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1-story exterior of the refurbished Mercy Medical Hope Crisis Center in Freeport, New York

   Author: MetalMag

LOOKING at the unassuming 1-story exterior of the refurbished Mercy Medical Hope Crisis Center in Freeport, N.Y. you'd never guess that within this former warehouse is an entire village, where corridors are designed as streets and rooms feature exterior-like facades and roofing. The only clue as to what to expect inside is the metal roof parapet, which echoes the smaller-scale rooflines within the facility.

This community-type environment, where everyone is your next-door neighbor, has transformed the center into a place of support and healing for the recovering alcoholics and substance abuser who are treated there. The facility, which opened its doors in June 2007, is a resounding success according to the center's director, James Morse. "It has taken eight years, but at last we have a facility that is truly a place of hope," he says.

The innovative approach of converting corridors into "streets" and installing roof-like facades above the entrances to most of the rooms was the key to converting the large, barren warehouse into a community of spaces with more of a human scale.

In 1999, Mercy Medical Center purchased a vacant 11,500-square foot (1068-m2) warehouse to house its men's crisis center. Which was located in aging and deteriorating trailers. The center encompasses an Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services, or OASAS, and a program called Operation New Hope, which offers individual and group therapy services and temporary lodging for chemical-dependent patients.

Mercy Medical Center and OASAS approached the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, Albany, to retain an architect to determine the feasibility of converting the space into a new 30-bed crisis center. Hall Partnership Architects LLP, New York, was selected to perform the feasibility study. Once the project was approved and funded, the firm was retained to prepare final design documents and provide construction administration services.

After holding a public hearing to answer questions and address neighborhood concerns, the design team was faced with several major challenges for the adaptive reuse of the warehouse. The first was to turn an essentially closed and lightless space into hopeful and healing environment. At the feasibility stage, Hall Partnership Architects envisioned an interior village as the design solution. The innovative approach of converting corridors into "streets" and installing roof-like facades above the entrances to most of the rooms was the key to converting the large, barren warehouse into a community of spaces with more of a human scale, according to design partner John Davies. Metal wall and roof panels were selected as the best solution for replacing a village-type environment.

The architectural metal panels actually became the most important building element used to unify all materials and define the building's purpose and character, as well as the outdoor feel of the interior spaces," says Matthew C. Salerno, partner in charge. In addition to its design versatility and aesthetics, metal offered other important attributes sought after by the design team, including economy, durability and low maintenance.

The project uses more that 2,600 square feet (242m) of batten-seam aluminum panels with Hylar 5000 PVDF finish in rawhide. On the exterior entry fašade, the aluminum panels are prominent design elements and contrast nicely with the red brick walls. Barren-style panels dress up the roof parapet and upper wall while flat aluminum panels accent the entry canopy and lower portion of the wall. On the building interior, metal wall panels and trim transform the bright skylit corridors into a village of quaint roofscapes, accented by vinyl-tile flooring in random pattern the emulates the look of a cobblestone street. Metal also was used to cover the roof structure above the nurses' station and create sloping soffits in the cafeteria and conference room.

Creating an environment conducive to healing also required bringing more light into the formerly dark, windowless warehouse. Hall Partnership Architects worked closely with lighting designer Stan Deutsch Associates, Long Island City, N.Y., to use a combination of skylights and energy-efficient direct and indirect light fixtures to give the facility a sunny, cheerful atmosphere. Most of the floors, walls and ceilings use a light color palette to help heighten the lighting effects.

Another challenge was to provide for internal security without subjecting residents to detention-like restrictiveness. The open, welcoming design of the nurses' station with its column-supported batten-style roof accomplishes this by allowing unimpeded views of the various functional areas and easy monitoring of the facility's occupants. To address the external security concerns of the immediate neighborhood, a small back-yard retreat is planned for the rear of the facility to give residents a place to enjoy the outdoors or smoke in a secure, controlled location.

In addition to the interior-design challenges, the existing warehouse suffered from severe neglect. The slab on grade and metal roof deck were in poor condition. The project required total gutting of the building; refurbishment of the external envelope, including a new roof system and metal deck; and total replacement of the first-floor slab. Sound transmission from the exterior was reduced through the use of sound batts and laminated window glazing. The facility also needed a modern, efficient kitchen and dining area. Hall Partnership Architects worked with kitchen consultant Tassone Equipment Corp., Syosset, N.Y., to design the space, which includes gleaming stainless-steel appliances and fixtures, as well as sloping metal soffits along the ceiling.

In the end, the combination of metal and innovative design was the right prescription for giving new life and purpose to this ailing warehouse and making it an environment for healing. "In addition to being handsome and durable, the architectural metal panels provided the finishing touch to the desired exterior and interior aesthetics," Salerno says.

Comments: 1-story exterior of the refurbished Mercy Medical Hope Crisis Center in Freeport, New York

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