Photo by Gregg Shuppe

Originally published in High-Profile Monthly. By John Fowler, AIA, EDAC, LEED AP, associate principal at Margulies Perruzzi Architects

BOSTON – January 26, 2018 – Transparency and privacy considerations are inherent to most workplace environments, especially those with an open office layout. Healthcare and science projects pose further challenges, as such spaces often have stricter requirements regarding confidentiality and proprietary information. While research and development teams rely on a high degree of collaboration, there is also the need for security and privacy, even internally between departments. Thoughtful design can strike the right balance for transparency and privacy in busy healthcare and science workplace environments.

Acoustical considerations

It’s important to understand all the acoustical requirements involved in a project, as well as take the needs of end users into consideration. Designing walls and ceilings to their respective specifications — sound transmission classification (STC) and noise reduction coefficient (NRC) ratings —may not be sufficient for the purpose of the space.

Sound masking adds background noise to reduce distractions and protect privacy and can be useful when used appropriately; however, it is often misused to cover up sound that can be reduced with active noise control. Before utilizing sound masking, it is recommended to look at the acoustical design and try to correct any areas of deficiency. Electrical outlets, doors, and end wall conditions with exterior glazing are some of the usual suspects that contribute to sound leakage. For projects with complex acoustical conditions, consider hiring an acoustical consultant and/or building mock-ups and testing of the design concept.

In addition to HIPAA privacy law requirements and mandated acoustical guidelines for healthcare projects, there are further privacy concerns to be addressed for specific clinical programs. For a recent project with behavioral consult rooms, the project team designed and built a mock-up consult room to evaluate the acoustics for noise control and speech privacy. The client clinicians noticed that although words were not discernible between spaces, emotional vocalization (laughter and crying) was clearly detectable in the mock-up design. In behavioral health environments, the free expression of emotion is entirely encouraged and speech privacy of the spaces need to support that philosophy. The mock-up led the design team to consider additional acoustical measures that went beyond the guidelines and standard best practices.

Transparency and visual connection

Glass walls can create literal transparency that fosters an open and inviting atmosphere, as well as provide exterior views, natural light distribution, and connection between adjoining spaces. Of course, glass also creates visual privacy challenges. There are several methods to address privacy concerns with the use of interior glass. Clerestory windows that start above eye level can help distribute natural light and offer views to the exterior when there is no desire to have transparency between adjoining spaces.

When there is a desire for full-height glass, art glass or films can be used to change the levels of transparency. There is a plethora of options available for glass treatments, including frosted glass or patterned effects that transition between varying levels of transparency. Glass options can also combine frosting with custom patterns to achieve a certain look or incorporate brand identity. Glass treatments offer a lot of flexibility for balancing transparency with privacy while still transferring light.

Shades and blinds allow users to change the wall condition completely at will and also can be specified with a wide variety of finishes and levels of opacity. In healthcare spaces requiring higher levels of infectious control as well as manufacturing clean rooms with stringent requirements, blinds can be placed between two pieces of glass to eliminate the dust control issues with shades and blinds.

Another option gaining popularity is smart glass, which can transform from clear to opaque (frosted) with the flick of a switch. There are also smart films that can be applied to existing glass and microscopic blinds that are nearly invisible when open and create a frosted appearance when closed. In addition to the up-front costs of smart glass, maintenance and life cycle costs need to be considered.

Many of the visual screening techniques create a blurred effect that will conceal identities but still allow some light and connection between spaces. Another aspect to consider is that motion may still be noticeable, and that is not always desirable. The motion of blurred figures behind frosted glass or nearly opaque shades can sometimes be a distraction to researchers, clinicians, or patients.

Acoustic and visual considerations often go hand in hand and can create contradictory project requirements. In a cancer center infusion space, clinicians required direct visual observation of each patient from a shared work space but wanted their conversations in the space to be private. The design of the wood and glass work area provided enough acoustical privacy and made the clinicians seem accessible to patients without creating a fish bowl effect. Wood finishes and natural color schemes can also help to soften the cold and hard feeling sometimes associated with glass.

In health and science projects, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to balancing transparency with acoustical and visual privacy. Designers need to look at the specific needs of each client and use several acoustical strategies for individual spaces within the project.

Originally published in Banker & Tradesman.

Boston – January 8, 2018 – Each week, Banker & Tradesman commercial real estate reporter Steve Adams spotlights a commercial real estate property in Massachusetts notable for its high deal activity, unique design or one-of-a-kind special features.

