension of the facility align along a public circulation axis, bifurcating the Heath Cube and linking it with the other main facilities within the campus. This is the zone that will be most used for healing and recreational use. Therefore, it will contain a mature landscape that will provide ample shading, gray water ponds, sports fields and a community, healing gardens. The zone at the very back of the campus connects the perimeter roads, service and emergency entrances, staff parking and utility buildings into a general service area.

Efficienty and Adaptibility

The fact that the geometry of the building is based on a cube, a geometry with very high volume compared to its surface area, means that the overall life cycle energy costs for cooling and heating are much smaller than if the building had a different shape.

Furthermore, the 8-story building is ideal for prefabrication as it is based on a very simple 4×4 bay orthogonal grid of 36 by 36 feet, each bay holding two patient rooms. The regularity of the bay width, together with the square shape of the floor plan facilitate the prefabrication of, either construction elements such as beams, columns and panels, or entire modules that could be assembled on site.

In order to achieve the greatest flexibility over time, all vertical core elements such as stairs, elevators and shafts are arranged in the perimeter zone of the floor plate. This leaves the center of the floor-plates open, thus allowing ample space for future changes in medical technology and nursing.

The Health Cube is designed for extended life-cycle usability through the separation of utilities, structure and shell.
All patient rooms are designed to be pre-fabricated off site before being lifted to their respective locations within the building’s structure. While this method will allow for faster construction, less cost and improved quality control and assurance, it also provides improved flexibility for the room layout and equipment that will consist of standard factory assembled elements.

A light metal screen, whose openings are gradually modulated in accordance with its performative requirements such as sun shading or ventilation, will surround the entire Health Cube like a veil. Besides its performance, the screen will aesthetically unify the building’s façade and help shape its unique identity.


Reduced site disturbance through compact building footprint;
Porous, sand-set paving for surface parking throughout for reduced storm water runoff;
Bicycle storage an access to public transportation if possible for selected site;
Car park material, roof materials light to reduce heat island effect;
Kitchen and ornamental gardens on site;
Site landscaping with drought-tolerant plants and storm water detention system;
Gray water system: No potable water used for irrigation;
Healing and treatment garden at 6th floor reduces storm water runoff;
Rain-water collection and storage for irrigation;
Closed-loop cooling towers;
Low-flow fixtures; waterless urinals;
Performative screen as shading device;
Balconies serve as shading devices for patient rooms;
High performance building envelope;
Lumen adaption compensation control: lighting controls in patient rooms and corridors allow for lower light levels at night when the human eye is accustomed to less light;
Ample daylighting makes daytime artificial light in patient rooms unnecessary;
User-controlled passive ventilation through large, operable windows and sliding doors;
Local and regional materials used;
Recylce construction waste;
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) avoidance;
Use of linoleum and rubber flooring;
Environmental Quality
Balconies and Healing Garden allow patients and visitors to connect with the outdoors and control their thermal and luminous environment;
Integrated daylighting: view glass and clerestory windows increase daylight penetration with user daylighting control;
Operable patient room windows interlocked to variable air volume (VAV) system;

Total Health Environment

The Kaiser Permanente Health Cube fosters the idea of an integrated healing experience where patients, families and staff are surrounded by an environment that integrates indoor and outdoor space, buildings and landscape with the latest medical technology.

Though waiting times will be greatly reduced through technology, people will have the need of personal or communal time for relaxation. The Kaiser Permanente Health Cube incorporates a large central healing garden to provide outdoor relief and enjoyment through lush planting, the sound of running water and generous private and communal seating areas. Due to its central location within the patient care units, this healing garden will form an ideal meeting place for all, in the healing process.

The Kaiser Permanente Health Cube will feature a jogging track, outdoor sports facilities, shaded walking paths and seating to help patients of various abilities, staff and visitors to get outdoor physical exercise and keep body and mind in shape.

The Kaiser Permanente Health Cube features 106 universal, single occupancy patient rooms. Each patient room provides a generous outdoor balcony area that can be used for planting, outdoor healing experience and private family meetings. The bathrooms are placed “back to back” between the rooms to allow a simple and flexible room shape, while providing maximum amount of window and corridor exposure. This provides great flexibility in the amount of contact with the outdoor balcony while keeping the corridor wall open for enhanced patient supervision. Due to its size and simple shape, each room is fully adaptable to the various acuity levels that may be required and will accommodate generous zones for family and friends.

Project Details

CK - Architecture