Ardie R. Copas State Veterans Nursing Home

Port St. Lucie, Florida

Best Government/Public Building

Submitted By: OHLA Building Inc.

Owner: Florida Dept. of Veterans Affairs

Lead Design Firm and MEP Engineer: Rogers, Lovelock & Fritz

General Contractor: OHLA Building Inc.

Civil Engineer: VHB

Structural Engineer: TLC Engineering Solutions

Subcontractors: Noresco; Foodesign Associates; Quietly Making Noise; Planning, Research & Design for the Aging

The focus for designers and builders working on the Ardie R. Copas State Veterans Nursing Home in Port. St. Lucie, Fla., was to provide a true home for the state’s many aging veterans.

Named for a local 19-year-old Vietnam veteran who gave his life so four of his comrades could be pulled to safety, the 121,000-sq-ft, 120-bed facility was designed to give residents the comforts and feel of home, built in separate 60-bed wings.

Each independent wing was built to be identical, with its own country kitchen, library and seating area, so “it’s like a home within a home,” says Alain Gonzales, senior operations manager for contractor OHLA.

The structural steel, reinforced concrete and reinforced masonry building used very little wood, with structural steel clerestory elements providing natural light that contributes to the residential feel. That feature stands out specifically for Gonzales, who pictures residents pulling a book from the shelf and reading on couches in front of the fireplace as natural light provides that homey feel.

According to the project team, the site had to be raised three feet to allow for proper drainage, and Gonzales says crews dug three lakes on the marshy, 25-acre site and used the material removed from those areas to raise about 15 acres to a buildable level.

Crews also overcame the onset of COVID-19 restrictions on the jobsite to deliver the building in April 2022, including sanitation, social distancing and other measures that consumed many worker hours, Gonzales says, and material shortages that continue to give contractors headaches.

Ardie R. Copas State Veterans Nursing Home

Photo courtesy Robin Hill

Through all of it, the team delivered a standout, sustainable facility that’s already welcoming Florida’s veterans home.

“It was very patriotic for us to be able to give back to the veterans and give them a place where they can feel peace after everything they’ve given for our country,” Gonzales says. “It’s the least we can do.”