The Schacht Center for Health and Wellness is nestled in the southern tip of the Smith College campus at the boundary of the campus edge with a residential neighborhood to the West and South. The building siting completes a piazza style courtyard with adjacent buildings, Sage Hall, Scott Gym, and Mendenhall Performing Arts Center.
The Schacht Center for Health and Wellness was constructed around the concept that a healthy student is a successful student. Integrating physical, mental and spiritual health into a holistic health and wellness program allows the institution to provide exceptional resources for their students to achieve optimal success and health.
One original programatical challenge was the historical, physical and procedural separations between mental and physical health services. The building is programmed to house counseling rooms, outpatient services, alternative therapies and health education programs. Its design combines the triage and electronic medical records to promote integration of all health services. The site is situated adjacent to the athletics facilities in order to merge the concept of health with exercise and physical fitness. To connect its users to nature, the expansive glass façade of the building offers views to the hills and river beyond as well as the gym. This intentional transparency invites drop-in visits and the de-stigmatization of mental health, shifting the role of mental health services from responsive to pro-active.
Administered by Smith’s Dean of the College and Dean of Students, the programming process was focused around the goal of incorporating all aspects of student health services into a central, fully integrated unit.
The process encompassed input from all directors, deans and student interview sessions which were overseen by the architect, programming expert and the design build team. The construction manager’s involvement throughout the entire programming and design process, including the student interviews, was a novel approach. The results of this participation are clearly evident in the construction of the building. The construction team was very sensitive to the critical details of the design and suggested various cost saving solutions while honoring the ultimate project goals and reinforcing the design intent.
Among the many unique aspects of the project is the design-build delivery method which reputedly can jeopardize design control and execution. In this case, the integrated team and contractor worked seamlessly to deliver a building within budget that was ready for occupancy within eleven months.
The material choices echo nature, health, light and sustainability. The introduction of water, wood and biophilic elements were selected to calm and inspire students and staff members.
Establishing a unique design-build team with the CM, the Architect delivered an extremely rapid and comprehensive design solution for the new Schacht Health and Wellness Center at Smith College in Northampton. This partnership began early in the programming phase. The contractor was engaged regularly and participated in the development of design features in concert with institutional end users. This unique start introduced a team that collectively understood the critical design features essential for project success. From the outset, the team shared a cohesive vision to create a building that would bring various departments together, focusing on the health and well-being of the Smith community.
Throughout the design and construction documents process, access to real-time costing offered feedback to assure cost and schedule predictability. Early on, clear communication between the contractor and the Architect assisted in eliminating traditional delays usually associated with material selection and options. This allowed a smooth and continuous transition into the construction phase, ensuring that the contractor was actively involved in the design intent, eliminating typical schedule and cost issues. This unique environment was instrumental for a collaborative team that operated with fluid, yet thoughtful responses to project challenges ultimately contributing to the success of the project.
The building responds and reinforces the campus master plan by relocating the student health services to a central location proximate to other health related activities, athletics, gymnasium and performing arts. This relationship reinforces the connections of student health to learning objectives of the women on campus. The design goal of the building was to integrate an efficient layout into a tight site and mitigate the differences in scale between the neighborhood and the campus. The main front entry makes a statement of transparency beckoning students in to encourage visits and participation in the health education programs. The glass stair makes a statement connecting physical health on the first floor outpatient facility and mental health and health education services above. The school mandated that the program be fully integrated. The design part of the massing of the building is a pair of interlocking masses further illustrating the synergy between mental and physical health. The building steps back at the edge facing the performing arts center to allow light into the corridor between the two buildings and create vistas from the counseling offices upstairs. Designed to LEED Silver, the building the building is full of daylight and exceptional views.