In the San Francisco Bay area, the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System is planning for a $26-million, 76,000-sq-ft, 80-bed Inpatient Mental Health Center that will replace an aging facility that doesn’t stand up to current seismic code.

The Design Partnership is the architect on the VA project in Palo Alto.
The Design Partnership is the architect on the VA project in Palo Alto.

The center will be a locked facility, with patients housed in secured quarters.

“Our first challenge is to make the center a healing environment, as humane and appropriate for VA patients as possible,” says John Boerger, a partner with The Design Partnership LLP of San Francisco, the project architect. “We’re dealing with security issues so the patients don’t do damage to themselves or others, and we’re trying to make that security as invisible as possible.”

McCarthy Building Cos. of San Francisco was chosen as general contractor for the project, which will consolidate all Palo Alto VA inpatient mental health residences, currently located in three separate venues.

The center will encompass four 20-bed acute psychiatric units, and will include outdoor residential gardens, separate mental-health research and office facilities and a utility building to service the complex.

Construction began in August and is expected to be completed by August 2011.

The ongoing recession has proved a boon for the Palo Alto project, VA officials say. When the agency put the project out for bid three years ago in the midst of the construction bubble, it received exactly zero takers. But officials say that when the Palo Alto VA requested bids a short time after the crash, the responses were in the teens.

The Project Team:

Owner: VA Palo Alto Health Care System
General Contractor: McCarthy Building Cos., San Francisco
Project Architect: The Design Partnership LLP, San Francisco
HVAC Contractor: Control Air North, Hayward
Structural Steel Contractor: Central Coast Fabricators, San Luis Obispo
Electrical Contractor: Bergelectric Corp., Hayward