In addition to the more than 1 million tissue transplants performed each year, about 80 people receive organ transplants every day. These life-saving procedures are the result of a complex network of doctors, donors, and patients that connect recipients with vital organs and organizations from all over the country. Time sensitivity is high, tissue and organ extraction and transplantation must be performed quickly within a strict time frame, and there is usually no scheduling advantage of other medical procedures. Instead, the donated organ may be available at any time, the recipient is on another shore, and there is only a short period of time for a viable transplant. As part of a carefully orchestrated process among multiple parties, independent transplantation/recovery facilities can be used to receive these patients, preserve and move important and sensitive organs and tissues, and manage administrative processes, while providing a life-respecting gift and center Important work done by the staff.

These independent facilities provide multiple benefits, including improving the efficiency and seamlessness of the network of national institutions responsible for the extraction and distribution of organs and tissues, but they are not without unique challenges. From the consideration of building access, safety and workflow processing, design and operation need to be cautious, and a balance should be struck between technical agility and management and sensitivity and respect for human life. It is also important to respect the emotional, mental, and physical needs of the employee portfolio and the donor’s family.

Caring and compassion

A hospital is usually a facility designated to sustain human life. Transplant/recovery centers can also save lives, but due to the nature of their work, they are not considered hospitals; instead, these facilities and organizations focus on recovering, retrieving, or collecting organs from donors (because patients have been declared dead, they are Called “donors”). Although these facilities are usually classified as commercial or office spaces, these centers are sometimes places where families bid farewell to their loved ones, so it is important to treat architecture and design with the same sensitivity and respect as traditional medical facilities.

Southwest Transplant Alliance(STA) new three-story, 77,000 square foot headquarters, designed by Cogan (Dallas), as an example of a case study. The center is a comprehensive facility that integrates administrative functions and clinical spaces for organ recovery (STA does not handle tissue donations). The facility, completed in 2020, includes the operating room, donor care room (manages all elements taken by the donor), waiting room and related processing, as well as the administration that supports the organization of various business functions from billing and human resources to records Floor management and top management. The memorial garden, ambulance garage, and multi-level parking structure used to commemorate events and commend donors and beneficiaries complete the integrated campus.

Although the actual transplant is done in a designated hospital where the recipient is located, the STA’s facilities provide a centralized center for the removal team to take quick action to retrieve the organs, such as a heart that can be preserved for only four to six hours. Part of the basement of the facility is equipped with multiple operating rooms for organ retrieval, a CT, donor storage and preparation space, and equipment to help preserve organs for transportation. In order to improve the employee experience, large windows and volumes are used to introduce light into the underground area and establish a connection with the outside.

The donor was declared dead off-site; however, some may be transported to the facility while still being supported by the machine. Therefore, family members may choose to accompany their loved ones until the last moment. To accommodate these arrangements, each donor bed in the donor care room on the garden level is surrounded by curtains to ensure safety and privacy. To further support the family, there is a parking lot and car park near the building to facilitate access to the building. Inside, the family room on the first floor provides a safe and private space to mourn, celebrate and commemorate the lives of loved ones. In addition, the exterior windows are frosted to prevent viewing of the facility.

Technical considerations

While supporting a culture of compassion and caring, STA is also a highly technical facility. Therefore, the building has organized clear workflows and journeys for its different users (including employees and families), using dedicated entrances and separate circulation paths. For example, homes are welcomed through a front entrance facing the public, while deliverables including supplies and materials are accessed through a rear elevator. An enclosed ambulance garage is adjacent to the medical floor for donors to arrive and depart efficiently and privately.

Other technical considerations for the facility include processing and preparation areas before and after retrieval operations. These areas are equipped with storage and packaging materials, temperature control devices and sorting equipment, and can be directly connected to local or air travel services.

The operating room is equipped with equipment, lighting and technology common to traditional hospitals. Although these types of facilities are not licensed by the hospital, their design is the same as the best practices and specifications of the operating room, such as accommodating specialized equipment such as refrigerators and appropriately sized on-site generators to safely complete the schedule process and plan Increase the storage and passage of oxygen tanks.

Support staff

The STA’s headquarters combines medical operations with the business and administrative functions that make organ donation possible in one place. While improving efficiency between teams and creating more seamless workflows, the combination of more than 150 employees in various teams ranging from accounting and call center employees to processing and C-level leaders has proposed support for multiple job functions and needs. The challenge is in one space.

The solution is a variety of work environments, including dedicated desks; pop-up collaboration spaces; and more casual and comfortable seating options to support the staff’s combination of tasks and responsibilities throughout the day. With outdoor views and balconies and terraces that dot the space, occupants maintain a connection with nature, using the potential of biophilic design to support demanding workplaces and promote overall health. Other on-site facilities for employees include work cafes and gyms.

In addition, the rest space of the entire facility, the standby room on the garden level, the lounge and bedroom connected to the memorial garden help to provide comfort for the staff, many of whom work unconventional and long hours, without reliable schedule and The planned procedure. As employees are expected to be ready at all times, additional safety and convenience are particularly important. For STA facilities, the horizontal flyover between the parking lot and the second floor of the facility provides a quick connection to the facility for arriving doctors and nurses without disrupting the sensitivity of the public-facing ground floor.

Meeting rooms and training spaces support ongoing professional and team development plans. As a connection point for teamwork and cross-departmental learning, these spaces respond to modern work needs and are equipped with technology and audio-visual equipment for information sharing and presentation. The STA project team introduced furniture and materials to create a calm and tranquil environment, including earth tones, natural wood details, and colorful fabrics and patterns to increase visual interest.

Empathy in action

These highly technical spaces are complex and structured in functions, combining efficient operations and dedicated workflows with spaces that can uniquely meet the needs of employees, medical professionals, donors and their families.

As healthcare spaces challenge design and built environments to create more human-centered spaces, STA is an example of a positive and empathetic space that not only respects the journey of patients, but also respects the fulfillment of human life. Through practical and intuitive interventions to balance sensitivity and compassion, the final design strongly demonstrates the impact of healthcare design and the built environment on our lives and the people who experience it. 

Carole Blythe is a project manager and senior assistant in Corgan’s (Dallas) healthcare practice.Her contact information is

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