Revitalizing and sustaining a community through healthcare

November 6, 2017

San Bernardino, California was one of the more desirable places to live during the 1970s. The Inland Empire community was home to a thriving blue-collar, middle-class population supported by sturdy employment within the manufacturing industry. But over the following decades the decline of local industry, a multi-year regional drought, and gang violence seriously affected both the economy and the spirit of San Bernardino. With a significant level of residents living below the poverty level, the city became the poorest per capita in California. Among the challenges of those economic disadvantages was the availability of accessible, affordable, quality healthcare.

In 2014, sensing the need for change, nearby Loma Linda University (LLU) partnered with Social Action Community Health Services (SACHS) to initiate a visionary project, the Loma Linda Health San Bernardino Care and Education Center. The goal for the project was to not only address the health needs of San Bernardino but bring the historically struggling community together. LLU, a Seventh-day Adventist health sciences university, and SACHS, a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) and the largest provider of health services in San Bernardino County, would create a unified place of affordable healing, employment, and learning that has the potential to give back for generations to come.

A building by and for the community

Boulder Associates (BA) was selected by the leadership team to be the design partner for the project on the basis of its deep, exclusive healthcare experience and quality of design. In addition, the selection team valued the firm’s thought leadership in designing for collaborative care, and long-term engagement with community clinics and FQHCs. LLU and SACHS described their vision to BA: an affordable clinic that made the people of San Bernardino feel worthy of luxury—that they deserved something nice.

Keeping SACHS request and LLU’s vision in mind, the project team drove to create a welcoming space that the staff, patients and San Bernardino community could feel proud of. When it opened in 2016, the three-story, 150,000-square-foot medical office building delivered on that.

The highly anticipated facility housed three distinct yet related components:

The first is a clinic operated by SACHS, providing low-cost, high-quality, whole-person healthcare that includes family medicine, adult and pediatric clinical pods, urgent care, dental, imaging, lab, and a pharmacy. The clinical spaces are designed around enhancing collaborative care and team-based medicine. This team of providers can ensure continuity of care for both individuals and families based in San Bernardino, on an affordable as-needed basis. For families that require assistance with basic essentials, a support center is available.

The second is the San Manuel Gateway College, which will integrate training programs in health careers with clinical experience, allowing students to benefit from hands-on training and mentoring by Loma Linda University Health faculty and students. This first-of-its-kind program in the United States, was made possible by a $10 million contribution of the San Manuel band of Mission Indians, composed of the indigenous peoples of the San Bernardino Valley and the surrounding mountains, passes and canyons and part of the greater Serrano Nation whose aboriginal lands encompassed the majority of San Bernardino County.

The third component is directly reflective of Loma Linda University’s Seventh Day Adventist roots. It comprises of a vegetarian bistro (open to the public as well as patients) and on-site herb and demonstration garden, highlighting the Seventh Day Adventist belief in healthy living and vegetarianism. The bistro and garden serve as vehicles for both nutrition and education in the benefits of wellness and sustainability of a plant-based diet. In fact, in 2005, a National Geographic cover story identified the Adventists living in Loma Linda, California, as one of five Blue Zones of people living longer than the rest of the world.

The belief in holistic wellness extends to an understanding of stewardship of the planet and a respect for nature. This belief was key in ensuring that the project met sustainability goals. The project achieved silver LEED Silver certification (with a total 55 points) in October of 2017, marking the first such achievement for one of Loma Linda University’s collection of facilities.

Along with achievement of LEED points associated with indoor air quality, aims included reductions in contaminants through low-mercury lamping, green cleaning supplies, and integrated pest management practices. Water use was a top concern as well as the region had recently suffered through a multi-year drought. The resulting design incorporated water-saving restroom fixtures, drought-tolerant plantings, and irrigation controls with a projected savings of 1,000,000 gallons annually.

Further innovations included:

  • Reducing costs via the facility’s energy efficient building envelope, as well as mechanical and electrical systems.
  • During construction a high percentage of recycled construction materials were used.
  • And, to both encourage and inform the community to be environmentally conscious, numerous allowances for alternative transportation were incorporated, including bike racks, electric vehicle charging, as well as designated carpool, van, and EV parking spaces.

The San Bernardino community welcomed the project with open arms. Envisioned as an avenue to increase financial viability and provide an urban upswing, the building brought with it the capability of employing (at full capacity) up to 400 people. At the time of its opening in 2017, it was seen as an important element attributing to the city’s exit from bankruptcy. Visible from the 215 Freeway, city officials hope this will prompt people to take a second look at the city, both literally and figuratively.

Read more about the project here.

See the LEED certification info here.