What: Boston Scientific Global Customer Fulfillment Center

Where: Commander Shea Boulevard, Quincy

Owner: Boston Scientific Corp.

Built: 1970

-Boston Scientific Corp. has completed its 694,000-square-foot customer fulfillment center designed by Margulies Perruzzi Architects in Quincy’s Squantum peninsula.
-The facility modernizes and expands Boston Scientific’s logistics and distribution functions.
-Boston Scientific has since 1997 located its call center and distribution center operations in the north building of the base warehouse complex. “The new customer fulfillment facility consolidate Boston Scientific operational and distribution functions into the south building on the site. More than half of the company’s global product manufacturing, including medical device products such as cardiac stents, will move through the 24-hour customer fulfillment facility.
-The 64,000 square feet of open office space includes a mix of workstations and glass-fronted offices, supported by town squares, breakout cafes, training spaces and a variety of meeting rooms.

They said it:
“This modern and energy-efficient building is part of a multi-phased approach to bring our global facilities in line with the company’s evolution and business goals. Since collaboration on the design and workplace strategy of our new global headquarters in Marlborough, MPA has been a vital partner in evaluating real estate choices and advising our global real estate and facilities team.” -Marc Margulies, principal and senior partner, Margulies Perruzzi Architects

Seasoned architect brings technical expertise in designing hospitals, medical campuses, pharmacies and laboratories

Boston – January 4, 2018 – Margulies Perruzzi Architects (MPA), one of New England’s most innovative architectural and interior design firms, is proud to welcome John Fowler, AIA, EDAC, LEED AP, to the MPA leadership team as associate principal in the Health+Science studio. John brings 17 years of experience designing and managing healthcare and laboratory projects of increasing size and complexity, including surgical centers, cancer centers, compounding pharmacies, and master planning for medical campuses. In addition to leading project teams and managing client relations, John’s new role includes strategic planning and business development to help grow MPA’s Health+Science studio.

“The addition of John Fowler to MPA’s leadership team brings the clients of our Health+Science studio an even greater depth and breadth of technical expertise,” said Marc Margulies, FAIA, LEED AP, senior partner and principal at Margulies Perruzzi Architects. “Leading the Health+Science studio, Jason Costello and John Fowler offer complementary skills and talents in the complex design of healthcare, technology, and scientific projects. They will work together to expand the Health+Science studio and provide clients with technical expertise in new areas.”

“Like MPA, John strives to remain at the forefront of both design and technology, and his experience with LEAN process improvement and leading clinical 3P planning events will help us engage our clients and impact meaningful change in the delivery of healthcare to their patients,” said Jason Costello, AIA, EDAC, associate principal and partner at Margulies Perruzzi Architects. “John’s focus on evidence-based design will promote new healthcare architecture methodologies based upon clinical research that improve patient outcomes and enhance lab efficiency for our clients. We are thrilled to welcome him to the MPA team.”

Prior to joining MPA, John spent 12 years as a project manager and associate principal for a Boston-based healthcare architecture firm, where he designed and managed multiple concurrent healthcare projects ranging from $.5 million to $40 million. His extensive portfolio includes Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Cancer Center, Compounding Pharmacy and Surgical Pavilion in Needham, Mass., Landmark Medical Center (Prime Healthcare) Medical Oncology Center in North Smithfield, Rhode Island, a facility master plan for Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Milton, Mass., and a USP 800/247 CMR compliant compounding pharmacy at Signature Healthcare in Brockton, Mass. John is skilled at leading multi-phase renovations and campus expansions while bringing an astute attention to detail and a client-first attitude. In addition to his proven LEAN process improvement facilitation, John is passionate about evidence-based and patient-centered design and sees every challenge as an opportunity to improve the built environment for patients and the clinicians that care for them.

John received a Bachelor of Architecture from the Boston Architectural College. His speaking experience includes presentations on designing cancer centers using 3P and applying a Lean Process Improvement approach for designing healthcare projects. He is a LEED accredited professional (LEED AP), NCARB accredited, and EDAC certified, as well as a member of the American Institute of Architects and Boston Society of Architects.

About Margulies Perruzzi Architects
As one of New England’s top architectural and interior design firms, Margulies Perruzzi Architects (MPA) designs Workplace, Health+Science, and Real Estate projects that inspire and nurture human endeavor. More information may be found at

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