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Alberta Health Services | Alberta Infrastructure

Fort McMurray, AB


2020 (projected)

Healthcare | Seniors

Architecture, Interior Design

48,000 sq ft | 4,550 sq m

Project Description

Designed to meet the needs of an under-serviced group of Fort McMurray’s population, Willow Square will provide continuing care for residents of all ages, and will consist of 108 beds, amenity/program spaces, plus a 36-bed shelled space for future expansion. The design is based on the “Social Model” of care which focuses on improving the quality of life for each resident by optimizing functional independence, encouraging social interaction in a family-like group and preserving autonomy in decision making.

The lobby was designed to feel like a residential living room with a fireplace, soft seating, fish tank and lots of room for families to gather. Operational elements such as the reception desk, security and administration offices were placed and designed in a more discreet manner. The approach to the home-feel was continued throughout the building by addressing room placement and incorporating a front-of-house care model. Operational functionality, specifically circulation, was addressed by creating a figure-eight floor plan that minimized walking distances and eliminated dead ends. The massing of the building, front veranda and exterior landscaping contribute to the residential feel and also blend in with the surrounding neighbourhood.

A significant space at Willow Square was the integration of a Medicine Wheel room, dedicated for local First Nations traditional ceremonial practices. The design of this special room was created with the input from local elders in conjunction with the Athabasca Tribal Council. Several interactive group sessions were held with the five First Nations within the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo to collaborate; blending origins and history into one. Input included designing the shape of the room to align with local spiritual beliefs, along with directional orientation of quadrants and the use of First Nation colours. Plants native to the region were carefully selected for the neighbouring courtyard, allowing the community to grow and harvest material used for ceremonies. The Medicine Wheel room will be used for drumming circles, smudging and will serve as a gathering space for the First Nations community.

The building will achieve a LEED Silver certification. A geo-thermal system used in combination with boilers and chillers balance the heating and cooling requirements throughout the seasons. The building also includes an array of solar panels on the roof. The envelope of the building balances thermal performance while allowing the optimal levels of natural light into the building.