When the physician-owners of Family Eye Center first envisioned building a new regional center in Willmar, Minn., offering a total package of eye care services – from yearly eye examinations to LASIK and cataract surgery, treatment of eye diseases, fashion and budget eye ware, and contact lens fitting – they wanted the building’s architectural design to stand out. (The physician-owners of Family Eye Center partnered with another physician who specializes in ear, nose and throat medicine to create the Family Eye & ENT Center in Willmar.)
While the Prairie architectural style – characterized by horizontal lines, flat roofs with overhanging eaves, open floor plans and natural materials – is popular in the Willmar area, Family Eye & ENT Center owners reviewed a number of architectural styles, according to Jim Bach, director of sales and marketing for Marcus Construction Co., of Prinsburg, Minn., which served as general contractor for Family Eye & ENT Center.
“This building is very modern-looking, which was the owners’ intent,” said Bach. “Although there are a lot of Prairie style buildings in Willmar, the owners wanted this building to be a focal point for the region – to be set apart.”
“The goal of these physicians was to have something that had never been seen in town,” said Katie Jacobs, AIA, associate, Eckert Wordell of Kalamazoo, Mich., which designed the center. “They wanted a signature building – something that was more contemporary.” She added, “There’s a lot of new technology in ophthalmology. The building reflects that.”
The 31,750-square-foot Family Eye & ENT Center consists of two buildings – a 25,000-square-foot two-story clinic with basement and one-story 6,750-square-foot surgery center. The buildings are connected by two walkways. Total building cost was $5,881,000.
To help achieve a clean, modern architectural look, Alucobond® aluminum composite material (ACM) by Alcan Composites USA was installed as wall cladding over approximately 80 percent of Family Eye & ENT Center.
Unlimited Image, Inc., of Burnsville, Minn., fabricated 15,200 square feet of Alucobond ACM in the custom blue color and 4 mm thickness and 5,600 square feet of Alucobond ACM in the silver metallic color and 4 mm thickness for Family Eye & ENT Center.
Alucobond is an aluminum composite material that consists of two sheets of .02” aluminum thermobonded to a plastic core. Alucobond provides extraordinary flatness and rigidity, excellent formability, low weight and outstanding weather resistance.
Specialty Systems, Inc., of Burnsville, Minn., installed the Alucobond in its standard rout and return wet set system. Wall panels were installed over 2-inch galvanized “Z” frame fabricated by Specialty Systems with Dynamic stainless steel fasteners. Panels were sealed with Dow Corning 756 silicone.
The blend of Alucobond in the custom blue and silver metallic colors and panel sizes – combined with the building’s wheat-colored brick work and glass – contribute to this facility’s unique character and design elements.
“The entire interior color palette played off the exterior colors,” said Jacobs. “This is one of our best detailed buildings. A lot of attention was paid to the concept and color detail.” She added, “At the same time, the doctors didn’t want the building to appear ostentatious to patients. So, we designed a high-tech state-of-the-art medical building that’s also approachable and comfortable.”
In addition to meeting the building owners’ goal for a contemporary architectural look, the Alucobond ACM also met their durability and maintenance requirements.
“Alucobond worked well in this modern design,” said Bach. “Building maintenance also was a very important issue. The doctors wanted a low-maintenance building. And, since we were building in Minnesota, we wanted to make sure that the Alucobond was durable enough to handle the winters here with wind chills that can get as low as 50 below. It seems to be withstanding the winds and cold weather quite well.”
Construction of the Family Eye & ENT Center began in July 2004 and was completed in November 2005. “The ease of installation of the Alucobond kept us on schedule,” said Bach.
The physician-owners of Family Eye & ENT Center have been pleased with their modern building design choice, according to Bach. “The doctors love it,” he said. “They feel like they’re working in a unique facility designed just for them and their patients. It’s comfortable yet modern.”
And, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the physician-owners of Family Eye & ENT Center should feel well-complimented. According to Bach, this modern design has started something of a trend in Willmar, which recorded a population of 18,351 in the 2000 census.
“People like the idea that it’s setting a standard for new buildings,” said Bach. “We’re seeing that in town already. Designs are getting more outside the box.”
Photo Credit: Photos by Steven Bergerson Photography