St. Mary’s Hospital’s light-filled lobby

On Oct. 9, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) officially announced the completion of the new construction phase of St. Mary’s Hospital in Sechelt, B.C. At the grand opening, VCH celebrated alongside Jordan Sturdy, MLA for West Vancouver-Sea to Sky; citizens of the Sunshine Coast; members of the Sechelt Indian Band; and representatives of the design team, which was led by Farrow Partnership Architects in association with Perkins+Will.

The new construction phase culminates in the completion of a light-filled lobby that serves as the new face of the hospital, marks the new main entrance, and connects the new and existing portions of the hospital. Central to the design of the lobby was the creation of a new public room for the community, the recognition of the many donors who contributed to the project, and the inclusion of artwork – such as a mural that welcomes visitors to the hospital and spans the entire 70-foot-long lobby – created by members of the Sechelt Indian Band, who also donated the land for the hospital.

“We are very honoured to celebrate this occasion with VCH, the Sunshine Coast community and the Sechelt Indian Band – whose unique culture and cedar bent-box inspired our design,” says Susan Gushe, managing director of the Vancouver office of Perkins+Will. “This project represents to us the success that comes from merging state-of-the-art care with a deep connection to nature and community – and the importance of striving for design excellence in healthcare facilities.”

St. Mary’s Hospital is unique among other British Columbia hospitals: not only are all of its inpatient rooms single-occupancy – a first for VCH and a proven method for minimizing the transmission of infections between patients – it is one of the few hospitals to have operable windows in all clinical and inpatient areas, which has received significant positive feedback from patients and staff. St. Mary’s is also one of the first recent hospitals in the province to incorporate point-of-care stations at each inpatient bedroom, allowing supplies to be loaded on the corridor side of the room and be accessed from within, creating effective restocking processes and reducing interruptions to patients.

“St. Mary’s is truly setting a new benchmark in healthcare design,” says Tye Farrow, senior partner at Farrow Partnership Architects. “Nursing units are shaped in a bent ‘hockey stick’ shape to improve sight lines and reduce travel distances; a publicly accessible interior ‘porch’ along the south elevation provides respite for patients by allowing direct views to Georgia Straight; 75 per cent of spaces have access to natural daylight; and skylights and clerestory windows are included in the emergency room area where the large floor plate would have restricted access to natural light.”

Says Don Jenion, senior project manager for Vancouver Coastal Health, “We are very pleased with the results of our project, which exceeds the standards for an acute healthcare facility. We are also extremely pleased with the cooperation provided by the project team and would like to thank them – along with the Clinical Users and Administration, Sunshine Coast Regional Health District, Sunshine Coast Regional District Planning Offices, District of Sechelt, and the Sechelt Indian Band – for their years of dedication to this outstanding project.”

Targeting LEED Gold status, St. Mary’s Hospital is pushing the environmental envelope as well: the entire site is targeting net carbon reduction through the use of a geo-exchange system, a high-performance envelope, a photovoltaic array and passive design strategies, such as the use of solar shading and operable windows that allow for natural ventilation. As a result, the project is on target to achieve a 40 per cent energy savings when compared to other LEED Gold Certified hospitals.

This past March, VCH held a community open house to celebrate the completion of the 5,400-square-metre addition, which includes larger emergency and radiology departments, intensive care rooms, a labour and delivery unit, and two new floors of inpatient rooms. The next phase of the project, the renovation portion, will enhance the Ambulatory Care Unit.


Serving its community for 29 years, the Vancouver office of  Perkins+Will is a multi-disciplinary design firm known for design excellence and innovation, approaching the challenges of architectural, interior and urban design with a global vision and unmatched resources. Led by a strong leadership group who provide a range of expertise and diverse perspectives, Perkins+Will Vancouver is able to maximize its clients’ vision, transforming ideas into built excellence, on time and on budget.

Founded on the belief that design has the power to transform lives and enhance society, the office is deeply connected to its community, donating one per cent of its design services to local, non-profit organizations every year. Committed to the 2030 Challenge, the firm is ranked among North America’s leading green practices with an in-house research department and one of the largest portfolios of completed, deeply sustainable buildings, interior spaces and urban plans.

As a testament to its commitment to excellence, Perkins+Will Vancouver has received more than 200 design honours, including six Governor-General’s Medals in Architecture; 13 Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia Awards in Architecture; the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Firm of the Year Award; numerous Canada’s Greenest Employers; and a 2013 B.C. Top Employer award.


Farrow Partnership Architects (FPA) is setting a new standard for the design of places where people can thrive rather than merely cope – economically, culturally and physically. The firm has instigated a movement, Cause Health, which seeks to redefine the meaning of health beyond the current focus on avoidance of ill-health, to the active advancement of true health by design. FPA’s projects span North America, the Caribbean, Asia, Africa and the Middle East and have attracted multiple global awards, including Best International Design award from the U.K.’s Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE). The Canadian Medical Association Journal has described a Farrow project as “one of the most architecturally advanced hospitals in the world.” Senior partner Tye Farrow is recognized as a worldwide thought leader on the subject of salutogenic (heath-causing) design, having recently presented at industry-leader conferences in Finland, New Zealand, Israel, the UK, South Africa and the USA. The firm also specializes in a hands-on co-creative process designed to raise the design aspirations of each client constituency. Drawing on roots established over 50 years ago, FPA’s practice areas include health care, research, education, hospitality, institutional, multi-residential, seniors’ living, urban design, master planning, interior design and knowledge development.