Toronto hospital’s ceilings contribute to creating a welcoming place of compassion and wellbeing for patients and staff

December 17, 2018

Rockfon acoustic stone wool ceiling tiles support the comfort and care of HIV/AIDS patients at Casey House in Toronto, and the project’s emphasis on designing with natural materials

Rockfon panels brighten up the space while providing acoustical benefits

Rockfon panels brighten up the space while providing acoustical benefits

Architectural Record recently showcased Toronto’s Casey House, one of the only independent HIV/AIDS hospitals in the world. With its 2017 expansion designed by Hariri Pontarini Architects (HPA), the purpose-built health care facility features Rockfon acoustic stone wool ceiling products.

Supporting the comfort and wellness of both patients and staff, Rockfon ceiling systems not only contribute to the hospital’s welcoming, clean, dignified, modern appearance, but also to its acoustic performance, light reflectance and sustainability goals.

Please click here to download a digital reprint of the Architectural Record article.

Expanding with compassion and connection

Celebrating 30 years of compassion, Casey House now incorporates the renovated 1875 Victorian home that has served as its hospice with a new, 59,000-square-foot, U-shaped addition surrounding a landscaped courtyard.

Buildings affect many important aspects of human existence. We spend roughly 90 percent of our lives indoors, so the quality of the buildings contributes significantly to our health, our wellbeing and our sense of purpose. Renovating and expanding on existing buildings also can contribute to the vibrancy and public perception of the neighborhood. Incorporating energy-efficient and natural building materials further contribute to the wellbeing of both the local and global community.

Reflecting these attributes, Casey House’s $30.8 million expansion also physically and aesthetically connects to the original facility. According to HPA, “The façade of Casey House, consisting of a palette of various brick, heavily tinted mirrored glass, and crust-faced limestone, is highly particularized and rich, and becomes the architectural manifestation of the quilt – a symbolic expression of the battle against HIV/AIDS.”

Old and new building sections are joined with a tall, transparent lobby, where Rockfon Alaska® ceiling panels were installed by Bird Construction. The elegant, smooth, white surface of these panels also provide excellent sound absorption for this central gathering spot. At night, the warm glow from the interior stands as a beacon of healing and welcome for its patients, many of whom have been without a home and have suffered trauma in their lives.

“When our clients are some of the most vulnerable in this city, this is the one place that they can come that offers them a judgement-free, stigma-free, compassionate place, where they can live who they are,” said Casey House CEO Joanne Simons.

Casey House provides a full range of medical and wellness services to help people living with HIV/AID from support with medications, managing mental health and early dementia to compassionate end-of-life care. Casey House has a holistic approach to health and well-being, which focuses on partnering with other organizations and caring for the whole person, not just their diagnosis of HIV, and is proud to be on the forefront of providing a new model of health care.

Embracing life, nature and light

HPA’s principal Siamak Hariri reiterated, “The vision for Casey House was really born from compassion, and what emerged was this idea of the embrace.” In the Architectural Record article, he added that his firm’s design for the hospital seeks to “create a sense of warmth, intimacy and care.” This includes a floor plan that balances privacy with personal interactions and building materials that connect the occupants with nature. Along with the limestone and walnut millwork, Rockfon stone wool ceiling panels are made from natural, abundant basalt rock.

The numerous window views, such as those overlooking the courtyard, also keep patients and staff aware of their surrounding natural environment and community. “A lot of effort was made that light comes into the project from multiple vantage points, which I think are really important to somehow give you that sense of upliftment,” emphasized Hairi. “All of these things are elemental to affirming this desire for life.”

Maximizing the windows’ natural light more deeply into the hospital’s interior corridors, Rockfon Alaska and Rockfon Tropic® white ceiling tiles reflect 86 percent of light. More effective and efficient use of natural light contributes to reduced energy use and associated carbon emissions. The surface of these ceiling panels also helps diffuse the light to minimize glare on television screens and computer monitors, thereby reducing associated eye strain and discomfort.


Offering quiet, comfort and more

Acoustic comfort is another key aspect to the wellbeing in health care facilities. For patients, these outcomes range from annoyance to elevated blood pressure to decreased wound healing and increased use of medications. When overall noise is reduced, the stress levels in health care staff are also reduced, allowing them to tune in to what’s important.

We have private, quiet, really polished rooms that make people feel comfortable and dignified

Andra Cardow

Nurse, Casey House

The engineers and acousticians at WSP helped the project achieve its intended performance. In the medical consulting rooms, Rockfon® Medical™ Plus ceiling panels offer outstanding noise absorption with a Noise Reduction Coefficient of 0.90 NRC. These panels also are resistant to Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) and offer a low particle emission (ISO Class 4, ISO14644-1) for better air cleanliness.

Due to compromised immune systems, the patients at Casey House are more susceptible to pollutants emitted from materials. This makes the need to improve indoor air quality critical. In addition to protecting at-risk patients and residents, high levels of pollutants and contaminants can lead to loss of concentration, bad odors, and irritation for staff, caregivers and visitors alike. All of our Rockfon stone wool ceiling panels have been UL® Environment GREENGUARD® Gold certified for low chemical emissions, helping protect the most vulnerable.

GREENGUARD Gold certified products also recognized by such green building guidelines as the LEED rating system. Further supporting Casey House’s sustainable building goals, recycled content is included in the manufacture of Rockfon’s stone wool ceiling tiles and the Chicago Metallic® 1200 HRCmax™ steel suspended ceiling grid in which the panels are installed.

Award-winning design

Recognizing the significant and successful design of the Casey House expansion, the project earned the Azure Magazine’s AZ Awards 2018 Social Good Award, the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) 2018 Design Excellence Award and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) 2018 Governor General Medal in Architecture.

In praising the project, the RAIC Governor General Medal in Architecture’s jury comments offered this thoughtful summary: “The expansion offers comfort, light and beauty to a population that has historically been underserved. The intimacy of the plan and the rich materiality turns the idea of a clinical environment on its head. The material palette is extensive and the discrete formal elements are many, but are handled with exceptional rigour and care, thereby transcending the ornate. The façade’s varied articulation and massing keep the new building in scale with the original building, as well as maintaining a harmonious ambiance and human scale for the workers, patients, residents and neighbours.”

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