The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Northern Indiana Health Care System (NIHCS) Fort Wayne Campus offers primary, secondary, surgical and specialty medical care for thousands of patients per year. With over 400 beds, the facility serves a laundry list of veteran needs. This means a daily influx of patients with unique and specific care requirements. 

While the hospital strives to provide the best comprehensive care for our country’s Armed Forces, the Fort Wayne Campus was starting to show its age. Originally constructed in 1950, the hospital has gone through a series of renovations and updates over the past seven decades. The resulting hodgepodge design was confusing, frustrating and unattractive. 

With little wayfinding, limited storage, poor acoustics and a dark, dated design, the lobby and welcome center space was especially unsatisfying. In fact, this “welcome center” was anything but for patients, families and staff.

In order to provide a more positive experience, and address lingering accessibility, maintenance and infection-control concerns, the facility overhauled these areas to ensure a state-of-the-art healthcare environment for veterans living in the Fort Wayne metropolitan area. A key component of renovation was the flooring, which now serves multiple purposes in the revitalized facility.


Project Background & Design Details

Project Size: 10,500 square-feet of flooring material
Location: Fort Wayne, Ind.
Material: 10% Carpet, 90% Sheet Vinyl (DecorArt Rejuvenations with Diamond 10 Technology Coating 
by Armstrong Flooring)
Renovation/New Construction: Renovation

The main lobby and welcome center are high-traffic areas with a variety of clinical and administrative functions. “This distracting and overwhelming area was the first point of contact for veterans and first impressions weren’t great,” said Pamela Gamble, EDAC, NCIDQ. Gamble, an interior designer with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), was tasked with reimagining this cluttered, dated and disjointed space.  

“As the busiest area of the entire hospital, it was important to get this renovation done right,” explained Gamble. “Not only were the VCT tiles looking dated, there were serious maintenance issues going on as well.” The existing floor was extremely hard to strip, wax and maintain during Indiana’s harsh winters and rainy summer. While it was never a safety issue, it often looked dirtier than it actually was – adding to an already somber atmosphere with cinder-block walls, dated furniture and aging finishes. 

While the design team originally wanted terrazzo flooring, the budget said otherwise. The goal then was to select a timeless, classic look that wouldn’t go out of style and provide long-lasting value with easy cleanability for infection control. They ultimately went with Armstrong Rejuvenations with Diamond10 Technology. Using cultured diamonds with all the properties of natural diamonds, Diamond 10 Technology coating provides the highest scratch, stain and scuff resistance in the industry and keeps floors looking newer longer.

“We used this product in another space in the facility and it has worn well and has been extremely easy to maintain,” explained Gamble. “We also needed flooring that wouldn’t come off as busy or overly-modern since there are many different demographics of veterans being treated in the facility.” 

The design team also had existing conditions to deal with. The facility had a mixture of areas with maple accents and doors, along with cherry accents and doors in more updated adjacent spaces. While the facility is slowly moving towards cherry, there are still other colors and patterns in the space. To tie everything together, Gamble pulled in different tones of grey and beige and added texture. This not only helped match the existing space, but the lighter flooring at the entrances helped hide salt in the winter.

“Our ultimate plan was to create a beautiful new space and provide wayfinding and transition points to other areas in the hospital,” said Gamble. The design utilized blue and grey strips of flooring that extend to desks, offices and nurses’ stations. The circles, meanwhile, call out focal points and major intersections. “When patients come to an arc or a circle it means they need to pay attention,” added Gamble.


Installation Process

While the new flooring design created by Gamble and her team would help transform the patient and staff experience at the Fort Wayne Campus, the installation process came with significant challenges. Not only is the facility open 24-hours a day, the main lobby and welcome area are also the busiest spaces in the facility. 

Santarossa Mosaic and Tile, an INSTALL Warranty Contractor, was selected to handle the installation. The company has completed several VA projects in the past and employs INSTALL apprentices and certifed journeymen who are trained to work in healthcare facilities and have INSTALL Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA) training. 

ICRA teaches UBC members how to contain pathogens, control airflow, protect patients, and work without disrupting adjacent operations. Members learn to classify work areas to minimize risks; understand and adhere to ICRA protocols; and communicate with a facility’s ICRA team. The curriculum was developed by consulting with leading construction-related infection control experts and is reviewed regularly to keep materials relevant to industry needs.

Mike Drippé, project manager with Santarossa, headed up the installation process. His team of men worked in overnight shifts, completing individual stages as quickly and efficiently as possible while the hospital remained fully operational. “One of the major installation tasks came in the form of the circular designs, radiuses and stripes,” explained Drippé. “If these elements are installed correctly, they pop right out at you. However, if they are done incorrectly, the mistakes are noticeable and distracting.”

Since there was some slight ambiguity in the design plans, Drippé worked with Gamble to get all of the colors and weld rods lined up. He then created shop drawings that laid everything out for the installation team. Next came the demolition phase. The existing vinyl was removed, exposing an 8-inch-thick concrete subfloor. After moisture testing revealed no problems with the subfloor, the concrete was cleaned and prepped with a feather finish and skim coating where necessary before the new flooring went down.

In order to create the intricate circles and arcs, highly-skilled installers used a rope and radius to draw out the design. They then under-scribed the flooring and cut it by hand. “It takes a number of years to gain these skills,” explained Drippé. “That’s one of the values of hiring an INSTALL contractor that has a trained and certified team.” 

After each individual flooring design element was cut, the installers v-wedged out the space between each piece of vinyl and heat welded the products together, skiving the extra product off of the top to create a near seamless appearance. This was all done while other trades were on site installing short walls, skylights and other design features. 


Results

Managers, directors and the designers behind the Northern Indiana Health Care System Fort Wayne Campus have received overwhelming feedback from veterans and their families. 

“Some people were surprised at the bold yet harmonious blend of textures and colors,” explained Gamble. “That’s not something you normally see in a VA facility” was a common expression as well, according to the designer. 

From a facility maintenance standpoint, the Fort Wayne Campus now has a hard-wearing, impact-resistant floor that can stand up to the wear and tear that comes along with a 423-bed hospital. From hot, rainy summers to salt-covered winter sidewalks, facility managers can rest assured knowing the installation is covered by the INSTALL Warranty. This extended, third-party warranty on installation is above and beyond the manufacturer’s warranty, and comes free with Santarossa Mosaic and Tile’s status as an INSTALL Warranty Contractor.