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Redefining Healthcare Spaces: The ACC Wins the AIA National Design Award

ACC at the Omaha VAMC

OMAHA, Neb. -- In the architectural world, few honors are as revered as the American Institute of Architects' (AIA) Central States National Design Award. A testament to innovation and pushing the boundaries of design, it's an accolade that truly sets the bar in the industry.

This year, the AIA has chosen the VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System's (VANWIHCS) Ambulatory Care Center (ACC) as the recipient of the organization’s prestigious 2023 Excellence in Design Award, further cementing the ACC's reputation as a leader in healthcare architecture.

The AIA is a highly respected organization representing architectural professionals across the United States. Each year, they recognize architectural designs that challenge the status quo and redefine industry standards.

Earning this recognition is no small feat, and the ACC's victory in 2023 demonstrates the center's commitment to progressive, patient-oriented design, according to Robert Hailey, VANWIHCS chief of Engineering.

“The Architect wanted the building to emphasize and commemorate symbols of freedom, sacrifice, honor, and duty. The design draws on patriotic iconography to honor veterans and use of materials that supported a military image,” Hailey said. “The design exasperates three building features: one, the wavy glass curtainwall to symbolize our American flag; two, the west color glass façade to convey honor using glass panes of different hues that evoke the ribbons awarded to service members; and third, interior limestone walls perform the duty of separating public spaces for secure clinical spaces while the limestone’s sedimentary layers reference periods of peace and conflict through which veterans have served.”

Hailey said the ACC design layout helps support the VA’s values and mission by promoting patient-centered environments throughout to focus on the relationship between the physical environment and the patient’s (Veterans) overall experience.  This patient-focused approach is coupled with advanced technological integration, which provides creative solutions to contemporary architectural challenges.

The design maintains a warm and soothing ambiance, a necessary component for a healthcare facility.

The ACC's design isn't just functional and aesthetically pleasing and pays tribute to Veterans.

“The design of the ACC (outpatient services facility) creates a healing environment that integrates spaces of escape and refuge, positive distractions, access to views and nature, and abundance of natural daylight,” Hailey said. Both Veterans and VA Staff are able to engage in a healing environment that promotes positive interaction that improves the wellness of the patient.  

With various Veteran-themed designs, inside and out, the ACC displays a deep respect for those who have served. As Veterans traverse the main hallway, c they encounter a display of the American Military Services and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs seals, further signifying the ACC's commitment to honoring Veterans.

The latest award further underscores the ACC's role as a progressive player in the healthcare industry, setting a high benchmark for architectural creativity.

The Ambulatory Care Center, a remarkable 157,000-square-foot outpatient expansion to the Omaha VA Medical Center Campus, was developed and constructed through the CHIP-IN for Veterans Act that enabled the Department of Veterans Affairs to partner with local community donors to build Veteran Health Care facilities. Completed in 2020, the $86 million center was created through $56 million in federal funds that were coupled with $30 million in local donations.

Its award-winning design, the tributes to our Veterans, and its commitment to patient care make it a shining example of what healthcare architecture can and should be.

“The new facility was built in accordance with VA Healthcare Guidelines and best-practices standards, which include right-size rooms and mandated space adjacencies that increase patient satisfaction,” Hailey said.