The field of neuroscience is an ever-changing landscape as new tools give the medical community insights into how the nervous system, brain, and spine work. At the Indiana University Health (IUH) Neuroscience Center in Indianapolis, neuroscience physicians, diagnostic technicians, and neurological researchers work together to deliver coordinated patient care in one location. To design this central space, architects at Cannon Design’s Chicago office approached this new 270,000-square-foot facility using a combination of right- and left-brain solutions.

Clarity drove design decisions. As a treatment facility for neurological patients and families, designing a calming environment was key. A clearly defined layout to help patients, staff, and researchers quickly orient themselves in their surroundings was another goal. In addition, the center is situated in downtown Indianapolis and immediately adjacent to an expressway, so the architects wanted to craft a visual identity for the building for passersby. “To convey openness and connectivity, a large percentage of this building is glass,” notes Randy Guillot, AIA, design principal at Cannon Design. “We located public and circulation spaces on the perimeter of the building with exam and procedure rooms at the center, and employed a combination of low-emissivity coatings, frit patterns, and exterior shading in varying orientations to ensure a balanced high-performance strategy.”

The glazing combines with a six-story atrium at the entry’s south façade to wash the interior in natural light, which achieves another programmatic objective. “Brain studies show that when people are exposed to natural light, it’s a mood enhancer,” explains Mona Euler, vice president at IUH Neuroscience. “Patients with neurological disorders have very complex issues, and light boosts their emotional and spiritual wellbeing to help them fight off their disease. Here, our patients see a place of hope, thanks to the lightness and welcoming environment.”

The center’s complex geometry takes inspiration from its purpose. The west side is a dynamic conical form, curving in three directions to evoke the shape of a neuron. Canted forward, the façade shades itself with vertical extensions on the mullions. The north façade is visible from the highway, and designers bent architectural fins to resemble electroencephalogram waves in a nod to the center’s function. The fins also skew the view to the inside, providing privacy to physicians and patients.

The developer-delivered building was a new partnership between IUH and Landmark Healthcare Facilities, based in Milwaukee, Wis., and it achieved a Gold rating under LEED for Core & Shell v2009. IUH leases the full space, while Landmark developed and owns the building. Anthony Lampasona, president of Landmark, says that being good stewards of the environment is a core value of the development company. Ultimately, however, meeting client needs is the top priority. “With IUH seeking a world-class destination for neuroscience, environmentally responsible construction parlayed itself into a better place for patients and increased operational savings,” Lampasona says.

According to Rand Ekman, AIA, LEED Fellow, and Cannon Design’s vice president and director of sustainability, financial considerations for developer-led buildings are extremely important. “Getting the building to perform with the latest technology in order to offer extremely high value within a limited budget was essential,” he says. “The huge percentage of glass helped us accomplish lighting power density reductions, and we were able to mitigate thermal gain and glare using readily available, off-the-shelf materials. The center is one of the most affordable buildings we’ve ever designed.”

The parking garage uses 66 percent less electricity than a typical garage of the same size and type, thanks to ample daylighting. Energy savings were further enhanced by low-temperature air distribution to serve the cooling load. The lowered discharge-air temperature creates a greater temperature difference between the desired room temperature and the air supplied, allowing for smaller air handling units, smaller ductwork, and less energy for fans. The building purchases chilled water from a district provider, and chilled-water distribution pumps were carefully sized to minimize pump energy consumption.

The project’s energy models predict a savings of 21 percent in annual energy costs over an ASHRAE 90.1 baseline using the LEED Core and Shell parameters, which should equate to approximately $81,550 per year in operational savings.

The modular clinics can be expanded or contracted for flexibility to increase the building’s useful life. Recycled materials include wafer board screen elements in the atria, and low-VOC paints provide a healthy indoor environment. Native landscaping reduces potable water for irrigation by 50 percent, and a healing garden in the entry court extends the center’s welcoming atmosphere. “The garden is a beautiful, soothing space to visit while waiting for a procedure or a family member,” Euler says, “and our employees love it as it gives them a place of emotional tranquility and rejuvenation.”