Serving the Brave: Austin VA Outpatient Clinic
More than 25,000 veterans in the Austin, Texas, area no longer have to travel 70 miles to receive a full spectrum of healthcare, education and social services from a Veterans Affairs facility. Quadruple the size of its predecessor, the new Austin VA Outpatient Clinic was designed “to care for those who have borne the battle.” At the time of its completion, the 275,000-square-foot facility was the largest leased freestanding VA outpatient clinic in the U.S.
Five years ago, rapid growth of the area’s veteran population prompted the process of looking for, and funding, a new and larger VA facility. The solution came in the form of a design-build-lease model, which placed the financial risk and ownership in the private sector. Cullinan Properties, Ltd. (dba Cullinan Medical Austin, LLC), which developed and owns the facility, has leased it to the VA for 20 years. Cullinan contracted with Page and Turner Construction Company to design and construct the new clinic to meet VA requirements and specifications, and to further develop bridging documents provided by the VA. The design-build team, working with two clients – the VA and Cullinan Properties – and therefore, two sets of requirements, faced both challenges and opportunities. Efforts to incorporate patient-centric philosophies consistent with Planetree and Evidence-Based Design supported the VA’s goals, as did creating an architectural image that would reflect the unique geological characteristics of Austin and the Texas Hill Country. The team sought ways to adapt the VA’s original bridging documents to include more daylighting, improve wayfinding, use natural materials and integrate art and nature in a way that would help create a true healing environment. Although the facility serves veterans exclusively, there was concerted effort to integrate healthcare planning and design concepts from the private sector.