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CASE STUDY: American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge Facility

Perkins and Will Creates A Healthy “Home-Away-From-Home” For Cancer Patients.

Perkins and Will and American Cancer Society make huge strides in achieving Material Health and Transparency goals in cancer recovery facility.

By Erica Mercer, Project Architect & Associate at Perkins&Will

Facing cancer is hard enough, but having to travel long distances for treatment and finding accommodations for days, weeks and even months makes the situation much harder. This is the case for thousands of cancer patients in rural areas, who each year travel to Dallas-Ft. Worth area to receive potentially life-saving cancer treatment. The emotional and financial toll of the loss of income, medical bills, hotel rooms and dining out is staggering.

Cancer patients and their caregivers will soon find help and hope when home is far away, thanks to the American Cancer Society. Their fundraising efforts have led to the construction of a new Hope Lodge facility in Dallas, scheduled for completion in 2021. Named the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Hope Lodge in recognition of their lead gift, the 40,000 square-foot facility will provide free lodging for cancer patients that must travel more than 40 miles from home to receive life-saving cancer treatment at nearby medical campuses. Each of the 50 guestrooms has two beds and a private bathroom, providing more than 18,000 nights of free lodging annually. In addition, the facility will feature common living areas, dining room, laundry facilities, library, meditation room and outdoor healing garden. Patients and their caregivers will also have access to the current offerings of the American Cancer Society’s programs and services.

At the outset of the project in 2014, Material Health and Transparency wasn’t yet a buzz word. However, the sensitive health needs of occupants of the Hope Lodge Dallas project became the impetus for Perkins and Will and the American Cancer Society to make huge strides in achieving Material Health and Transparency goals in the design and construction of this cancer recovery facility.

They set a specific goal of reducing carcinogens and immunotoxicants in the building where guests retreat after exhausting days of treatment. The removal of substances of concern minimizes negative health effects within the indoor environment and gives patients the opportunity to heal as quickly as possible.

American Cancer Society and Perkins and Will Material Health Goals

#1: Design to WELL and LEED standards

#2: Reduce carcinogens and immunotoxicants to the greatest extent possible

#3: Materials & finishes should not only support the wellness goals of project, but should also be beautiful, durable, and maintain a high design quality

As A Result

Perkins & Will reviewed, assessed and selected over 82 products that are free of substances of concern  at the Hope Lodge facility in Dallas.

A Letter of Commitment was published in 2018 by Perkins and Will and the American Cancer Society outlining a central tenant: a commitment to reducing and eliminating substances of concern in the built environment linked to negative impact on human health. Suppliers and manufacturers were urged to disclose material ingredients in full, to 100 ppm, and to provide a written commitment to eliminate “Precautionary List” substances from their products. Through the effort, Perkins and Will and the American Cancer Society reinforced their support of a non-toxic and transparent materials market.

A Campus Designed to Achieve the Highest Standards of Material Health.

The Gene and Jerry Jones Family Hope Lodge was designed to meet the highest standards of material health set by WELL and LEED. To comply with those standards, the team selected as many products with transparency documentation as possible so that substances of concern could be identified and eliminated. The preferred transparency tool for manufacturers to disclose material health was the HPD report, which contains the most comprehensive product data to compare substances of concern against the Perkins and Will Precautionary List, the requirements of the WELL Building Standard, and LEED Materials and Resources credits.

Priority was to given to healthy interior materials that occupants frequently come into contact with, as well as healthier high-volume building products such as flooring and paint. The team used a variety of platforms to assess over 80 different products and select the best products for Hope Lodge Dallas, including Perkins and Will’s internal database, which contains a list of products that have met the firm’s library protocol.

The Perkins and Will library protocol requires manufacturers to submit at least one form of transparency documentation and add their product to the Mindful Materials database prior to being accepted into the finish library. As a result of this protocol, Perkins and Will was able to analyze the transparency documentation and implement an internal library labeling system with products rated on a spectrum of “good, better, best”. While some projects merely ask for transparency, the project team reviewed, assessed and eliminated products with substances of concern, resulting in the scrutiny of 82 building materials.

The use of these natural and healthy materials contributed to a warm, inviting and healthy environment. Other sustainable features include bioswales, high efficiency plumbing and electrical fixtures, reduced energy consumption methods, natural daylight, individual user controllability of lighting and thermal comfort, and advanced air purification.

A Building That Could Improve The Lives of Cancer Patients.

Almost every person on the project team has been touched in some way by cancer. The Perkins and Will team had a significant emotional investment in the project, and truly believed that their design decisions could help ease the strain during cancer treatment and improve a patient’s quality of life. In the best case scenario, the project could help improve the life of a cancer patient undergoing immune-weakening treatments by providing them a healthy environment in which to heal. As a result, the team maintained a lot of passion and dedication to finding the healthiest products possible to specify on this project.

Perkins and Will plans to implement post-occupancy evaluations to measure the effectiveness of the selected healthy materials and their impact on building occupants.

The Gene and Jerry Jones Family Hope Lodge was a pilot project that helped Perkins and Will to significantly advance material health practices. As a result, a new material health strategy and process was set in place that can be implemented in future projects including:

  • The Wellness and Sustainable Design Verification Form that helps contractors ensure different products meet the project goals
  • Firmwide Material Tracking Worksheet that is used for Perkins and Will’s internal Sustainable Performance Review
  • A Letter of Commitment that is used to secure buy-in from Clients or Manufacturers
  • A Library Protocol that is used to help project teams prepare, meet, label and present transparency documentation

Perkins & Will learned of the power of specifications and the role they play in designing and implementing buildings with high standards for material health. These types of projects are most successful when healthy materials are identified very early in the design process, and implemented into the written specifications, along with acceptable alternatives.

Fortunately, the transparency and material health movement has greatly advanced since Perkins and Will began design for Hope Lodge Dallas over 6 years ago. Today, there are many more materials with published transparency documentation and easy-to-use databases that allow quick access to Material Health information. And while not every firm can vet 80 or more products, Perkins and Will recommends starting out by fully applying transparency to one of the most used products on projects.

Having invested in this project, Perkins and Will expects the process will be much faster for the next project. Their experience on the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Hope Lodge project will allow them to implement healthy materials on all projects moving forward.

Lessons Learned

This project was one of the first projects that the design team had the opportunity to implement material health goals, therefore the project was a learning process from start to finish. Some take-aways include:

  • Healthy material selections need to be fully integrated into the specifications as basis-of-design and their attributes included as performance criteria.
  • The team should vet the acceptable alternatives for manufacturers, and ensure those are free of substances of concern.
  • Be specific about what substances are to be avoided in order to find products free of substances of concern.