Health departments are lifelines to the communities they support. Whether it’s mental health services or dental examinations, their resources are critical when it comes to encouraging healthy habits. Will County Health Department in Joliet, Illinois is no exception!
The original Will County Health Department was in dire need of repairs, so much so that designing and building a new facility was more cost-effective than renovating their existing property. That’s where Kluber Architects + Engineers comes into play, serving as the architect for the new building.
Before we show off the new building, join us as we explore the history of the facility and how it is taking on a new life through its new property.
When Was the Original Will County Health Department Built?
The original Will County Health Department was built in 1923. Before it became the Health Department, it was first Will County Tuberculosis Sanitorium, which opened in March of 1925. It was a resource for those diagnosed with tuberculosis and featured a courtyard where patients could have controlled access to sunshine and fresh air.
As treatment options for the disease evolved, it became clear that Will County needed an in-patient treatment option. As such, a nearby nursing home became the new resource for tuberculosis patients, and the Will County Health Department officially moved into the building in the early 1950’s.
In the almost 100 years the building was open, it was home to several community services, ranging from animal control to Meals on Wheels. It may have been a critical resource to locals, but over time, the building started to show its age.
An Aging Facility
Though the first Will County Health Department building served the community for many years, over time, it desperately needed repairs. As Will County grew, so did its need for a health department facility that could withstand additional services and more employees than in years past. The existing facility simply could not support the services needed by the community.
It was essential for the Health Department to ensure their facility could handle the capacity of the community and house the many services they offer. As such, the decision was made to construct a new Will County Health Department as part of a county-wide capital improvement project.
The design of the new Will County Health Department facility began with an understanding of the needed building spaces.
Based on the varied services provided by the Health Department, this became a complex building program with the primary programs being:
- Family Health
- Vital Records
- Environmental Health
- Tuberculosis Clinic Services
- Behavioral Health
- Emergency Preparedness
- Department Administration
As part of the programming and design phases of the project, our team held regular meetings with department leaders and staff to integrate their thoughts and comments into the design solution. For example, the Behavioral Health space provides services to adults, children, adolescents, and families. This requires separate waiting spaces and consult spaces for the different client age groups. The final design resulted in 30 private consult rooms, separated by a shared work areas and group spaces. Also included in the final design was a multi-purpose room equipped to serve as an Emergency Operations Center.
“Based on the variety of services provided by the Health Department, developing a building design that is easy for patrons to navigate was one of the primary drivers of the design.”
-Mike Elliott, Senior Design Architect
To maximize efficiency and simple building navigation, there is a direct line of sight to each of the building areas from the lobby. This helps eliminate confusion that visitors sometimes experience when entering public buildings. Most importantly, it was critical to create spaces that are as welcoming as one would experience in a private care setting.
When Was the New Will County Health Department Constructed?
Site construction for the new facility began in October of 2018. A formal groundbreaking for the new 70,000 square foot building took place February 6, 2019.
Construction on the new facility took 24 months. This also involved the demolition of the old building and construction of the new parking facilities. Demolition on the original building began in July 2020 and was completed in September of 2020.
Kluber Architects + Engineers provided the following services for the new facility:
- Architectural design
- Mechanical engineering
- Fire suppression engineering
- Electrical engineering
- Plumbing engineering
- Structural engineering
Leopardo Construction served as the construction manager for the project, helping bring Kluber’s design to life.
What Types of Services Does the New Health Department Offer?
The new Will County Health Department offers in-house services for behavioral health, environmental health, family health services, and more. There is also a brand new, on-site Tuberculosis Clinic. Although the clinic is not affiliated with the Health Department, it is an independently managed service offering that was revamped as part of this project.
Including each of these services and the individual spaces they require was crucial for a successful project. Many departments need several specialized areas ranging from laboratories to waiting rooms. As such, the Kluber Architects + Engineers team met with several departments to review our approach to adding some of the following areas shown below.
The sizes of each department varied depending on their needs, number of employees, and available site space.
The layout of the new facility provides the space needed for each department to succeed and offer much-needed services to the community.
“The Health Department staff, as well as the entire Will County community will benefit greatly for years from this new building. It is not only beautiful and efficient, but purpose built for our services and programs. Even though we have been moved in for a few months, Kluber’s commitment to the project completion continues to impress me.”
-Sue Olenek, Executive Director at Will County Health Department
Will County Health Department Before and After Photos
It’s one thing to read about the difference between the old and new buildings, but it’s another to see it for yourself. Take a look at these before and after photos that show the state of the original facility versus the new one!
In the News
Since Will County Health Department is one of the largest capital improvement campaign in Will County history, it’s bound to generate some press. Check out some of the latest articles:
We are excited to see what the future holds for Will County Health Department and the residents they serve!
Brandy, S. (2019, February 6). Groundbreaking Ceremony Includes a Look Back on History of Current WCHD Building 2019. Retrieved October 09, 2020, from http://willcountyhealth-dev.org/groundbreaking-ceremony-includes-a-look-back-on-history-of-current-wchd-building/