Innovation and Partnership for Healthier Housing

As an interested partner in the use of wood products in healthcare, PSJH Real Estate Strategy and Operations (RESO) has recently endorsed two grant applications through the University of Oregon’s Institute for Health in the Built Environment (located in Portland, OR) to study both cross-laminated timber (CLT) and mass plywood panels (MPP).  

These studies, using industry partners like PSJH, are to help advance both knowledge of engineered wood in healthcare and advocate for more widespread use. Significant research has been conducted the TallWood Design Institute in the development and testing of these wood products, including resilience against fire, dimensional stability, and glue/strength as well as furthering the inherent beauty and appearance for interior and exterior design.

As a healthcare architect, I support RESO’s advocacy for healthy environments and environmental stewardship. We can consider the sustainability of resources, the effects of construction material sourcing, off-gassing of products upon patients and staff, and the inclusion of actionable design that creates movement, daylight, connection, and delight. Wood is one of the most common of all building materials with an inherent familiarity that resonates with most everyone. Wood stores carbon naturally through photosynthesis, which makes it a favorite in Zero-Net-Carbon scenarios, a goal set by the American Institute of Architects for all new and remodeled buildings by 2030. The use of these sustainable products aligns with our organizational goals to be carbon negative by 2030.

I had the privilege of reviewing student work for a studio project called ‘MPP Modular Housing’ led by Professor Judith Sheine, Director of Design at TallWood Design Institute, at the UO in Eugene back in March before the COVID pandemic became a reality. 

The project was to create affordable housing using MPP at two sites –one behind Providence Milwaukie Hospital, the other at a location near the MPP manufacturing plant in Lyons, Oregon.  With minimum span capacity of 10’, lengths up to 48’ with thicknesses ranging from 4” to 24”, the students mapped out innovative modules by stacking, offsetting, and combining the panels to meet the design parameters of the studio.

Those on the Milwaukie site project were particularly mindful of the nearby hospital and looked to creating workforce housing that could potentially be used by our caregivers. Making pathways to the facility, building community within the parcel, and allowing for shared amenities such as gardens and bike storage were thoughtful ideas. 

Not so easy to do while minding zoning restrictions, solar orientation, other environmental control systems (ECS), and adjacent neighbors.

Workforce, supportive, and affordable housing is at the center of the PSJH ‘Housing is Health’ initiative because it promotes the very core of stability –a place to live. As PSJH looks to be carbon negative by 2030 as part of the Environmental Stewardship initiative, the use of wood products in our building environments has the potential to impact that goal positively. 

I look forward to PSJH’s continued partnership with the UO and the impact it will have for a healthier future.

Erin Couch, AIA
Architectural Standards and Design Director
Real Estate Strategy and Operations


About the Author

The Providence News Team brings you the updates to keep you informed about what's happening across the organizational ecosystem. From partnerships to new doctor announcements, we are committed to keeping you informed.

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