Damon Romanello isn’t a doctor or nurse on the front lines of the health care battle with COVID-19. But Romanello and the company he oversees, Fort Myers architecture firm Studio+, has an important role in something just as big related to health care: the design, flow and structure of multiple health care facilities on the west coast of Florida.
About 70% of the work handled by Studio+ is in health care, working on everything from hospital expansions to senior living facilities to freestanding clinics. That puts Romanello at the forefront of coronavirus-connected health care design trends. “We have a great ability to design for Covid,” Romanello tells Coffee Talk.
One key element to health care design changes, Romanello says, is the rapid pace. “There’s a substantial shift in thinking,” Romanello says. “There’s always been flexibility built into building design, but this new flexibility is different in that you almost have to be flexible overnight in you’re thinking.”
Hospital clients Studio+ is currently working with include Naples Community Hospital, Lee Health and Physicians Regional Health Care System in Naples. Senior living clients include Keystone Place at Four Mile Cove in Cape Coral and Amavida Senior Living in Fort Myers. Some of that work pre-dates the pandemic, but the firm, says Romanello, which did $6.69 million in revenue in 2019, has been talking to all its health care clients about the trends. “We want to come to the table with the right questions to ask,” clients Romanello says. “‘Have you thought about this? How do you want to handle that?’”
In hospitals, ground zero for coronavirus pandemic changes to design, Romanello says the company, in talking with clients, is looking at three elements: patients, staff and family. “Each one has their challenges,” he says, “and you need to address each one in and of itself and be flexible.”
One challenge shared in just about any health care environment is to think in the opposite way of a common design element: instead of building spaces for people to be together — a big dining room, a community hall — architects now seek ways to keep people socially distanced.
Romanello says the next three to nine months will be telling in health care design, in what happens with COVID-19 case levels and how that impacts organization’s budgets. “We are just really trying to move forward and provide design solutions,” Romanello says.