Written by Nancy Wise
Health and well-being inform every part of Vanderbilt University School of Nursing’s new $23.6 million building expansion, opening Jan. 22. The expansion, which broke ground in 2017, was designed to target LEED Gold and WELL Silver certification. Once the certification process concludes, the university anticipates that this building will be the first complete, ground-up structure in Nashville to carry the WELL designation.
The WELL Building Standard is a performance-based system of measuring, certifying and monitoring features that affect human health and well-being in the built environment, including air quality, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.
“Nursing embraces a holistic view of health and seeks to care for the entire person. Likewise, our expansion was built with a holistic view of enhancing all of its occupants’ well-being and health,” said Dean Linda D. Norman, the Valere Menefee Potter Professor of Nursing. “It makes synergistic sense that the new School of Nursing project is Vanderbilt’s first building constructed to WELL standards.”
Wellness goes hand-in-hand with the university’s broader consideration for the impact of the built environment on the way we live, said Vice Chancellor for Administration Eric Kopstain. He noted that Vanderbilt University is engaged in wide-ranging discussions about its sustainability strategy as it relates to key topics such as energy, transportation, water, waste and recycling.
“I see our efforts to establish the first WELL building in Nashville as a critical and visible component of these important efforts and a manifestation of our FutureVU principles and goals,” he said. “Being responsible for our environment and the occupants of our buildings by emphasizing the importance of healthy design principles supports that mission.”
The university is targeting WELL Silver certification, which is garnered by meeting specific requirements in building design and implementing specific operational policies, such as housekeeping standards. “The School of Nursing is visionary in pursuing this certification,” Vanderbilt University Architect Keith Loiseau said. “This effort will inform future Vanderbilt building and integration of these concepts. “
Erica Weeks, director of sustainability for Hastings Architecture, oversaw the adherence to the WELL Building Standard through design and construction. “WELL standards touch every aspect of the building. For example, ductwork was sealed in plastic during construction as to not draw contaminants from construction into the HVAC system. These measures were taken to assure optimum air quality in the structure,” Weeks said.
To help promote well-being, the building’s lighting supports human circadian rhythms with optimum light intensity for at least four hours a day every day of the year, including abundant natural light. Other features designed to WELL standards include the atrium’s open monumental staircase with wide landings that encourage low-impact and moderate-to-vigorous stair climbing, the selection of ceiling tiles in the classrooms to soften sound reverberation, strategic placement of mechanical systems and ductwork to reduce noise, the availability of adjustable desks in offices, no- and low-volatile organic compound carpeting and surface materials and the thoughtful incorporation of nature through a green space on the roof and landscaped open space in front of the building. The colors, textures, patterns and materials used in the expansion have been selected to reflect nature and connect people with natural surroundings. Wood reclaimed from trees on the building site is showcased on a decorative wall in the atrium and elsewhere in the building.
“Incorporating the reclaimed wood was something we specifically requested be part of the expansion,” Norman said. “The wall is a fitting and unique element, acknowledging the School of Nursing’s past while being part of its future.”
The expansion, which connects the school’s historic Godchaux and Patricia Champion Frist halls, includes technologically advanced classrooms, a rooftop terrace and a state-of-the-art simulation teaching lab that will be used for complex skills development and real-time feedback on students’ clinical nursing skills. Filling the third floor of the building, the technologically sophisticated simulation lab enables realistic learning experiences and can represent a variety of health care scenarios and settings.
The Vanderbilt School of Nursing is located at 461 21st Ave. South in Nashville. The 29,947-square-foot building was designed by Hastings Architecture and the construction manager was D.F. Chase.
WELL is administered and certified by the International WELL Building Institute. IWBI works with Green Business Certification Inc., the same organization that administers LEED certification, to oversee WELL certification. The building evaluation will be carried out by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), the third-party certification body for WELL, to ensure it meets all WELL Certified Silver performance requirements.
The project is also pursuing LEED certification for new construction, targeting gold. LEED—Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design—certification is a nationally accepted benchmark for green building construction. Certification indicates that the building is environmentally responsible, profitable and a healthy environment in which to live and work. Vanderbilt has 18 LEED-certified structures, including nine certified gold.