Southcentral Dental Clinic Takes Inspiration from Chugach Range

AGC Winter Southcentral Dental Clinic


The latest building to go up on Southcentral Foundation’s busy campus is a five-story, 112,000-square-foot, 32-chair Children’s Dental Clinic that will also house OB/GYN, maternal health, behavioral health and adolescent psychology facilities. The $64 million design-build project, awarded to design-builder Neeser Construction Inc., broke ground in June.

“This project is very much the vision of the Southcentral staff,” said Royal Field, Neeser’s design-build coordinator. “Our team simply provided them with guidance, design and construction knowledge, and the right tools to enable their vision.”

That vision started as a two-story building with a basement intended to house a pediatric dental clinic, plus surface parking, on the Alaska Native Medical Center campus. But to maximize space and increase parking, SCF requested that Neeser and its project architect, Kumin and Associates, add three more floors to the building and increase the parking structure to the maximum allowable size within the project site, a change that evolved into a 499-stall parking structure.

The size and location of the new clinic presented challenges, however. One of the first hurdles Neeser had to overcome was replatting four adjoining properties into one property to construct the building and parking structure to their maximum Title 21-permitted size, allowing for optimal land use. Altering the planned height of the building also required an amendment to the newly adopted Title 21 regulations; the city changed the codes to increase the maximum building height in the U-Med district from 45 feet to 75 feet.

“Without the dedicated and timely assistance we received from Terry Schoenthal and his Planning Department staff to champion this amendment for approval by the Assembly, this project might not have happened,” Field said.

SCF contributors — which included director of facilities James Sears and project manager Ed Zernia, as well as key players from dental services, medical services, organizational development and IT staff — had a clear vision for what they wanted out of the clinic, including several meeting areas and talking spaces, plus two decks that will allow staff to gather outdoors. Inside, the basement houses dental storage, locker rooms, a workout room, a large dental instrument sterilization area and other dental support functions.

The main dental floor includes 12 orthodontic bays and 20 dental bays, eight of which are closed bays for general pediatric dental treatment; the eight enclosed treatment rooms have sound control for acoustical privacy. The second floor is almost entirely dedicated to training, with classrooms and large conference rooms that can be partitioned into several smaller training areas. A pediatric faculty room allows procedures to be monitored and recorded for training purposes.

Many of the clinic’s spaces incorporate circular forms and are designed with the patient in mind — namely, children and adolescents.

“The design had to be modern and elegant to serve the needs of the staff, yet progressive and cool enough not to scare away the adolescent customer-owners,” explained Jon Stolle, Kumin’s principal-in-charge on the project. “It’s not pediatric in that it’s a playland; it has to kind of walk the line.”

SCF’s working groups also requested that the design of the building be unintimidating for families and patients, a detail that Kumin’s architects incorporated into the theme of the clinic, which was inspired by the nearby Chugach Mountains.

“A lot of the buildings on SCF’s campus are named for mountains, so since our building is one of the taller ones, we played up the metaphor of a mountain,” Stolle said. To create the illusion of a series of peaks receding in the background, the building’s public entrance uses curved forms and a step in the floor plate at each floor level. “It brings that five-story facade down to a human scale, which is less imposing.”

Materials like the stacked rusticated stonework on the base of the building and the aluminum composite metal, which are varied in layout and color, help emphasize the mountain mirage theme. The curved facade and stepped roof forms of the public entrance also evoke a glacial waterfall cascading down from a mountain.

Faux wood grain panels at the entry canopies and soffits tie in the natural landscape as well, while inside the tile and stonework on the floors and wood elements on the ceilings will create a warm and inviting atmosphere. The building, a structural steel BRB frame system, is connected at three stories to a parking garage, a post tension structural concrete system, located across Tudor Center, allowing for easy access. Meanwhile, the ground-level entrance will stand 40 feet from the road and will be softened by a landscaped public plaza — all intended to appeal to visitors.

Steel erection for the clinic portion of the project started in early October, while the parking structure foundation is about three-fourths complete. Work on the parking garage will be suspended over the winter, restarting in April.

Project subcontractors include General Mechanical Inc. on HVAC, Last Frontier Mechanical on plumb-ing, MegaWatt Electric, Alaska Quality Fire Protection, ATS Alaska on con-trols and specialty systems, Contract Hardware, Northern Geotechnical Engineers and NGE-Terra Firma Testing. In addition to Kumin, primary designers include civil engineer EBSC Engineering LLC, Earthscape Landscape Architects, structural engineer Reid Middleton and mechanical and electrical engineer AMC Engineers.

“We work, along with the owner’s selected staff and administrators, as a collaborative, integrated team to deliver this project with an innovative and thoughtful design through all disciplines,” Field said.

The project is slated for completion in June 2018.

Jamey Bradbury is a freelance writer who lives in Anchorage.

A rendering of the southwest perspective of the new Children’s Dental Clinic on the Southcentral Foundation/Alaska Native Medical Center campus. Inspiration for the building’s design was derived from the nearby Chugach Mountains.