A natural haven: Citation of Merit winner Haven Hospice Custead Care Center, Orange Park, Fla.

For as long as humans have existed, they have sought a connection to nature. This was the driving principle behind Haven Hospice Custead Care Center in Orange Park, Fla. The new facility is the fifth hospice owned by nonprofit Haven Hospice of Gainesville. With the comfort of nature serving as the inspiration for the project, Haven executives sought the help of AG Architecture of Milwaukee to help locate the perfect setting and design their preeminent facility.

Despite the presence of a competitor across the street, the site was chosen for its outstanding natural features, namely, an abundance of mature trees including live oaks and pecans. From the beginning, the vision was to “bring the indoors out and the outdoors in,” says Tim Bowen, president, Haven Hospice. “This was done with both the patient and the family in mind.”

Environments for Aging  2013

Citation of Merit Winners

With creative solutions to design and healthcare challenges, four projects inspired Environments for Aging’s annual design competition this year. A panel of 27 esteemed jurors—architects, interior designers, care providers and educators—evaluated the nominees for this year’s top honors.

We’ll be featuring a winner a day this week. We hope you’ll be inspired by these exemplary examples of environments for aging.


In the resident rooms, large windows ensure easy exterior views for residents. Similarly, public living areas feature large windows and nearby doors to encourage the use of the landscaped courtyard. Screened porches throughout the facility allow residents to enjoy the outdoors while remaining inside.

Each household’s family dining area features an exterior view and an outdoor veranda. Finally, AG designed the hospice’s wings to come together in an L-shape, which, along with the location of the adjacent administration pavilion, creates a large, semi-enclosed outdoor space, which serves as both an exterior destination and a location for annual memorial services.

Gene Guszkowski, senior principal at AG Architecture, says, “What we found exciting was creating a campus, a series of interconnected buildings, with important spaces in between, and allowing for all of the wonderful things you can do with a Florida environment.”

Calling hospice the “ultimate resident-centered care experience,” Haven leaders responded to AG’s portfolio of design work in memory care and long-term care. Haven Hospice was then modeled after those household designs more common in non-acute residences. “A hospice, more than anything, should strive to be as homelike as possible,” said Bowen.    

The exterior elevations were designed to mimic a rambling house, with breezeways, deep verandas and residential embellishments. The main care center itself is divided into two distinct nine-bed neighborhoods organized around residential-scaled kitchens and living rooms for family use. “It was important to follow the norms accepted in our society for homes, in terms of size and scale,” explains Guszkowski, “It is a comfortable and peaceful alternative to the more institutional industry norm.”

The Design Showcase judges agreed. As one juror commented, Haven Hospice features an “elegantly composed arrangement of truly residentially scaled spaces affording ample opportunity for both community and privacy.”

Other residential elements include wood doors and trim, wood-look resilient flooring in resident rooms, residential-like carpeting, plush seating throughout the facility and residential kitchen cabinets and appliances. Haven Hospice was also designed with larger resident rooms to accommodate families as well as private family bathrooms, “which support dignified extended stays.” The home aesthetic of resident rooms is also supported by custom built-in cabinetry that hides from view all in-wall medical equipment as well as supplies and nurse charting functions.    

Messy back-of-the-house components are tucked away in a separate service pavilion. A discreet center raceway in each household provides an efficient location for support functions including med prep and linen management.

The architects of Haven Hospice were also presented with the challenge of designing a peaceful residence that could withstand hurricane winds of 130 mph. This goal was accomplished withwalls of poured concrete and other hurricane-rated materials. Generators for all mechanical and electrical systems were added, as was a redundant communication system. “With the tall windows, we were able to make it sound without looking like a bunker,” says AG Senior Associate Eric Harrmann.

The EFA jury agreed. “This is the kind of project that gives me hope for the future of environments for aging,” said one member of the panel. “The level of sensitivity exercised in every aspect of this project is truly commendable.”

Gina LaVecchia Ragone is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.

To learn more about design in senior housing and long-term care, follow Long-Term Living’s coverage of the Environments for Aging Conference, to be held April 6-9 in New Orleans.

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