Erlanger East wins award for creative lifestyle design

Erlanger East wins award for creative lifestyle design

October 11th, 2017 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

The lifestyle trail and putting green on the front side at Erlanger East on Tuesday, Oct. 10, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Photo by C.B. Schmelter

Gallery: Erlanger East wins award for creative lifestyle design

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“We have accomplished so much with our incredible volunteer committee. None of this could have happened without their hard work and dedication. Our volunteers are the heroes of the whole program. ”
Judy Spiegel

When Erlanger Health System began planning its $51 million expansion of its Gunbarrel Road hospital in East Brainerd, hospital officials decided to make the building project as much about improving hospitality as it was about being a bigger hospital.

Bruce Komiske, who joined Erlanger three years ago as vice president of new hospital design and construction, was not happy with the original architectural design for Erlanger East and decided to use the team planning for the downtown Children's Hospital to design and build the Erlanger East expansion. Architects from HKS and construction manager McCarthy Building Cos., developed an alternative building design to highlight Chattanooga attractions and to offer a more inviting hotel-like feel to the medical complex.

In addition to nearly doubling the number of hospital beds to 107 and adding an intensive care unit to the emergency room, four more operating rooms and a new cardiovascular lab, Erlanger East also added lifestyle amenities for hospital visitors, customers and staff.

"In listening to our patients, visitors and staff, they told us that they wanted not only an excellent medical facility but also a lifestyle campus that enhanced the area with landscaping and recreational opportunities in a campus that reflects and enhances Chattanooga," Komiske said Tuesday.

The hospital exterior resembles the rock striations visible below the Hunter Museum of American Art downtown and the hospital includes a division within the facility similar to how the Tennessee River cuts through Chattanooga. In the lobby, guests can wait or visit around a fireplace while listening to the music played on a grand piano. Outside, a putting green, playground and walking track provide recreational opportunities for guests, employees and residents in the surrounding neighborhood.

The unique, lifestyle design of Erlanger East won top national design awards this month from both the Healthcare Facilities Symposium and Expo (HFSE) and the International Interior Deign Association (IIDA). The East Brainerd hospital project was recognized recently in Austin, Texas, by HFSE for the top User-Center award among hospital projects across the country. On Tuesday, Erlanger also was informed that it had won the top interior design competition among all hospitals and will be recognized in Chicago on Nov. 6 by the IIDA.

Erlanger officials said the "lifestyle" designation at the Gunbarrel Road hospital means the facility's focus is more on healthy people who have a temporary medical need as opposed to treating chronic illness such as cancer, diabetes or heart disease. Erlanger's major trauma unit remains at the downtown hospital on Third Street.

At Erlanger East, patient rooms include Wi-Fi, 42-inch TV screens, and "on-demand" dining, where patients and family members can order food from their rooms.

The walls of Erlanger East are decorated with 100 large photographs, most of nature scenes, provided by 60 local photographers who were invited to submit their photographic work by the Chattanooga Photographic Society and the Erlanger Arts Committee, which is composed of local volunteers interested in promoting the arts in a hospital environment.

The winning photographers picked to have their work adorn the Erlanger East campus were each given $100 gift certificates and invited to a ceremony earlier this year.

"We have accomplished so much with our incredible volunteer committee," said Judy Spiegel, a co-chair of Erlanger's art committee. "None of this could have happened without their hard work and dedication. Our volunteers are the heroes of the whole program."

The purpose of art in the hospital setting goes far beyond decoration. Recent studies show a direct link between art and the brain's reaction to pain, stress and anxiety.

"We want to transform the hospital environment from an often scary place to a place of healing," Komiske said. "This is the future of where health care design should be."

Komiske said most of the extra features have been donated or built without much, if any, extra cost for Erlanger.

"But we believe there will be a great payoff in customer satisfaction and in creating a healthier, more healing environment," he said.

Komiske said a similar approach to building is underway on East Third Street where Erlanger is building the first $40 million phase of a new Children's Hospital. The three-story structure taking shape on the corner of Third and Palmetto streets is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018 with donated, Chattanooga-centric touches such as an 1891 steam locomotive out front, hang gliders from Lookout Mountain inside and a tow truck on the third floor — since Chattanooga was the birthplace of the towing industry.

Contact Dave Flessner at or at 423-757-6340.