Wellness and Sustainability at Carlington Community Health Center
Fateema Sayani visits the Carlington Community Health Center as part of a series on new and upcoming projects that combine residential units with specialist resources.
A work crew installs hewn logs outside the entrance to the Carlington Community Center. They form long schools around foliage and groupings of rocks. Next year a rubber tricycle track will be added to the area, forming a loop around the garden. It’s easy to imagine the block teeming with life.
Just behind the garden is an old school building, which has been converted into a community center. It now offers programs for preschoolers, as well as a prayer room and community kitchen. This building is connected to the impressive new 42-unit complex of Ottawa Community Housing for Seniors, which includes a medical clinic on the ground floor. Together, these spaces make up the Carlington Hub.
You may have passed the resort on Merivale Road near Coldrey. Its rich blue exterior cladding stands out on the busy thoroughfare. The building has a contemporary look with a nice nod to the past thanks to the facade of the old school building. It fills the length of the block with various walkways guiding people to the entrances and to the plaza which provides space for small outdoor gatherings: concerts, pop-ups, tea parties and picnics to encourage social inclusion.
“The pandemic has been very hard on seniors,” said Cameron MacLeod, chief executive of Carlington Community Health Centre. “People feel isolated and we encourage them to get out through on-site and virtual activities.”
In addition to the events, the touches of greenery, whimsical bike racks, and light landscaping give the venue a sense of cohesion.
“Clients love coming to see the space,” says Jillian Premachuk, a former receptionist at the center. “They really feel at home when they come here.”
Premachuk and other staff played a key role in developing the design plan. Their comments went to Darryl Hood and Marc Mainville of CSV Architects, who developed numerous iterations of the clinic layout, based on staff feedback, to maximize functionality and flow. The wayfinding color scheme is unique and playful. Even the examination rooms reveal an elevation sensitivity to patient comfort: natural light enters through carefully placed windows to guarantee privacy.
“What we’re most proud of is that it’s all under one roof,” says MacLeod. “The goal is to remove barriers to health care and resources, because if you can’t access care, you don’t get it. We try to practice in collaboration, with internal references and a multidisciplinary team. It’s great for patients.
With so many services in one place, people with mobility issues face fewer barriers. It also provides a sense of unity.
“I can walk down the hall and greet my customers,” Premachuk says. “Now, more than ever, it’s clear how important it is to have these community spaces. It is the familiar faces that maintain this community bond.
The importance of community connections drove the design. There is a common area with washing machines on each floor of the senior residence, and each living room has its own vibe. On one level, the inhabitants have set up a library. On another, there’s a row of succulents along the windowsill and a puzzle in progress on a card table. The south-facing rooftop patio has vegetable gardens; residents can take courses in container gardening.
At the end of each floor there is space for scooters. These “car parks” are close to several electrical outlets, which are connected to the emergency power supply so that no one ever runs out of charge. There are touches of wood throughout the building to add warmth. The stairwells are wide and bright with natural light, which serves as a little boost to using them instead of elevators, where mobility permits. (Of the 42 units, 12 are barrier-free with lower counters, roll-in showers, and space for a wheelchair.) These details were informed by the international sink construction standard that aims to maximize the health and well-being through design.
The building is also aiming for Passive House standards to reduce operating costs and environmental impact. These efforts led to a 2020 Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association award for Green Building of the Year for Ottawa Community Housing and CSV Architects. Increased insulation, a high-performance building envelope, and triple-glazed windows are some of the building’s sustainable features. Individual electricity meters give residents an idea of their consumption. These factors help save energy and provide a buzz of a different kind.
“The building gives us new energy to continue,” says Premachuk. “Covid has been difficult for our customers and our staff. This space makes our customers feel welcome. He says, “This space is for you, and you see that feeling of awe in customers.”