High-performance veneers provide double duty of meshing well with the design’s natural pallet and mitigating the sun’s glaring effects.

Image courtesy of Wilsonart

The Jackson West Medical Center, Doral, Fla., is a sprawling, 27-acre campus located adjacent to the Palmetto Expressway. Designed by the Miami studio of international architectural firm Perkins & Will, the campus includes a six-story, 100-bed facility known as the José Milton Memorial Hospital and houses an adult and pediatric emergency room, surgical facilities and specialty physician clinics. According to project owner Jackson Health System, the medical campus was designed to provide high-quality health care in Miami County’s quickly expanding neighborhoods in Westchester, Sweetwater, Hialeah, Miami Lakes and Doral. 

“Our goal was simple: to build a beautiful, comforting, state-of-the-art environment where patients and their loved ones feel safe and cared for like family, and where our caregivers could focus on what matters most — our patients,” says Eddie Borrego, senior vice president and CEO of the Jackson West Medical Center.

One of the primary ways Perkins & Will accomplished these goals was by designing a predominantly glass facade across campus facilities that invites the beauty of the Florida skyline inside. From afar, the main entrance resides within a shining, multilevel structure finished in glass panels that reflect the city’s bright blue sky and breeze-blown palm trees. Inside the main entrance, the lobby and reception area offer an equally spectacular view of the Miami skyline. It also, however, invites sun glares and reflections that can become a nuisance to occupants. 

To help temper the sun gleaming into the facility, Perkins & Will chose a minimalist white palette for the floors, ground-level walls, high ceilings and supports. One of the architectural features it selected are high-performance veneer surfaces from New Leaf, a Wilsonart LLC company. New Leaf performance veneers lift the eye to the level above, where quarter-sawn white oak wall panels in a natural stain and matte finish angle outward, accordion-style, to create a gesture with dimension and movement. Each cluster of zig-zagging New Leaf wall panels alternates with a plain white wall panel topped with a glass wall that provides a peek into the level above. As the day’s sun beams into the main entrance lobby, the matte finish of the veneer works in harmony with the matte-white color palette to eliminate glare while taking in the fullness of the comforting natural light.

Because the main entrance to the José Milton Memorial Hospital features an exterior wall made almost entirely of glass, the materials used for the design palette in the lobby area had to remain vibrant, making New Leaf an ideal choice. New Leaf veneers are fade-resistant and water-resistant, which are critical performance features for the hot, humid and exceptionally sunny Miami climate. 

Another New Leaf performance feature that makes it a reliable option for health care environments is that it is easy to clean and disinfect without losing its attractive finish. In tests performed by Temple, Texas-based Wilsonart’s research and development group, lab technicians applied a variety of disinfecting agents to various New Leaf finishes. These included hypochlorite-based disinfectants and accelerated hydrogen peroxide-based disinfectants. After testing the finishes with 16-hour exposures and rinsing with water, the veneers showed little or no effect. 

Neil Gavin of Baron Manufacturing, Pompano Beach, Fla., the fabricator that supplied New Leaf veneers for the main entrance lobby, says he frequently recommends substituting the product for other specified veneer products because of its consistent quality and availability. 

“We work on a lot of New Leaf projects,” Gavin says. “There are good lead times, usually around two weeks, and the product is prefinished and comes with an edge band. That reduces the amount of time it takes us to complete fabrication. We also fabricate and store product in house so that it’s ready when our general contractors need it. We know we can be ready for our general contractors and that they won’t have to wait.”

The beautiful, warm aesthetics of New Leaf made it a key piece of the Jackson West design palette. But its durability and water resistance offer performance that can withstand the demands of a high use health care environment — and keep it looking as attractive years from now as it does today.